Hubbell Offers an Intriguing Prospect to Team Investigating Whitewater Case

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PROSECUTORS WANT TO QUESTION former Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell about the possibility of political interference in the Whitewater affair, two lawyers familiar with the investigation said Friday.

Obtaining Hubbell's cooperation "on this and other matters has been the plan from the start," said one lawyer familiar with Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation.

Another lawyer said Starr was almost certain to delve into any conversations that Hubbell, as the No. 3 Justice Department official, might have had about two criminal cases handled by federal prosecutors in Little Rock, Ark. That source suggested that prosecutors might use telephone records and calendars during Hubbell's Justice Department tenure as a road map to studying the Clinton administration's actions. Hubbell resigned in March.

The White House has repeatedly denied that there was any political interference in inquiries of Whitewater.

The sources said Starr's office is interested in how the U.S. attorney's office in Little Rock handled two criminal matters that touched on President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton. They include:

Criminal allegations by the Resolution Trust Corp., the government's savings and loan cleanup agency, about the failed Madison Guaranty, an Arkansas savings and loan once owned by the Clintons' Whitewater business partners.

The case against former Municipal Judge David Hale, who repeatedly told prosecutors that he had information linking President Clinton to an improper federally backed loan.

Both matters were being handled last year by the office of Paula Casey, a former campaign worker whom Clinton appointed U.S. attorney in Little Rock before a special prosecutor was named to handle the Whitewater affair.

For Whitewater investigators, Hubbell offers an intriguing prospect because of his access to President Clinton and the White House inner circle.

Hubbell has agreed to admit to mail fraud and tax evasion, a source close to the investigation told The Associated Press on Thursday. The charges appear to stem from allegations that he overbilled clients and his former firm as a private lawyer. As part of a plea bargain, defendants routinely agree to cooperate with prosecutors.

The fall of a close friend is yet another blow to a Clinton administration already sure to face a Whitewater onslaught from Capitol Hill when Republicans take over Congress in January.

Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, said Friday that the news about Hubbell "underscores the seriousness of the Whitewater investigation. …