Hazards Close to the Surface

By Lambro, Donald | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 20, 1996 | Go to article overview
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Hazards Close to the Surface

Lambro, Donald, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)

The latest wave of Whitewater charges and findings involving the White House, including the Senate's investigative report, pushes these scandals into a new and politically dangerous territory for Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The widening Whitewater story may not have reached critical mass, where they have become a decisive factor in the presidential election, but the events and disclosures of the past several weeks have pushed them perilously close to that point.

The growing body of evidence that the Clinton White House acted to influence and impede the Whitewater investigation, that administration officials may have committed perjury in their testimony, and that the White House attempted to use the FBI for political purposes has dramatically changed the entire complexion of this campaign.

This is not just another re-election campaign, it is an election battle with a president whose administration is under siege on possibly criminal and surely ethical grounds on a broad range of dubious deeds undertaken before and during his presidency.

Whitewater has been a complex and murky collection of scandals that include the Clintons' shady real estate deals in Little Rock, the Travelgate firings, and a range of coverup actions to impede the investigations, including the missing subpoenaed White House documents that mysteriously turned up in the Clintons' residence. Its complexity has often worked to the administration's advantage. As long as the public couldn't follow it, that made it easier to deny, obfuscate and lie.

That's why it is important to put these developments in some order. Consider the events of just the past few weeks:

* The Senate Whitewater Committee has concluded that the White House tried to "hinder, impede and control" the government's investigation into all of the aspects of the scandals in an effort to shield the Clintons from any formal charges.

Ending more than a year of investigation and hearings, the panel found that the administration, including White House, Justice and Treasury officials, engaged in "highly improper conduct" and "deliberately misused" their offices to protect the "purely private interests" of the Clintons.

It specifically accuses senior administration officials and their aides of impeding the investigations "in a wrongful attempt to ensure ... the least amount of legal and political damage to the President and Mrs. Clinton."

* On the question about whether Mrs. Clinton directed top aides to remove sensitive Whitewater documents from the office of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent Foster Jr. immediately after his death, the committee concluded she was "closely involved" in the handling and disposition of documents in Mr. Foster's office relating to the Whitewater real estate venture and the firing of the White House travel office staff.

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