Tags: Whitewater | Clinton | probe | crimes

First Prosecutor in Whitewater Probe Found 'Serious Crimes' Before Panel Replaced Him

By    |   Saturday, 11 October 2014 05:47 PM

The first independent prosecutor in the Whitewater investigation said that he had quickly uncovered "serious crimes" and was ready to indict top Arkansas figures — based on testimony from a key witness against former President Bill Clinton — before he was abruptly replaced by a panel of federal judges.

"I was angry, frustrated and above all disappointed that I was not going to be able to carry through and finish bringing the indictments," writes Robert Fiske, a former U.S. attorney who was appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno in 1994 to investigate the land deal, in his forthcoming book, "Prosecutor Defender Counselor."

Fiske, now 83 and a partner in the New York law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell, told Yahoo News this week that his removal ultimately caused the Whitewater probe against Bill and Hillary Clinton to drag on for longer than necessary under Kenneth Starr.

Starr, a conservative former federal appellate judge, was named by the judicial panel to replace Fiske in August 1994. He had no prosecutorial experience.

"The simplest way to put it, after I was replaced, the lawyers on the staff in Arkansas said the agents for the FBI and IRS were totally demoralized," Fiske told Yahoo News. "They thought we were on the brink of doing all these great things, and now that was not going to happen."

While Fiske offers no judgment on the Clintons, his memoir comes as Hillary Clinton weighs a run for the White House on the Democratic ticket in 2016. She plans to announce her decision early next year.

Documents that dealt with Whitewater were among the 10,000 pages of records from the Clinton administration that were released on Friday by the National Archives.

The investigation centered on the Clintons' real estate investments in the Whitewater Development Corp., a failed Arkansas business venture in the 1970s and 1980s. Their partners were Jim and Susan McDougal.

The probe began after an article in The New York Times during the 1992 presidential campaign disclosed that the Clintons had lost the money they invested in Whitewater.

The Clintons were never implicated in the Whitewater case, but the McDougals were convicted in a trial that also resulted in the conviction of then-Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker. Tucker and Susan McDougal were later pardoned by President Clinton.

Bill and Hillary Clinton have long contended that the Whitewater investigation was politically motivated.

"I'm still waiting for them to admit that there was nothing to Whitewater," Bill Clinton told the Los Angeles Times in May.

In his Yahoo News interview, Fiske rebuffed accusations that Whitewater had political overtones.

"There were indictments, there were convictions," he said. "People went to jail.

"There was never any evidence that was sufficient to link the Clintons to any of it, but there were certainly serious crimes," Fiske said.

He told Yahoo that he moved quickly in his investigation, first seeking to subpoena billing records from Hillary Clinton's law firm. Those documents were later found in the White House living quarters, according to Yahoo.

Fiske was about to indict 11 people on eight federal charges by the summer of 1994, he said.

These included criminal fraud charges against the McDougals, Tucker — as well as Webster Hubbell, an associate U.S. attorney general at the time who had been Hillary Clinton's law partner.

Critical to Fiske's case was David Hale, a former Arkansas municipal judge who owned a federally subsidized small-business lending firm. He claimed in November 1992 that Bill Clinton, while he was governor, had pressured him to make a false $300,000 loan guaranteed by the federal government to Susan McDougal.

The loan, Hale contended, actually sought to pay off the Clintons' Whitewater debts.

While Hale was attacked by Clinton defenders, Fiske told Yahoo that he believed he was credible and had cut a plea deal with him. He had later been convicted of defrauding the U.S. government.

"He provided very valuable information to us," Fiske said.

"Standing alone, nobody was going to bring a case based on what he was telling us," he cautioned and sought corroborating evidence. "But from what we had seen of him, we thought the story was plausible and was certainly worth pursuing."

That's when conservatives accused Fiske of a cover-up — despite releasing reports exonerating the Clinton administration of trying to influence a regulatory review of Jim McDougal's failed Madison Guaranty S&L and concluding that Vince Foster had committed suicide and had not been a victim of foul play.

Foster, 48, was White House counsel at the time of his death. He also had been another partner in Hillary Clinton's law firm.

Fiske was replaced by a federal three-judge panel in August 1994, charging that he was not independent enough because he had been appointed by Reno. Two of the judges were conservatives, according to the Yahoo report, and Fiske was replaced by Starr.

He said that he told his staff that Starr "has no experience as a prosecutor, so things may move a little slower, but these indictments will happen."

Starr eventually brought indictments — some more than a year after Fiske was replaced — and even he was attacked by the White House and its allies as a conservative partisan, Yahoo reports.

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The first independent prosecutor in the Whitewater investigation said that he had quickly uncovered serious crimes and was ready to indict top Arkansas figures - based on testimony from a key witness against former President Bill Clinton - before he was abruptly replaced...
Whitewater, Clinton, probe, crimes
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2014-47-11
Saturday, 11 October 2014 05:47 PM
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