Real Estate and Blue Dresses Part 2

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The same day special counsel Robert Fiske released his report, President Clinton signed into law a bill to reauthorize the use of independent counsels, which had first been created after the whole Nixon-Watergate shitshow. The difference was that while special counsels were named by the Attorney General, an independent counsel was appointed by a panel of judges. The change in the law saw the ousting of Fiske and the appointment of Ken Starr, a former Solicitor General and one time candidate for the Supreme Court. Where Fiske had been rather lukewarm as an investigator, Starr was if anything overzealous. Upon taking up the position, Starr did away with all of Fiske’s conclusions, even re-opening the investigation into whether or not Vince Foster had committed suicide, even though the police stated that he mostly certainly had killed himself.

Right before the appointment of Starr, news of a leak to the media forced the White House to admit that Foster’s legal documents had been kept in their personal residence for five days before being handed over to the Clintons’ personal lawyer. This was pretty big news considering that a number of documents, mostly related to Hillary’s time working as legal counsel for Jim McDougal’s bank, were reported to be missing from those handed over to investigators. Unlike his predecessor, Starr saw Jim McDougal and his convoluted loans as the main avenue to proving any wrongdoing. Targeting various people in Arkansas who had worked with McDougal, he began building a case which he hoped would force both Jim and Sue McDougal, who had since divorced, to turn state’s evidence and support David Hale’s claims that Bill Clinton used his political power as governor to solicit and coerce favors beneficial to his personal and campaign finances. Within a little over half a year, Starr managed to get four people to plead guilty on various charges and to agree to cooperate with the investigation on the promise of lesser charges. One of these was a banker who admitted to embezzling funds for Clinton’s political campaign, though no proof that the president knew about it could be found. Another was Webster Hubbell, though he proved to be less cooperative than he had promised in his plea deal.

While Starr went after McDougal’s associates, the Republicans surged in the 1994 election, giving them control of the House of Representatives, and both houses of Congress concurrently, for the first time since 1955. Both the newly Republican House and Senate soon after launched new investigations into Whitewater and other scandals, not trusting the results of Democratic Congressional led investigations the previous year. The investigations quickly broke down into partisan bickering, but they did manage to keep Whitewater in the news cycle. As political hissing filled the news, Starr continued his investigation, indicting Jim and Sue McDougal for bank fraud in August of 1995. Starr’s ultimate goal was to force the Clintons to testify as witnesses in the McDougal cases, which would create on the record testimony which could lead to possible charges of perjury if it was proven that they were lying. However, legal wrangling on whether or not the president could be called as a witness slowed everything down. This stalemate ended in April of 1996, with the president forced by a court order to testify. A month later, both McDougals were convicted. Soon after, the president was forced to testify again in July, this time in the trial of two of Jim McDougal’s associates.

During this same period, Hillary was running into her own problems. Under increasing pressure, she finally produced the missing documents pertaining to her time with the Rose City Law Firm, claiming that apparently they had just been sitting on an end table in the White House the whole time. This strange claim resulted in her being subpoenaed and forced to answer questions on the record by Starr, the first time a First Lady had ever been subpoenaed. Starr felt like he was getting close. Though both Clintons continued to swear complete ignorance of the doings of their associates, both were now liable for perjury if it could be proven. Starr was sure he was getting close.

With both McDougals convicted, but still waiting to be sentenced, Starr offered leniency in return for testimony. Jim McDougal turned almost immediately, making grand claims that both Clintons had been involved in various schemes that benefited them both directly and indirectly. He also claimed that he had been offered a pardon to keep his mouth shut. Unfortunately, Jim McDougal was far from the perfect witness. Aside from making many erratic and contradictory statements, none of his claims could be fully connected to the one’s earlier made by Hale. This left Sue McDougal as the key to Starr’s case, since her testimony could verify that of her ex-husbands. However, Sue McDougal proved to be a harder nut to crack. Not only did she refuse to testify, but also publicly claimed that Jim had told her to lie about the Clintons to get a more lenient sentence. In an attempt to break Sue McDougal, Starr stacked more charges against her and had her transferred from one prison to another for over a year. None of it worked.

As time dragged on, public interest in the Whitewater case began to wane. The whole thing was complicated as hell with all sorts of strange legal nuances which did little to capture the public imagination. In November of 1996, Bill Clinton was elected president for a second term. In April of 1997, facing imminent news reports, the White House was forced to admit that aides had funneled money to the defense fund of Webster Hubbell. Despite this, Starr’s investigation continued to lose steam throughout the rest of the year. Sue McDougal either would not break, or was telling the truth. Though Starr drafted an impeachment referral that fall, he never released it. Instead he only announced that investigations had shown that Vince Foster had most definitely committed suicide. In March of 1998, Jim McDougal died in prison of a heart attack. The Whitewater investigation was dead in the water, but it didn’t matter, Starr was making one last ditch effort in a different direction.

You probably have an idea what happens next, but you should probably still check it out next week.