On January 20, 1993, Bill Clinton was inaugurated the 42nd president of the United States and probably almost immediately began to partially wish that he had never taken the job. A resurgent Republican delegation in Congress, led by Representative Newt Gingrich, unhappy with losing the presidency for the first time in twelve years, was all sorts of hot and heavy about knocking Clinton down a notch or two. To their way of thinking, Clinton was a political outsider who had all sorts of questionable skeletons in his closet. The Clinton administration did little to dispel this notion. Within months of taking power, the general bungling of several key Clinton officials caused a multitude of scandals, leading to the Republicans calling for and getting a multitude of investigations, to which the administration responded by being as completely unhelpful as humanly possible. It was a completely ridiculous shit show on all sides of the equation. One of the largest and most remembered of these investigations was Whitewater.
In the 1980’s, Bill and Hillary Clinton and their shifty as shit friends Jim and Susan McDougal invested in a real estate venture called Whitewater. The McDougals were long time associates of the Clintons. Jim McDougal often held fundraisers to help Bill’s political career and he also retained the services of the Rose Law Firm, of which Hillary Clinton was a partner. Unfortunately, the deal didn’t quite work out, leading to a desperate Jim McDougal trying to cover the partnerships losses via an illegal government loan to his wife, which he coerced out of another shifty as shit associate named David Hale. The loan failed to save Whitewater, but this was just one of many shady deals that Jim McDougal was involved in, pretty much all of them including convoluted and illegal loans from a bank owned by Jim to various shady folks and ventures. Jim’s bank eventually went insolvent in 1989, mostly due to the sheer volume of crazy/illegal schemes, which promptly resulted in a wide ranging investigation.
While all of this was going on, Bill did quite well for himself, serving first as the governor of Arkansas and then getting himself elected president. Aside from some brief headlines during the Democratic primaries, Whitewater was not even mentioned during the campaign. However, the investigation into Jim McDougal’s failed bank kept chugging right along, eventually resulting in a referral to the Justice Department in the fall of 1992. The referral stated the need for a criminal investigation against the McDougals and naming the Clintons as possible witnesses and/or beneficiaries of illegal actions. The referral pretty much just sat ignored on a desk for a year, causing the investigators to send a second referral in the fall of 1993. The Justice Department responded to this second referral by reviewing and rejecting the first referral, declaring it to be without merit.
Some people must not have been too happy with this chain of events, because soon after news of the rejection leaked to the press. This raised some eyebrows since several of the rejecting officials had close ties to the Clintons, chief amongst them Webster Hubbell, who had worked with Hillary in the Rose Law Firm. The eyebrows went even higher when David Hale, recently indicted for a completely unrelated charge of insurance fraud, publicly claimed that Bill Clinton had used his position as governor to coerce Hale into giving Susan McDougal the illegal loan to try and save Whitewater. The Republicans went wild, screaming about a possible cover up. At first the Democrats called it a bunch of malarkey, but then the press struck again. Earlier that summer, the Deputy White House Counsel, Vince Foster, had committed suicide, after which members of the White House staff had blocked investigators from entering his office for two days, during which time sources claimed a large number of Whitewater and other legal files had been removed. The news overwhelmed what resistance the Democrats could muster, and at the start of 1994, Robert Fiske, a private attorney, was appointed special counsel to investigate.
Robert Fiske pretty much sat right in a shit sandwich and pretty quickly got in over his head. Though a subpoena had resulted in the Whitewater files from Foster’s office being handed over by the Clintons’ personal lawyers, rumors were claiming that the documents had been in the possession of the Clintons themselves for several days. An idea which in turn sparked speculation that Vince Foster had actually been murdered. Not having many leads, Fiske chose to focus on claims that Webster Hubbell had illegally alerted the Clintons of the criminal referrals to the Justice Department. Hubbell had only just been recently indicted for unrelated charges of embezzlement, and it was hoped that a deal could be struck. However, Hubbell adamantly refused to have anything to do with the special prosecutor. After six months of lackluster investigation, Fiske released his report which concluded that Foster’s death was a suicide, the same conclusion of the police and FBI, and that there was no proof of the White House interfering with any investigation regarding Whitewater or the McDougals.
It wasn’t the end of the story though. For that, you’ll have to check out next week.