- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2000

A six-year, $52 million investigation into a questionable Arkansas land deal involving President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton ended yesterday with independent counsel Robert W. Ray declaring there was "insufficient evidence" to bring charges against the couple.
Called the "Whitewater investigation" because of its ties to a real estate development on the banks of the White River in the Arkansas Ozarks, the probe netted 14 convictions or guilty pleas, including those of a sitting Arkansas governor, Jim Guy Tucker; Whitewater Development Corp. business partners James and Susan McDougal, and onetime Associate Attorney General Webster L. Hubbell, a law partner of Mrs. Clinton's at Little Rock's Rose Law Firm.
In an announcement just seven weeks before the Nov. 7 presidential election, Mr. Ray said the lengthy probe, which had focused on accusations that the Clintons obstructed justice and gave false testimony, was "now closed."
"This office determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that either President Clinton or Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in any criminal conduct," Mr. Ray said in a six-page statement.
Mr. Ray also said there was "inconclusive" evidence about the disappearance of Mrs. Clinton's law firm billing records, which vanished after the 1992 election and mysteriously surfaced in the White House living quarters in 1996 18 months after the first lady received a subpoena for the documents. He said it could not be determined whether "any person, including Mrs. Clinton, knowingly or willfully possessed the billing records with the intent to obstruct justice."
Though Mr. Ray's office has now closed the Whitewater probe, prosecutors are still considering the possibility of an indictment of Mr. Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Monica Lewinsky scandal once he leaves the White House in January.
Investigators also are continuing to examine the White House's failure to search and produce subpoenaed records, including e-mail messages that were lost, and they are working on an appeal by Tucker convicted in the first Whitewater trial of his conviction for conspiracy and mail fraud, which is pending before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In March, Mr. Ray concluded the FBI files investigation, saying there was "credible" evidence that Mrs. Clinton or senior White House officials were involved in seeking the FBI files of Republicans. In June, he wrapped up the investigation into the White House travel office firings, saying that there would be no indictments, but that he found "substantial evidence" Mrs. Clinton played a role in the dismissals.
The White House, which had vilified Mr. Ray's predecessor, Kenneth W. Starr, reacted immediately and politely to the news.
The White House portrayed the report, which did not clear the Clintons of suspicion, as vindication.
"Robert Ray is now the latest investigator to complete an examination of the transactions to the Whitewater Development Corp. and conclude that there are no grounds for legal action," said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, adding that similar conclusions had been reached over the past "several years."
Mr. Lockhart told reporters the decision to close the investigation should "certainly" put the entire Whitewater matter to rest, for both the first lady and the president. He said the probe took "a significant amount of time and money," but he would "leave it up to the American people to make up their own minds on whether this was a useful exercise."
Mr. Clinton, as he walked through the White House Rose Garden with Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, ignored questions by reporters on the Ray statement. Asked Tuesday about the investigation, he said prosecutors determined two years ago "there was nothing to any of that stuff that has just been coming out now, a year and a half later, so I think people are capable of drawing their own conclusions about that."
The first lady, at a meeting of newspaper executives in Albany, N.Y., said she was "glad that this is finally over."
"I think that most New Yorkers and Americans had made up their minds a long time ago about this. Now everybody can move on."
The Whitewater investigation, begun in 1994 by special prosecutor Robert B. Fiske and later by Mr. Starr, focused on accusations that the Clintons knowingly participated in criminal conduct related to Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association, the Little Rock, Ark., thrift owned by the McDougals. The thrift failed in 1994 at a cost to taxpayers of $73 million.
Mr. Ray said the Whitewater investigation focused on accusations but found insufficient evidence that:
Mr. Clinton gave false testimony when he told a jury in the McDougal-Tucker trial he never borrowed any money from Madison or caused anybody to borrow any money for his benefit. The investigation targeted a Nov. 15, 1982, Madison check made out to "Bill Clinton" that had been found in the trunk of a car in July 1997 after a tornado.
Mr. Clinton gave false testimony when he told the Tucker-McDougal jury he did not know of a $300,000 loan made by Little Rock banker David Hale to Susan McDougal.
Mr. Clinton knowingly gave false testimony at the McDougal-Tucker trial when he denied knowing how Mrs. Clinton's Rose Law Firm had been hired by Madison to represent the thrift in matters before state regulators.
Mrs. Clinton knowingly made false statements to the Resolution Trust Corp. regarding the relationship between Madison and the Rose Law Firm, as well as her own work related to Madison.
Mrs. Clinton was involved in an effort to obstruct the Whitewater investigation by withholding relevant evidence or information in connection with Rose Law Firm billing records.
Mr. Ray also said investigators examined the employment of Mr. Hubbell by supporters of the president following his resignation from the Justice Department to determine if he had been paid "hush money" for his silence in the Whitewater investigation.
He said the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that contracts Mr. Hubbell received "constituted a criminal quid pro quo." He also said there was no evidence to show the president or the first lady was involved "in any effort to provide such a quid pro quo to Hubbell."
Mr. Ray said investigators also examined whether contacts between White House and Treasury Department officials regarding criminal referrals by the RTC involving Madison and the Clintons constituted an effort to obstruct justice by corruptly influencing the handling of the referrals.
"This office determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any White House official, or President or Mrs. Clinton, was involved in any effort to obstruct justice in this matter," said Mr. Ray.

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