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White House Ready With Whitewater Verdict Response


By Jill Dougherty/CNN

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 27) -- Even before the verdicts are read in Little Rock in the trial of the Clintons' former Whitewater business partners, the White House is readying a coordinated response.

On trial are James and Susan McDougal, as well as Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker. But the real focus of attention is President Clinton, who testified on videotape at the McDougals' request.

White House aides say regardless of what the verdict is -- innocent, guilty, a mixed verdict or hung jury -- the president's Whitewater response team, led by associate White House counsel Mark Fabiani, will move quickly to hammer home three key points:

    the defendants
  • The president was not on trial.
  • He was not accused of any wrongdoing.
  • And in four years only one person -- the prosecution's star witness David Hale -- has made any direct allegations against the president. But Hale is a convicted felon who made a deal with prosecutors -- and even the prosecution eventually backed away form his testimony, calling him "a crook."

In a pre-emptive move, the White House has distributed a briefing book to reporters, opinion makers and editorial boards across the country, containing fact sheets, copies of legal documents, and even transcripts of television programs buttressing their position.


Behind the scenes, the president's aides admit they were concerned the defense seemed to pin so much of its case on the president's testimony, but they say they were relived when the prosecution itself discredited Hale.

Regardless of the verdicts, they claim Republicans will have a hard time making political hay from this.

The Clinton re-election team will leave the legal arguments to the White House, but it plans to go beyond that to the political "context" -- and at the same time try not to make Whitewater any more of a campaign issue than it already is.

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