Whitewater Jurors Hear Clinton's Testimony
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AllPolitics, July 18) -- President Bill Clinton, in videotaped testimony in the latest Whitewater trial, has denied trading political appointments for campaign cash.
Clinton testified that as Arkansas governor in 1990, he did not promise political jobs to Arkansas bankers Herby Branscum Jr. and Robert M. Hill, both longtime political supporters, in exchange for campaign contributions. Hill and Branscum are accused of hiding some $50,000 from the IRS, and using bank funds to repay themselves for contributions.
"What is not permissible is to promise any official act in return for a contribution," the president said. "That didn't happen in this case."
Clinton said he appointed Hill to the Arkansas Banking Commission because he was qualified and personable. "I knew him and trusted him," the president said.
Clinton acknowledged owing the two bankers $100,000 in campaign funds that were eventually repaid in 1992. But he said he had no "specific recollection" of a Dec. 14, 1990 meeting with Hill and an associate during which, an earlier witness testified, Clinton reviewed a $15,000 contribution and then discussed appointing Branscum to the State Highway Commission.
That he might have reviewed donors' checks "wouldn't surprise me," Clinton said, since he frequently reviewed contributions before writing thank-you letters.
Pruned from four hours to 90 minutes, the tape will be sealed by court order, though a written transcript has been released. It was the second time in as many months the president has testified in a trial of his associates on charges stemming from Starr's ongoing Whitewater investigation.
As in the first trial, the president is not a defendant. He appeared relaxed, clad in a blue suit and shown mostly from the waist up. But coming after presidential aide Bruce Lindsey's two days of often hostile cross-examination, Clinton's appearance was a reminder that independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr's probe has moved closer to the White House, the president and the first lady.
Asked Monday by NBC's Tom Brokaw to comment on polls which indicate a majority of Americans feel he has not been completely truthful about Whitewater matters, Clinton said that, given time, the public would sort out the facts. He called the probe "highly politicized."
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