Starr Gets Extension For Whitewater Jury (4/22/97)
Report: Clintons Were Warned About Hubbell's Woes
Associate said in 1994 that Hubbell should resign 'quickly'
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 5) -- The White House took issue with a New York Times story today that suggests officials were aware of the gravity of former Associate Attorney General Webster Hubbell's legal woes at the time top Clinton aides made business calls on his behalf.
The Times reported that two close associates of the president and first lady -- Arkansas attorney James Blair and their private attorney David Kendall -- knew of Hubbell's legal problems as early as March 1994. Blair, according to the Times, told the Clintons that the then-associate attorney general "needed to resign as quickly as possible."
Quoting previously unpublished Senate Whitewater testimony, the Times says Blair was informed there was "pretty strong proof of wrongdoing" by Hubbell. Blair, a longtime friend of the Clintons, told Senate lawyers he had acted as a liaison between Hubbell and the Rose Law Firm, whose partners Hubbell was later convicted of defrauding.
The Times said Kendall also was aware in March 1994 of Hubbell's problems and helped bring about his resignation from the Justice Department. The Times based that on an attorney close to the case, and an anonymous source who was briefed by Kendall in 1995.
It all seemed to cloud the Clintons' recent assertions that neither they nor anyone at the White House were aware of the gravity of Hubbell's woes at the time top aides helped line up contracts for him worth some $400,000.
"Let me remind you of the critical fact," the president told reporters April 3. "At the time that it was done, no one had any idea about whether any -- what the nature of the allegations were against Mr. Hubbell or whether they were true."
A week later during a radio appearance, the first lady said "at the time we had no reason to disbelieve his [Hubbell's] denials of wrongdoing."
The White House stood firmly by those comments. Hubbell "repeatedly told people he had done nothing wrong," spokesman Mike McCurry told reporters. "The Clintons were likely to presume the innocence of someone who had been their friend."
"The full nature and seriousness of allegations against Mr. Hubbell were not known fully to anyone at the White House until he pled guilty," McCurry said. "People were surprised by that and very disappointed by that."
Hubbell was convicted of defrauding his former partners at the Rose law firm, and he served 18 months in prison.
The Times report is likely to be further grist for Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who has been examining whether payments to Hubbell were made to buy his silence on Whitewater matters, which could amount to obstruction of justice.
Kendall would not comment for the Times, and Blair could not be reached.
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