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Ray: First lady's answers false in travel office probe, but no prosecution

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Independent Counsel Robert Ray's final report on the White House travel office case found first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's testimony in the matter was "factually false," but concluded there were no grounds to prosecute her.

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The special prosecutor determined the first lady did play a role in the 1993 dismissal of the travel office's staff, contrary to her testimony in the matter. But Ray said he would not prosecute Clinton for those false statements because "the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt" that she knew her statements were false or understood that they may have prompted the firings.

Robert Ray and Hillary Rodham Clinton
Independent Counsel Robert Ray will not prosecute first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, despite "factually false" testimony in the White House travel office case.  

The final report concludes that "despite that falsity, no prosecution of Mrs. Clinton is warranted."

The travel office firings came May 19, 1993, when seven career employees lost their jobs over allegations of mismanagement. A subsequent trial of the travel office employees resulted in acquittal.

One of those dismissed -- Billy Dale, the former head of the travel office -- sought relief from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives soon after his dismissal, and the chamber launched a series of hearings into the matter.

Ray had been looking at contradictory statements by the first lady and former White House aide David Watkins on Clinton's role. While the first lady maintained she played no role in the firings, the White House released a memo written by Watkins in which he said he felt pressured by the first lady to fire the travel office employees.

Clinton said she never ordered the firings but only expressed concern about the management of the travel office.

Clinton's lawyer, David Kendall, characterized Ray's words as "highly unfair and misleading" in a letter included in the independent counsel's report.

"The suggestion that Mrs. Clinton's testimony was 'factually inaccurate' as to her role in this matter is contradicted by the final report itself, which recognizes she may not have even been aware of any influence she may have had on the firing decision," Kendall said.

While Ray announced in late June of this year that he would not seek to indict the first lady in the travel office probe, his final report comes just three weeks before Election Day.

The first lady is running for Senate from New York, and is locked in a tight race against Republican Rep. Rick Lazio. Lazio said Ray's conclusions underscore his concerns about the first lady's character and trustworthiness.

"We believe that character counts in public service, that we believe that integrity needs to be restored to our public servants," Lazio said. "We stand together and believe the rule of law applies to all of us, and not just to some of us."

Campaigning in Syracuse, New York, Clinton told reporters, "I just think most New Yorkers and Americans have made up their minds about all of this."

"I said when they issued the press release (last June) ... I was glad it was over after all these years and millions of dollars, and I really have nothing to add to that," she said.

White House Press Secretary Jake Siewart released a statement saying the report "confirms what we have long said: There were financial improprieties in the travel office, the firings were lawfu, and the decision to remove the travel office employees was made by the White House staff, not the first lady."

"This matter has been investigated for nearly seven and a half years by Congress and various prosecutors," Siewart concluded. "This report should close the matter once and for all."

 
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Wednesday, October 18, 2000


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