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Whitewater independent counsel Robert Ray resigns

From Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Independent Counsel Robert Ray resigned Tuesday, handing the few remaining tasks of the long-running investigation of the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky scandals to his deputy Julie Thomas.

Ray issued a brief statement saying he planned to "return home to my family in New Jersey, and I look forward to new challenges ahead for me there."

Ray made no mention of a possible run for public office, but CNN has been told Ray has met with state Republican Party officials to discuss a possible challenge to incumbent Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli.

Ray succeeded Kenneth Starr as independent counsel in October 1999 and oversaw the agreement with then-President Clinton that avoided a possible criminal trial.

In a deal struck the day before he left office, Clinton admitted that he had made false statements under oath about his relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern. He surrendered his law license for five years and paid a $25,000 fine to Arkansas state bar officials.

In his final report, issued last week, Ray said there was sufficient evidence to have brought charges against the former president.

Thomas has worked for Ray for more than two years and became deputy independent counsel a year ago. A career prosecutor from Tampa, she will oversee the release of the final report on the Arkansas phase of the investigation. That report is expected to cover the Clintons' business dealings with former partners Jim and Susan McDougal.

She will also have to make decisions on requests for legal fees and oversee the closing of the indepdent counsel's office, now in its seventh year of operation.

Thomas was sworn in as independent counsel at a small private ceremony at the U.S. District Courthouse in Washington on Tuesday afternoon.




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