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Clinton Ignores Questions On Starr's New Job

By Wolf Blitzer/CNN


NEW YORK (AllPolitics, Feb. 20) -- President Bill Clinton spent his day promoting the new welfare reform law and raising money for Democratic candidates in New York City. But he and his aides continue to mull over Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr's decision to take a new job this summer.

Reporters shouted questions at Clinton, looking for a presidential reaction to Starr's announcement. "Anything about Starr, sir? Starr's moving to Pepperdine, are you happy about that?" one reporter asked.

Clinton ignored the questions as he prepared to fly to New York City.


And later, aboard Air Force One, Press Secretary Mike McCurry said the president would not have anything to say about Starr's decision. "He had no clue what it meant and didn't have any comment as well," McCurry said.

"Did he smile?" McCurry was asked.

"He had no reaction that I'm reporting," McCurry said.

Behind the scenes, White House officials say they are breathing a lot easier now that Starr has decided to become dean of California's Pepperdine University School of Law this summer. They concede they don't have all the facts, but they insist Starr would not be leaving if he were planning to indict the president or the first lady.

Still, Starr says his investigation continues full speed ahead.

And White House aides note that Starr might have some nasty surprises up his sleeve. He could pursue perjury, obstruction of justice or other criminal charges against current and former aides, including Bruce Lindsey, Bernard Nussbaum, Mack McLarty or Webster Hubbell.


If Clinton wasn't talking, Starr was. He told The Associated Press the criminal investigation of the Clintons "is going to go on for some time," clearly suggesting it will continue under another independent prosecutor after he steps down.

"We've made very substantial progress and we're very much in the investigative and evaluative stage," Starr said. He also said some potential witnesses have yet to come forward. "The sooner we get the truth, I think the better for everyone," he said.


Starr said the timing of his departure "was not ideal either personally or professionally," but the Pepperdine job represented a unique opportunity.

Whitewater speculation aside, Clinton's aides say he is continuing to focus on other priorities, including on the New York trip, moving people from welfare to work. But he found himself on the defensive during one meeting.

"Companies have budgets to balance as well, but unlike the federal government, we can go out of business," Earl Graves of Black Enterprise magazine told Clinton.

That drew a pointed response. "I do not think it is so simple to say that at any given moment in time, there are a fixed number of people who have to be hired by all the employers in America and if they hire a few more, they're all going down the tubes and lose money," Clinton said.


Another Clinton priority on the trip is raising more money for Democratic senators, including a $1 million fund-raiser tonight at a private Manhattan home. The money includes so-called soft money, the unlimited sums from corporations and individuals that Clinton says corrupts the political process.

He got some cover from Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D-N.Y.). "In this case, he is helping to retire a debt," Moynihan said. "But I would hope we'd never see this sort of thing again to create funds. This is about the last election. The next one had better be different."

But party activists say the next fund-raiser probably won't be any different, since the president is already committed to attending at least two more for Democratic senators.

This story originally appeared on CNN's "Inside Politics."

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