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Hillary Clinton: A 'Central Figure' In Starr's Investigation

Independent counsel says first lady's testimony 'has changed over time'

By Bob Franken/CNN

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 6) -- It is hardly news that First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is a focus of the Whitewater investigation. She was, of course the first first lady in history subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.


But to have it stated specifically and openly in the normally secretive Whitewater investigation conducted by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr is remarkable.

According to the federal judge in Little Rock, Ark., in documents just made public, Starr "candidly states ... Mrs. Clinton's testimony on several issues under investigation 'has changed over time or differs from that of other witnesses' and that she is a 'central figure' in his investigation."

In Mexico City, President Clinton defended his wife at his news conference.


"I know of no factual discrepancy," he said, and, referring to the reporters before him, added, "But if you took the four of you sitting there together and you all got together 13 to 19 years later and asked you precisely what happened on this day, you might have slightly different memories."

The quotation from Starr is from motions filed in connection with two sets of lawyers' notes involving Mrs. Clinton. The White House is refusing to turn over the notes to Starr, some of which were taken just after Mrs. Clinton's grand jury appearance 15 months ago.

"Now I am going home and I hope all of you will as well," she said after her appearance in January 1996.

Instead, Mrs. Clinton then briefed White House Deputy Counsel Jane Sherburne. Those notes as well as those from another conversation with White House lawyers are the ones in dispute.


An appeals court ruling that the White House must turn over the notes is on its way to the Supreme Court.

The president contends his lawyers have urged him to make a constitutional test of attorney client privilege, even though Mrs. Clinton is not technically a client of the White House lawyers.

"So they came to me and said this is what we strongly believe, this is the right thing to do for America, and for the Constitution, and everyone knows that you and your wife have answered all of the questions there and have told everybody everything there is to tell, and we ought to do this for the country," Clinton said.

But the appeals judges who ruled against the White House expressed their opinion this way: "Mrs. Clinton's interest ... is naturally avoiding prosecution." That is clearly what Independent Counsel Starr is exploring.

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