Troopers asked about Clinton’s sex life in Whitewater probe
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Democrats reacted angrily today to a report that Whitewater prosecutors recently questioned Arkansas troopers about possible extramarital affairs by President Clinton. But two troopers say such questions have been asked since the earliest days of the investigation.
Several Democratic senators, reacting to the report in today’s Washington Post, suggested independent counsel Kenneth Starr has gone too far.
``As a former prosecutor, I believe the independence of this special prosecutor is seriously in question,″ said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
Two troopers told The Associated Press today that questions about Clinton and women first surfaced in the earliest days of the Whitewater investigation, even before Starr’s appointment. The troopers would only talk on condition of anonymity.
One trooper said he discussed questions of Clinton’s relationships with the office of the first Whitewater prosecutor, Robert Fiske, in 1994.
Those troopers said prosecutors asked questions about Clinton and women as part of an investigation into whether the president had anything to do with an illegal $300,000 loan that went to the wife of his Whitewater business partner.
Clinton has testified under oath he had nothing to do with the loan, though both his former Whitewater partner and the businessman who made the loan claim he did.
At least four troopers who used to work for Clinton, including L.D. Brown and Danny Ferguson, said they had not been questioned recently about Clinton’s personal life or did not know anything about the Post article.
Sgt. Frank Tappin, who worked on Clinton’s security detail for about three years, said today investigators questioned him months ago but asked nothing about the governor’s personal life.
He said they had asked general questions about Whitewater and any remarks Clinton may have made about it. ``I told them I didn’t know anything about it,″ Tappin said. ``I didn’t even know there was a Whitewater in Arkansas.″
The Post reported that the recent questioning was part of an effort by Starr to find close Clinton associates in whom he may have confided and who might have knowledge about the truth of sworn statements Clinton has made in the course of the Whitewater investigation.
The paper quoted one trooper as saying the questions about Clinton’s personal life left him thinking investigators seemed more interested in portraying the president as a ``womanizer″ than in uncovering details of financial transactions.
``In the past, I thought they were trying to get to the bottom of Whitewater,″ Roger Perry told the Post. ``This last time, I was left with the impression that they wanted to show he was a womanizer,″ said the 21-year veteran of the Arkansas state police force.
Perry was one of the troopers who first went public with allegations that Clinton had used troopers to arrange liaisons for women with the then-governor.
Perry, who had been questioned before in the Whitewater probe, said a prosecutor and FBI agent interviewed him in April for more than 1 1/2 hours in Starr’s office.
The Post reported that eight troopers who served on Clinton’s security detail had been asked about 12 to 15 women by name. It quoted deputy Whitewater prosecutor John Bates as saying it is ``perfectly appropriate to establish the circumstances of the contact″ between Clinton and the women, who could be potential witnesses.
Deborah Gershman, a spokeswoman for Starr, said today the office had no further comment.
Democrats, seeking to capitalize on the latest disclosure, suggested Starr had gone too far.
Kerry said: ``I think it is inappropriate to be asking questions of personal past sexual history of any kind, but of a pointed nature that they have arisen to I think just crosses the line of decency.″
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., called the questions ``unnecessary and in our view it exceeds the bounds within which we felt this special prosecutor was investigating.″
And James Carville, the president’s former campaign architect and frequent Starr critic, said: ``This started as some highbrow criminal investigation and ended up as some tawdry use of federal money and power to ask about sex lives.″
But Joseph diGenova, a former U.S. attorney and former independent counsel, said such a line of questions is difficult but often necessary for prosecutors.
``It’s very important when you’re doing what they are doing to talk to as many people as possible,″ diGenova said. ``What they’re looking for is that maybe at a moment when the president had his guard down he might have said something out of anger or frustration. It’s somewhat unpleasant but you have to do it.″
In another development, sources told AP that Whitewater prosecutors suggested last year they might seek a search warrant to hunt through the White House family residence for a box of documents. That sent White House lawyers scrambling to avert what could have been an election year embarrassment.
The solution: A compromise was negotiated in which White House lawyers Jane Sherburne and Miriam Nemetz and usher Gary Walters hunted through the Clintons’ rooms in the family residence for a box of documents with handwriting on it. Nothing turned up, according to lawyers and other people familiar with the episode.
``Sherburne and Nemetz ... combed the place high and low, top-down, looking in the Clintons’ closets, under the beds, in all the rooms,″ said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Prosecutors located witnesses who reported seeing the box in the investigation of the mysterious appearance of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s billing records in the third-floor book room of the White House family residence, sources said.