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Starr To Continue Clinton Probe

June 13, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Prosecutor Kenneth Starr said Sunday he has no choice but to keep investigating the Clintons, a course that could collide with the 2000 presidential election campaign and a possible Senate run by the first lady.

Starr said he regards the coming criminal trial of Clinton friend Webster Hubbell _ based on an indictment that refers 36 times to Hillary Rodham Clinton _ as an important step in the investigation.

``We’re looking forward to a trial this summer, that’s what we’re preparing for right now,″ Starr said on ``Fox News Sunday.″

Also Sunday, The Washington Post reported in a book excerpt that President Clinton’s lawyer, Robert Bennett, was suspicious of Clinton’s denials of extramarital relationships and warned him bluntly to tell the truth in the Paula Jones case or ``your political enemies will eat you alive.″

Starr said his investigation unavoidably has been prolonged because he has run into incomplete cooperation in many instances.

``For my part, I just wish we had had full cooperation from the outset,″ Starr said.

The Clinton White House has gone to court to challenge Starr on many aspects of his nearly five-year investigation. In addition, Hubbell and other witnesses have not provided Starr with answers to key questions he is investigating, such as the role of Mrs. Clinton.

Also, witnesses such as Clinton Whitewater partner Susan McDougal refused to testify to a grand jury in 1996 and 1998. Jurors deadlocked at Mrs. McDougal’s recent obstruction and contempt trial, and Starr has abandoned the case against her.

``We recognize that we need to move forward promptly,″ Starr said, but ``some things are entirely out of my control.″

Asked whether Mrs. Clinton’s possible Senate bid from New York was affecting his office’s decision-making, Starr said, ``We strive mightily while providing public information, public education, to divorce our decisions from politics whatsoever.″

Starr said he ultimately will file a final report on his investigation, as mandated by the independent counsel statute expiring this month.

``We have made no decisions with respect to the specific contents of the report,″ he said.

Starr’s office will prosecute Hubbell in federal court starting Aug. 9 on charges of concealing his and Mrs. Clinton’s legal work on a fraudulent Arkansas land deal. The 1,050-acre development called Castle Grande contributed to the financial collapse of the S&L owned by the Clintons’ Whitewater partners.

The work that Hubbell and Mrs. Clinton did on the project was not revealed until Mrs. Clinton’s billing records turned up in the White House family residence in 1996 under still-unexplained circumstances. Prosecutors had been looking for the documents since 1994.

The case could be postponed further if Hubbell seeks court appeals on legal issues.

In a separate case, Hubbell is charged by Starr’s office with tax evasion on hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, some of it in payments arranged by friends of the president when Hubbell was under investigation by Starr’s office in 1994. That case is on hold pending a federal appeals court ruling.

Starr’s TV appearance coincided with the publication of excerpts from a new book that says in the days before Clinton was questioned in the Jones case, the president’s lawyer thought his client’s ``Achilles’ heel″ was not Monica Lewinsky, but rather an Arkansas woman. The woman had met Clinton four times in less than three months between his 1992 election and 1993 inauguration.

The book by Post reporter Bob Woodward says Bennett told Clinton in preparation for his civil case testimony on Jan. 17, 1998, that ``your political enemies will eat you alive if there’s anything in that deposition that isn’t truthful. ... You are dead. You are dead!″

``I hear you,″ Clinton is said to have replied.

Woodward’s book, ``Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate,″ says Clinton denied to his lawyer that he’d had relationships with a list of women.

In response, Bennett was said to have joked: ``After this case is over, your reputation as a womanizer may go down the drain.″

In another reported conversation in preparation for the president’s testimony in the Jones case, Bennett told Clinton, ``If you’re caught ... in the White House, I’m not good enough to help you.″

``This is a prison,″ Clinton is said to have replied. ``I purposefully have no drapes on the windows.″ As for women, ``I’m retired, I’m retired,″ Clinton told Bennett, according to the book. Clinton was later impeached but survived the attempt to remove him from office.

Bennett did not return a call Sunday and the White House declined comment.

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