Original Scandal: Federal Judge Denies Release Of Draft Hillary Whitewater Indictment

A federal judge has officially denied a FOIA request from Judicial Watch seeking a draft of a criminal indictment of Hillary Clinton prepared by prosecutors back in the mid-90s related to her involvement in the Whitewater scandal.  According to Politico, U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton, a Bush appointee, ruled that Clinton's "substantial privacy interest" outweighed any public interest in disclosure and that the material was protected from disclosure by a court rule enforcing grand jury secrecy.  The 30-page opinion from Walton (attached in its entirety below) argues that the draft indictment would not "shed light on any agency's performance of its statutory duties, but potentially shed light solely on the character of Mrs. Clinton, independent to her position as a public official, which is not the objective of the FOIA.

"The fact that information about the independent counsel’s investigation and potential indictment of Mrs. Clinton is readily available to the public does not extinguish Mrs. Clinton’s privacy interest," Walton wrote. "Although an individual’s interests in privacy fade when the information involved already appears on the public record'...'the fact that an event is not wholly private does not mean that an individual has no interest in limiting disclosure or dissemination of [the requested] information."

 

"While Mrs. Clinton was first lady of the United States at the time of the investigation, she was neither part of a government agency nor a government official when the events that were the subject of the independent counsel’s investigation occurred, which led to the drafting of the proposed indictments," the judge wrote. "Disclosure of the drafts of the proposed indictment would not shed light on any agency’s performance of its statutory duties, but potentially shed light solely on the character of Mrs. Clinton, independent to her position as a public official, which is not the objective of the FOIA."

Hillary Whitewater

The issue of the Hillary indictments first surfaced in October 2015 when Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the National Archives and Records Administration after they failed to produce the documents pursuant to a FOIA request.  While acknowledging only a "scintilla of public interest in these documents" the National Archives denied the request asserting that "disclosure of the draft indictments would not shed light on what the government is up to."  

"While there may be a scintilla of public interest in these documents since Mrs. Clinton is presently a Democratic presidential candidate, that fact alone is not a cognizable public interest under FOIA, as disclosure of the draft indictments would not shed light on what the government is up to."

As background, the draft indictments related to allegations that Clinton provided false information and withheld evidence from federal investigators to conceal her involvement with the defunct Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan, the collapse of which lead to multiple criminal convictions.  Clinton provided legal representation to Madison Guaranty as an attorney at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Clinton’s Rose Law Firm billing records, long sought by prosecutors, were found in the private quarters of the White House shortly after an important statute of limitations had expired.

Judicial Watch argued that a D.C. Circuit court ruled that Hillary was an "officer of the United States" while serving in her capacity as First Lady.  Therefore, they argued that "making false statements and withholding evidence from federal investigators bears on Mrs. Clinton’s honesty, credibility, and trustworthiness" while serving in an official capacity.

[A]t the time Mrs. Clinton was being investigated by the independent counsel for making false statements and withholding evidence from federal investigators, she was First Lady of the United States.  The alleged false statements and withholding of evidence also allegedly occurred while Mrs. Clinton was First Lady of the United States. The D.C. Circuit has found that, as First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Clinton was an officer of the United States, at least for purposes of the Federal Advisory Committee Act….

 

Obviously, making false statements and withholding evidence from federal investigators bears on Mrs. Clinton’s honesty, credibility, and trustworthiness, not only as First Lady, but also in her subsequent government service as a U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of State and for the position she currently seeks … The Archives’ assertions to the contrary are neither serious nor credible.

Obviously, like FBI Director Comey, Walton concluded that less transparency regarding the 20 year old case was in the public's "best interest".  Likely just more "plumes of smoke" anyway...it was probably nothing.

 

* * *

 

For those of you not as familiar with the Whitewater scandal, below is an excellent, detailed recap from the Washington Post.  It is an amazing tale complete with all the twists and turns of a modern-day Clinton scandal including shady real estate deals, insider dealings, document destruction, obstruction of justice, perjury, wrongful deaths, etc.

1978:

Arkansas Attorney General Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton join with James B. and Susan McDougal to borrow $203,000 to buy 220 acres of land in Arkansas' Ozark Mountains. They soon form the Whitewater Development Corp., intending to build vacation homes.

 

Clinton is elected governor.

 

1980:

Clinton loses his reelection bid and enters private legal practice.

 

James McDougal, who served briefly as Gov. Clinton's economic development director, quits government to buy a small bank in Kingston, Ark. He loans $30,000 to Hillary Clinton to build a model house on a Whitewater lot.

 

1982:

McDougal buys a small savings and loan and names it Madison Guaranty.

 

After two years as a private citizen, Clinton is once again elected governor.

 

1984:

Federal regulators begin to question the financial stability and lending practices of Madison Guaranty, criticizing Madison's speculative land deals, insider-lending and hefty commissions paid to the McDougals and others.

 

Clinton is reelected.

 

1985:

James McDougal holds a fund-raising event at Madison Guaranty to help pay off a $50,000 Clinton campaign debt. Investigators later determine some of the money was improperly withdrawn from depositor funds.

 

McDougal hires the Rose Law Firm, where Hillary Clinton is a partner, to do legal work for the ailing savings and loan.

 

Hillary Clinton and another Rose lawyer seek state regulatory approval for recapitalization plan for Madison.

 

1986:

McDougal borrows $300,000 from a company owned by David Hale, a former Little Rock judge. Hale's company receives federal funds from the Small Business Administration to lend to disadvantaged business owners, but an investigation 10 years later alleges that he lent up to $3 million to political figures instead.

 

Citing improper practices, federal regulators remove McDougal as Madison Guaranty's president, but he retains ownership.

 

1988:

Witnesses from the Rose Law Firm say Hillary Clinton requested the destruction of Madison land contract files.

 

Hillary Clinton writes James McDougal to ask for power of attorney to sell off remaining Whitewater lots and clear up bank obligations.

 

1989:

Madison Guaranty collapses after a series of bad loans and a change in government accounting procedures. The federal government shuts it down and spends $60 million bailing it out.

 

James McDougal is indicted on federal fraud charges related to his management of a Madison real estate subsidiary.

 

1990:

McDougal is acquitted.

 

1992:

The Clinton presidential campaign gathers information on Whitewater and Madison Guaranty. A report commissioned by the campaign claims the Clintons lost $68,000 on Whitewater, an estimate later adjusted down to somewhat over $40,000.

 

The Federal Resolution Trust Corp., investigating causes of Madison's failure, sends a referral to the Justice Department that names the Clintons as "potential beneficiaries" of illegal activities at Madison.

 

January 1993:

Clinton's first term as president begins.

 

May 1993:

White House fires seven employees in the travel office, possibly to make room for Clinton friends. An FBI investigation of the office ensues, allegedly opened under pressure from the White House to justify the firings.

 

June 1993:

Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster files three years of delinquent Whitewater corporate tax returns.

 

July 1993:

Foster is found dead in a Washington area park. Police rule the death a suicide. Federal investigators are not allowed access to Foster's office immediately after the discovery, but White House aides enter Foster's office shortly after his death, giving rise to speculation that files were removed from his office.

 

September 1993:

First of three meetings in which Treasury Department officials tip off Clinton aides about the progress of the RTC investigation.

 

October 1993:

RTC's criminal referral is rejected by Paula Casey, U.S. attorney in Little Rock and former law student of Bill Clinton.

 

December 1993:

The White House agrees to turn over Whitewater documents to the Justice Department, which had been preparing to subpoena them. These documents include files found in Foster's office.

 

January 1994:

Attorney General Janet Reno names New York lawyer and former U.S. attorney Robert B. Fiske Jr. as special counsel to investigate the Clintons' involvement in Whitewater. Fiske announces he will also explore a potential link between Foster's suicide and his intimate knowledge of the developing Whitewater scandal.

 

February 1994:

Republican attorney Jay Stephens is appointed to head the Resolution Trust Corp.'s investigation of the failure of Madison Guaranty.

 

March 1994:

Webster L. Hubbell abruptly resigns as associate attorney general after allegations are raised about his conduct at the Rose Law Firm. Two of Clinton's top political advisers call business friends and line up more than $500,000 for Hubbell, including $100,000 from the Lippo Group. Hubbell is later convicted of fraud and serves 18 months in jail.

 

Summer 1994:

The House and Senate Banking committees begin hearings on Whitewater. Twenty-nine Clinton administration officials are subpoenaed or testify at congressional hearings. All are cleared of any wrongdoing.

 

August 5, 1994:

 A U.S. Court of Appeals panel refuses to re-appoint Fiske as special counsel, citing a possible conflict of interest because he was appointed by Clinton's attorney general, Janet Reno. Kenneth W. Starr, a former federal appeals court judge and U.S. solicitor who worked in the Reagan and Bush administrations, succeeds Fiske as the independent counsel to investigate Whitewater-Madison matters. He reissues subpoenas for documents, such as the Rose billing records of Hillary Clinton.

 

Jan. 3, 1995:

 The Democratic majority on the Senate Banking Committee releases a report finding no laws were broken in the Whitewater matter.

 

April 22, 1995:

Starr interviews the Clintons privately.

 

July 18, 1995:

The Senate Special Whitewater Committee, chaired by Republican Alfonse D'Amato, begins hearings on Whitewater and on Foster's suicide. D'Amato is also a chairman of Republican Bob Dole's presidential campaign. The hearings last 11 months.

 

Aug. 10, 1995:

The House Banking Committee, chaired by Republican Jim Leach of Iowa, finishes its examination and finds no illegalities.

 

Aug. 17, 1995:

A grand jury charges James and Susan McDougal and Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker with bank fraud relating to questionable loans.

 

Oct. 26, 1995:

The Senate Whitewater committee issues 49 subpoenas to federal agencies and others involved in the affair.

 

Dec. 12, 1995:

White House associate counsel William H. Kennedy III, who worked at the Rose Law Firm, refuses to release subpoenaed notes of a 1993 meeting between administration officials and the president's lawyers about Whitewater.

 

Dec. 20, 1995:

The Senate votes along party lines to enforce the subpoena. The next day, the White House drops its claim to attorney-client privilege and releases the notes. They prove vague and do not reveal any illegality, but contain the phrase "Vacuum Rose law files WWDC Docs – subpoena."

 

Jan. 4, 1996:

Hillary Clinton's billing records from the Rose Law Firm are found on a table in the White House residence book room after two years. Clinton aide Carolyn Huber says she found the bills in August 1995 but didn't realize their significance until coming across them again. The documents include copies of bills for Hillary Clinton's legal work, showing she performed 60 hours of legal work for Madison in 1985 and 1986.

 

Jan. 8, 1996:

In a commentary titled "Blizzard of Lies," New York Times columnist William Safire describes Hillary Clinton as "a congenital liar." White House press secretary Michael McCurry said if Clinton were not president he "would have delivered a more forceful response to that [column] on the bridge of Mr. Safire's nose."

 

Jan. 15, 1996:

Republicans suggest billing documents may have been withheld from their investigation to disguise how much work Hillary Clinton had done for Madison Guaranty. The White House issues a denial.

 

Jan. 22, 1996:

Kenneth Starr subpoenas Hillary Clinton in a criminal probe to determine if records were intentionally withheld. This is the first time a wife of a sitting president has been subpoenaed.

 

Jan. 26, 1996:

Hillary Clinton testifies before a grand jury about the discovery and content of the billing records.

 

March 4, 1996:

Whitewater trial of Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker (D) and the McDougals begins in Little Rock.

 

April 22, 1996:

David Hale, the former owner of a government-funded lending company who has pleaded guilty to two felonies, testifies at Whitewater trial that in early 1985 then governor Bill Clinton pressured him to make a fraudulent $300,000 loan to Susan McDougal and asked that his name be kept out of the transaction.

 

April 28, 1996:

Clinton testifies on videotape as a defense witness for just over four hours. He denies Hale's charge. The tape is played to the Whitewater trial jury on May 9.

 

May 26, 1996:

Gov. Tucker and the McDougals are convicted of nearly all the fraud and conspiracy charges Starr lodged against them 10 months earlier.

 

May 28, 1996:

The White House acknowledges that during four months in late 1993 it wrongly collected FBI background reports on hundreds, including prominent Republicans. Director of personnel security, Craig Livingstone, later takes responsibility.

 

June 17, 1996:

"Second" Whitewater trial begins. Arkansas bankers Herby Branscum Jr. and Robert Hill are accused of illegally using bank funds to reimburse themselves for political contributions, including contributions to Clinton's gubernatorial and presidential campaigns.

 

June 18, 1996:

The Senate Whitewater committee finishes its investigation. Republicans and Democrats remain divided in their respective reports on whether the Clintons committed any ethical breaches.

 

July 7, 1996:

President Clinton testifies on tape for the second Whitewater trial.

 

July 15, 1996:

Jim Guy Tucker resigns as governor of Arkansas.

 

July 16 & 17, 1996:

Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey, named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Branscum-Hill trial, testifies about his role as the treasurer of Clinton's gubernatorial reelection effort in 1990. He says he never sought to conceal from regulators two large cash withdrawals he ordered.

 

July 18, 1996:

President Clinton's videotaped testimony from July 7 is aired at the trial. In it, Clinton denies naming the two defendants to unsalaried state posts in exchange for contributions to his 1990 gubernatorial campaign.

 

Aug. 1, 1996:

In a major setback for Starr's investigation, Branscum and Hill are cleared on four counts of bank fraud by a federal jury, which deadlocks on seven other charges.

 

Aug. 19, 1996:

Former governor Tucker receives a suspended four-year sentence after his doctor testifies that he would likely die of liver disease if imprisoned. Tucker is placed under home detention and fined $319,000.

 

Aug. 20, 1996:

Susan McDougal is sentenced to two years in prison for her role in obtaining an illegal loan for the Whitewater venture.

 

Sept. 4, 1996:

Susan McDougal, who had considered cooperating with prosecutors, says she doesn't trust them. She enters jail for contempt of court rather than testify in front of a grand jury.

 

Sept. 23, 1996:

An FDIC inspector general's report concludes Hillary Clinton drafted a real estate document that Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan used to "deceive" federal regulators in 1986.

 

Sept. 30, 1996:

The General Accounting Office reports that independent counsels investigating President Clinton and his administration have spent more than $25 million. Starr alone has spent more than $17 million.

 

Nov. 24, 1996:

Clinton's former campaign strategist for the 1992 election, James Carville, announces plans to attack Starr as a partisan hatchet man with a right-wing agenda.

 

Feb. 17, 1997:

 Starr unexpectedly announces he will leave his post as independent counsel in August to become the dean of Pepperdine University Law School in California. After much criticism, Starr reverses his decision four days later and resolves to keep his post until after the investigation is completed.

 

April 10, 1997:

On a radio talk show, Hillary Clinton denies that hush money was arranged for former law partner Webster L. Hubbell. She says Whitewater reminds her "of some people's obsession with UFOs and the Hale-Bopp comet some days."

 

April 14, 1997:

James B. McDougal is sentenced to three years in prison for his conviction on 18 fraud and conspiracy charges. Starr requested a reduced sentence for McDougal for assisting the prosecution.

 

April 22, 1997:

The U.S. District Court extends the Whitewater grand jury's term six more months, until Nov. 7, after Starr says he has "extensive evidence" of possible obstruction of justice.

 

April 25, 1997:

8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, overruling a lower court, says the White House must turn over subpoenaed notes to Starr. The notes, for which the White House claimed attorney-client privilege, were taken by White House lawyers when investigators questioned the First Lady.

 

May 2, 1997:

The White House announces that it will appeal the decision on the subpoenaed notes to the Supreme Court.

 

June 23, 1997:

The Supreme Court refuses to hear the appeal, and the White House turns over the notes.

 

June 25, 1997:

The Washington Post reports that Whitewater prosecutors have been questioning Arkansas state troopers about President Clinton's personal life, including possible extramarital affairs he may have had while Arkansas governor.

 

July 15, 1997:

Starr's office concludes that Vincent Foster's death in 1993 was a suicide.

 

July 30, 1997:

Susan McDougal, being detained for contempt of court, is moved into a federal detention facility after seven months in two Los Angeles jails, much of which she spent locked in a windowless cell 23 hours a day. The move comes a week after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit alleging that McDougal was being held, at Starr's request, in "barbaric" conditions in an attempt to coerce her to testify.

 

Sept. 30, 1997:

The General Accounting Office announces that Starr had spent over $25 million on his investigation as of March 1997.

 

January 16, 1998:

Starr receives permission to expand his investigation into whether Clinton and his close friend Vernon E. Jordan Jr. encouraged a 24-year-old former White House intern to lie under oath about her alleged affair with the president.

 

March 8, 1998:

James McDougal dies just months before he hoped to be released from prison.

 

April 1, 1998:

The General Accounting Office announces that Starr had spent nearly $30 million on his investigation as of September 1997.

 

April 16, 1998:

Starr says there is no end in sight to his investigation, and officially declines the Pepperdine job, which was being held open for him.

 

April 23, 1998:

Susan McDougal, finally serving her two-year fraud sentence after completing her 18-month contempt of court sentence, refuses yet again to testify before Starr's Little Rock grand jury.

 

April 25, 1998:

Starr and deputies question Hillary Rodham Clinton about Whitewater for nearly five hours at the White House. The testimony is videotaped for the Little Rock grand jury.

 

April 30, 1998:

A new set of tax evasion and fraud charges is brought against Webster Hubbell.

 

May 4, 1998:

Susan McDougal is indicted on charges of criminal contempt and obstruction.

 

April 30, 1998:

A federal judge dismisses the tax and fraud charges against Hubbell and criticizes Starr for going on "the quintessential fishing expedition."

 

Nov. 13, 1998:

Starr brings a third indictment against Hubbell, this one alleging lies to Congress and federal banking regulators.

 

Nov. 19, 1998:

During the first day of impeachment hearings, Starr clears Clinton in relation to the firing of White House travel office workers in 1993 and the improper collection of FBI files revealed in 1996. He also says his office drafted an impeachment referral stemming from Whitewater in 1997, but decided not to send it because the evidence was insufficient.

 

The full opinion of U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton can be reviewed below: