Prosecutor to question Clintons, probe suicide

January 21, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The special prosecutor chosen to investigate President Clinton's Arkansas land dealings says he plans a broad inquiry that would include questioning the president and his wife, Hillary, under oath and an examination of any possible links to the suicide of a senior White House aide.

The prosecutor, Robert B. Fiske Jr., is a New York lawyer and former Republican U.S. attorney in Manhattan. Speaking with reporters yesterday after Attorney General Janet Reno announced the selection, he said Ms. Reno had given him a wide grant of authority to conduct "a thorough, complete and impartial" criminal investigation.

Although Ms. Reno approved the scope of the inquiry, it was Mr. Fiske who actually set its parameters. In a highly unusual arrangement proposed by the attorney general, he wrote his own formal statement of jurisdiction on a yellow legal pad as he sat alone Wednesday afternoon in a vacant office at the Justice Department, Ms. Reno's aides said.

That was in keeping with Mr. Fiske's character, say colleagues like former Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady: In addition to being well regarded for integrity, he is also known for his thoroughness.

Mr. Fiske's intention to review the circumstances of the suicide of Vincent W. Foster Jr., a White House lawyer, in July 1993, suggested that the inquiry would examine events in Washington as well as Arkansas. Mr. Foster, a long-time Clinton associate, kept a file on the Clintons' land dealings that was turned over to a private lawyer after the aide's death but not provided to the authorities until it was subpoenaed last month.

Mr. Clinton, speaking last night on "Larry King Live" on CNN, said that he understood the need to extend the inquiry to Mr. Foster. "Because he had some files that were relevant, he has to look into what is there," Mr. Clinton said.

To ensure Mr. Fiske's independence, Ms. Reno said she would not try to monitor his activities, nor would she ask him to report to her about his progress. Under federal regulations, she could dismiss him, but only for "good cause" or physical infirmity and even then would be obligated to explain her actions to Congress.

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