Ark. trooper's story to be investigated

September 15, 1995|By Newsday

WASHINGTON -- Senate Whitewater Committee investigators plan to question the Arkansas state trooper who said Clinton administration officials learned about the death of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent Foster at least two hours earlier than previously disclosed.

Committee Chairman Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., told Newsday yesterday that the panel will try to resolve contradictions in statements offered by the trooper, Roger Perry, and former White House aide Helen Dickey, concerning what happened after Foster's body was found in Fort Marcy Park, Va., on July 20, 1993.

Mr. D'Amato also clarified his statements over the past two days and reiterated his long-held belief that former independent counsel Robert Fiske Jr. concluded correctly in June 1994 that Foster drove his car to the park and committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth. "I have no reason to believe that the conclusions reached initially were in error," Mr. D'Amato said.

However, Mr. D'Amato, a conservative whom liberal Democrats lauded for conducting impartial Whitewater hearings last month, said committee investigators and forensic experts will try to "eliminate as many open questions as possible regarding Foster's death."

Mr. D'Amato said the committee would not hold hearings into Foster's death, but would make its findings public. During a CBS radio interview Wednesday, Mr. D'Amato criticized the initial police investigation into Foster's death and cited questions he said yesterday were raised by other Republican committee members relating to the position of the gun in Foster's hand and whether Foster "may have been dragged or carried from someplace else and his body placed there."

"Hopefully we can blow away the clouds of doubt and suspicion," Mr. D'Amato said.

Trooper Perry told reporters last year that on the day Foster died, a hysterical Ms. Dickey telephoned the Arkansas governor's mansion from the White House about 6:15 p.m. Trooper Perry said Ms. Dickey told him that "Vince got off work, went out to his car in the parking lot [of the White House], and shot himself in the head."

But Ms. Dickey denied Trooper Perry's account in a signed affidavit submitted to the Whitewater Committee Wednesday.

Ms. Dickey said that shortly after 10 p.m., John Fanning, an employee of the White House usher's office, informed her that Foster "had been found dead." Ms. Dickey said that "later that night, after I learned a little more about Foster's death" she called the governor's mansion and spoke with Trooper Perry and "told him that Mr. Foster had killed himself and that his body had been found in a park."

Ms. Dickey's affidavit will "hopefully dispel this notion" that White House officials knew of Foster's death earlier than previously thought, Mr. D'Amato said yesterday.

At the time of his death, Foster was grappling with tax problems stemming from the failed 1980s Whitewater land investment of Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Police learned of Foster's body at 6:02 p.m. The White House says it was notified at 8:30 p.m.

Conspiracy theorists have alleged that Foster's body was moved and that White House officials could have used the two hours to launch a cover-up and destroy sensitive documents.

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