Book says Clinton meant to pardon Susan McDougal

May 16, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Moments after President Clinton gave videotaped testimony for the criminal trial of James and Susan McDougal, his former Whitewater partners, he privately agreed to give Susan McDougal a pardon if she was convicted, a new book by James McDougal says.

"I'm willing to stick with it, but if it doesn't work out, or whatever, can you pardon Susan?" McDougal recalled asking Clinton shortly after the president had completed his testimony two years ago.

"You can depend on that," Clinton is said to have replied out of earshot of others.

McDougal pressed, "Like I say with all lawyers, I mean promptly?" Clinton grinned and nodded, by McDougal's account, and said, "If you hang with me, I'll do it."

The account of the meeting, disputed yesterday by the White House, is provided in "Arkansas Mischief: The Birth of a Scandal," which McDougal completed shortly before he died in a Texas prison two months ago.

McDougal, who was debriefed extensively by Whitewater investigators, and his former wife, who has refused to answer prosecutors' questions, were found guilty of fraud and other crimes in connection with bad loans by Madison Guaranty, the savings and loan they owned.

McDougal later contradicted his trial testimony, and his book says he lied in that testimony to protect the Clintons.

A White House official asked whether the book offered evidence that the conversation between the president and McDougal had been heard by anyone else. Told the book did not offer witnesses, the White House issued a statement by David Kendall, the Clintons' lawyer, that called McDougal's description absolutely false."

Pub Date: 5/16/98

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