WASHINGTON -- Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr sent Congress four box loads of documents yesterday regarding President Clinton's alleged sexual advance on Kathleen Willey, just in time to present the new evidence at impeachment hearings set to begin in six days.
Starr did not suggest, however, any new impeachable offenses based on the Willey evidence. The new material is unlikely to satisfy House Republicans who had hoped Starr would implicate Clinton in matters involving financial improprieties or abuse of presidential power, not another allegation of sexual misconduct.
The documents reached Capitol Hill as Starr secured a 15-count indictment of Webster L. Hubbell -- his third indictment of Hubbell. A Clinton confidant, former law partner of Hillary Rodham Clinton and former top Justice Department official, Hubbell served a year and a half in prison for defrauding his law partners and clients but has so far fought off Starr's additional charges of tax evasion.
Now, Starr accuses Hubbell of lying to federal banking regulators and the House of Representatives while impeding federal investigations of a failed Arkansas savings and loan and a land deal known as Castle Grande.
The indictment makes veiled references to the first lady, though there is nothing in it to suggest that she is at risk of being charged. But there is nothing to rule out that possibility.
Starr has long investigated whether Clinton allies tried to buy Hubbell's silence on Whitewater-related matters by sending him stream of consulting fees for which Hubbell did little or no work. Yesterday's indictment made no mention of any such alleged hush money.
Hubbell denied the latest charges yesterday and accused Starr of a vicious vendetta aimed at forcing the Clinton ally to unfairly implicate the president in illegalities stemming from the failure of the Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan.
"I just do not know what it's going to take to make this matter end," a despondent-looking Hubbell said. "What I do know is that I don't know of any wrongdoing on behalf of the first lady or the president, and nothing the independent counsel can do to me is going to make me lie about that."
Hubbell's attorney, John Nields, said: "It is wrong for a prosecutor to keep on indicting the same person over and over again in the hope that he may some day tell him something about his real quarry, [the president]," adding that Hubbell "did not think this could happen in America."
The independent counsel's double-barreled move signaled that Starr was not about to back down from his investigation, even as he prepares to appear Thursday as the first -- and possibly the only -- witness in the Clinton impeachment hearings.
It was unclear last night whether Starr's continuing investigation involves any issues involving the first lady, especially regarding the Whitewater land deal. The Hubbell indictment hinted that Starr has focused on Mrs. Clinton's conduct as a Little Rock attorney.
Her name never appears in the indictment; the references are all to the "billing partner" of the Rose Law Firm who was in charge of the legal transactions in 1985 and 1986. But Hubbell testified in 1995 that Mrs. Clinton was that partner.
The Willey documents, including testimony from key witnesses and other materials in two identical sets of two boxes, were not presented as evidence of a separate impeachable offense. Rather, the material can be used by the House Judiciary Committee next week to bolster Starr's original charges that Clinton lied under oath, obstructed justice and tampered with witnesses to cover up his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
In a brief letter to the Judiciary Committee's chief investigators, Starr's deputy, Robert J. Bittman, called the Willey evidence "investigative materials" related to the original Starr report on Lewinsky and "available for the committee's review."
Willey has charged that Clinton made an unwanted sexual advance on her near the Oval Office when she visited him in 1993 to discuss her financial troubles. For months, Starr has investigated whether Clinton lied under oath before Starr's grand jury when he denied the advance and whether the president's allies -- including Nathan Landow, a former Maryland Democratic Party chairman -- pressured Willey and other witnesses to remain silent or to change their stories.
Democrats quickly dismissed the importance of Starr's latest submission. On Sept. 9, Starr forwarded 18 boxes of documents on the Lewinsky investigation with a detailed report outlining 15 possibly impeachable offenses. Judiciary Committee investigators had been expecting another impeachment referral on the Willey matter but apparently received only raw evidence to consider in their impeachment deliberations.