Starr won't seek indictments against Clinton, first lady

Whitewater prosecutor may report on conduct

June 13, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Kenneth W. Starr, the Whitewater prosecutor, will not seek indictments of President Clinton or Hillary Rodham Clinton but has tentatively decided to issue a final report about their behavior, several associates of Starr said last week.

The report, which could land in the middle of Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaign, might be "blistering" in its descriptions of her actions, one Starr associate said.

Starr, the associates said, decided that he would not seek criminal indictments after discussions in his office about that possibility. But as Starr winds down his operation, those associates said, he was leaning toward issuing a report that would discuss the Clintons' behavior in some detail.

The final decision on whether to issue such a report could have immense implications for Mrs. Clinton's likely run for a U.S. Senate seat from New York in 2000.

Starr, one adviser said, has been grappling with whether such a report would be perceived simply as a politically motivated gesture if it were released, as would be likely, in the middle of Mrs. Clinton's campaign. For all intents and purposes, she has already begun her campaign, although she has not made a formal announcement.

Many of the discussions that led to the tentative decision to issue such a report occurred before it appeared that Mrs. Clinton was serious about running for the Senate, the Starr associates said.

The report, as now envisioned, would be a recitation of events and unresolved issues without any explicitly stated judgments, one Starr associate said. Nonetheless, Starr associates said, it would inevitably convey a critical view because it would raise unanswered questions about Mrs. Clinton's behavior in some land transactions in Arkansas and her testimony under oath about her actions as a lawyer in those deals.

Precisely what such a report would say about Mrs. Clinton is unclear. But this spring in Little Rock, Ark., at the trial of Susan McDougal, a former Whitewater partner of the Clintons, a Starr deputy disclosed that the prosecutor's office had drafted an indictment of Mrs. Clinton.

The deputy, W. Hickman Ewing, did not say exactly what was in the indictment, but he testified that he drafted it after concluding that Mrs. Clinton was not truthful in her answers to prosecutors about her role in Arkansas land deals.

Another issue that has been discussed, a second Starr adviser said, is whether it is fair to issue a report criticizing the behavior of someone who has not been and will not be indicted.

"The question as it has been framed in the debate has been whether you put up or shut up," that adviser said. "If you can't indict her, shouldn't you just shut up?"

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