In what could well be a preview of future partisan clashes over Whitewater, Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee issued reports on Tuesday drawing sharply different conclusions about last summer’s hearings.
On their last day in control of the committee, Democrats released a report passing no judgment about the propriety of discussions between regulators and senior White House officials regarding an Arkansas savings and loan at the center of the Whitewater investigation. Their report only implicitly criticized administration officials for being less than candid to Congress.
In their recommendations, the Democrats called on President Clinton to issue an executive order reminding all members of the executive branch of their obligation to testify truthfully to Congress.
The Republicans, by contrast, contended in their report that a top Treasury Department official had intentionally lied to the panel. And they seized on inconsistent and often contradictory testimony of top administration officials to assert that the White House had manipulated regulatory agencies and gotten information about investigations that should have remained secret.
Neither the 241-page Democratic report nor the 56-page Republican one provided any new facts about the discussions between the Treasury Department and the White House that were the subject of the hearings last July and August.
The hearings concerned just two aspects of the Whitewater inquiry that are only tangentially related to the underlying Arkansas deals of the 1980s now being investigated by an independent counsel.
Nonetheless, the hearings provided new insight into the deep-seated preoccupation at the administration’s highest levels with the Whitewater investigation. They also led to the resignations of Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman and the Treasury Department’s general counsel, Jean E. Hanson, after the two contradicted each other.
The Senate hearings delved briefly into the death of deputy White House counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr. Both reports concluded, as had the U.S. Park Police, that Foster had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but that his motive for suicide was unknown.