Defendants Say They Are Whitewater Pawns Lawyer For Mcdougals, Tucker Helped By Clinton Lawyer
Defendants in the Whitewater case on Friday tried to portray themselves as pawns in a national effort by an extreme conservative group to discredit President Clinton.
At the same time, an attorney for the defendants acknowledged for the first time that he is receiving legal assistance from the president’s lawyer.
The issue came up during the cross-examination of the government’s key witness, David L. Hale, who has testified that he entered into a financial conspiracy in the mid-1980s that involved Clinton and the defendants, Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, James B. McDougal and McDougal’s ex-wife Susan.
Under questioning by James McDougal’s lawyer, Sam Heuer, Hale admitted that when he realized during the fall of 1993 that he was about to be indicted for his own financial misdeeds, he promptly contacted Clinton critics in Arkansas who put him in touch with Citizens United, a Washington-based group headed by Floyd Brown that has been responsible for anti-Clinton propaganda.
Brown is best-known for the political TV commercials he produced in 1988 about Willie Horton, the convict who committed murder after his early release from jail. Citizens United has admitted that the group assisted Hale in arranging interviews with national media correspondents.
Hale thus succeeded in stirring up public sentiment for an independent investigation of the Whitewater affair by alleging in these interviews that Clinton had pressured him to break the law. The trial of Tucker and the McDougals is a direct result of that investigation.
Heuer argued that Hale, Brown and others conspired to draw the president’s name into this case as part of a strategy to win leniency for Hale. “They are torturing my client simply to get to Bill Clinton,” Heuer declared outside the courtroom. Reporters asked Heuer what help he was getting from the president. He said he has consulted frequently with David Kendall, the president’s personal lawyer in the Whitewater matter.
But Heuer argued that his relationship with Clinton’s lawyer is not comparable to the help Hale sought from Citizens United. “All lawyers in a case share information,” he said.
Clinton, who has not been charged in the case, is expected to testify by videotape later this month in the trial of Tucker and the McDougals. Clinton is expected to deny Hale’s contention that the president put pressure on Hale to make an illegal $300,000 loan in the mid-1980s to the McDougals.