Senate Democrats blocked a GOP plan Wednesday to grant immunity to President Clinton’s top Whitewater accuser in return for his public testimony.
After heated partisan exchanges, the Whitewater Committee instead voted to call David Hale to give a private deposition Friday.
An admitted felon now in prison, Hale testified in the recent Whitewater trial in Arkansas that then-Gov. Clinton had pressured him into making a $300,000 illegal loan to one of the Clintons’ business partners.
Even though Democrats said they want Hale to testify so they can discredit him, they argued that he might use the grant of immunity to escape pending criminal charges in Arkansas.
“I think that, unfortunately, the Democrats are using every conceivable manner to avoid having him testify,” said the committee’s chairman, Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y.
Hale is expected to refuse to testify Friday by claiming his right against self-incrimination.
If that occurs, the committee would ask for a court ruling on whether Hale - who testified without immunity at trial - properly can cite the Fifth Amendment in this case.
But D’Amato has raised the possibility that there would be no decision before the committee’s mandate runs out next Thursday.
Therefore, D’Amato said, he plans to ask the Democrats today to allow him to put the question to an appointed legal expert who would provide a quick ruling.