In an intensive re-investigation of Vincent Foster’s 1993 death, Whitewater prosecutors turned up new evidence, a changed account from his widow and poignant details of his depression but reached the same conclusion: He killed himself.
“He cried at dinner with his wife four days before his death; he told his mother a day or two before his death that he was unhappy because work was ‘a grind,”’ wrote Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr in a 114-page final report made public Friday.
Starr’s report is the fifth investigation to rule the White House lawyer killed himself with a single shot to his head from an antique revolver.
The report mixed technical forensic evidence with detail about the depth of Foster’s depression in the final days of his White House job, engulfed in the controversy surrounding his kindergarten pal Bill Clinton and former law partner Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Foster’s July 20, 1993, death at a Civil War-era park outside Washington spurred a cottage industry of conspiracy theories that he was murdered in a White House cover-up - endlessly promoted in books, videotapes and on conservative talk shows.
The release of Starr’s report showed no sign of silencing critics.
“This is worse than the Fiske report because Starr’s people have deliberately misrepresented the evidence,” Reed Irvine, head of the conservative Accuracy in Media, said, referring to Starr’s predecessor, Robert Fiske, who also concluded that Foster killed himself.
While Starr’s report depicts Foster as a depressed man close to being overwhelmed by his White House job, prosecutors said they “cannot set forth a particular reason or set of reasons why Mr. Foster committed suicide.”
The issues facing Foster, the report noted, related to presidential appointments, health care reform, the dismissal of White House travel office employees and the Clintons’ tax returns “which involved an issue regarding treatment of the Clintons’ 1992 sale of their interest in Whitewater.”
In a footnote, Starr said that “substantive events” still under investigation include Foster’s “possible relationship” to the Clintons’ Whitewater real estate investment, the failed Arkansas savings and loan owned by the Clintons’ business partners and the purge of the entire White House travel office.
The report quoted from a letter Foster wrote a friend in March 1993 that said, “I have never worked so hard for so long in my life. The legal issues are mind boggling and the time pressures are immense. … The pressure, financial sacrifice and family disruption are the price of public service at this level. As they say, ‘The wind blows hardest at the top of the mountain.”’