Accuracy in Media

Independent Counsel Robert Ray’s final report says that there was sufficient evidence to establish that some of the statements made by the Clintons were factually inaccurate, but there was not enough to establish beyond reasonable doubt that they “knowingly gave false statements, committed perjury or otherwise obstructed investigations.” The accuracy of that has not been questioned by the media, not even by those who, five years ago, were exposing the lies that Bill and Hillary told to conceal their role in the payment of over $700,000 (according to the Government Reform Committee) to Webb Hubbell to buy his silence after he resigned from the Justice Department at the President’s request.

Ray’s report discusses those payments, scaling them down to $500,000, which began to pour in soon after Hubbell resigned in April 1994. “The evidence was insufficient to prove these payments were intended to affect Hubbell’s cooperation with this office,” it says, adding, “The evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mrs. Clinton gave false testimony about Webster Hubbell’s post-resignation employment.” Mrs. Clinton was apparently asked about this when she testified before the grand jury, but Ray doesn’t give her answer.

The largest payment was made by the Lippo Group, an Indonesian firm with ties to China. James Riady, one of its officers, made from 5 to 10 visits to the White House in June 1994. Riady, an old friend of Clinton’s, wanted three favors? making his employee John Huang a Commerce Department official, renewal of China’s most-favored-nation trade status and U.S. endorsement of a Lippo power-plant project in China. All three were granted, and on June 27, Hubbell was given $100,000, for which he did no work.

Ray’s report says President Clinton claimed to be unaware of this until after it became public knowledge. It does not mention that on March 20, 1997, the New York Times reported that Bruce Lindsey, Clinton’s close confidante, and two other high White House officials knew about the Lippo gift in 1994. If Lindsey knew, Clinton knew. The Times said that on June 8, 1996, Lindsey had denied in sworn testimony any knowledge of efforts by anyone in the administration “to try to get work to Mr. Hubbell.” Ray does not discuss that or the evidence that the Clintons lied to cover up their knowledge that Hubbell was paid a lot of money to keep his lips sealed.

On April 3, 1997, a New York Times’ editorial said the evidence pointed to an effort by the White House to obstruct justice by paying Hubbell not to cooperate with Independent Counsel Ken Starr. It said the behavior of the Clintons fueled suspicion that they were concealing knowledge that hush money had been paid. Noting that top government officials had tried to line up “work” for Hubbell, it said this was improper and that it was “either incredibly naive or a calculated effort to protect the President and his wife.” On May 6, 1997, after the Times had reported that two lawyers familiar with Hubbell’s legal problems had told the Clintons that Hubbell had to resign, it ran an editorial deriding the Clintons’ claim that they had no reason to buy Hubbell’s silence because they didn’t know he was in serious trouble.

Kenneth Starr had those who “hired” Hubbell questioned before a grand jury. Few of them got any work from him, and it doesn’t appear that any of them had been told that he had stolen nearly $500,000 from his former law firm. Ray says few, if any of them, regarded their payments as hush money. They were currying favor with the White House. What should have been explored were the motives of those behind the solicitation of the money, beginning with the Clintons, and the solicitors?Mack McLarty, Erskine Bowles, Mickey Kantor and Vernon Jordan.

Ray neglects to mention that in court filings Ken Starr contended the payments to Hubbell were “hush money” meant to keep him from telling what he knew about the Clintons. Two judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Stephen Williams and Patricia Wald, agreed. They said in an opinion, “The timing, sources and extent of the payments make the belief that they were hush money reasonable.”

Starr could have referred this to the House of Representatives as an impeachable offense. Polls indicated that this would have drawn greater public support than the Monica Lewinsky case. Robert Ray obscures this serious error with his claim that there was not sufficient evidence to charge the Clintons and their helpers with soliciting funds to buy Webb Hubbell’s silence.




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