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Whitewater Trials and Impeachment of a President: 1994-99

The Impeachment

Defendant: William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States
Crimes Charged: High crimes and misdemeanors: Perjury and obstruction of justice (i.e., suborning a witness to lie)
Chief Defense Lawyers: Gregory Craig, David Kendall, Cheryl Mills, and Charles Ruff
Chief Prosecutors: Members of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives: Henry Hyde (R-lllinois), chairman; and Bob Barr (R-Georgia), Ed Bryant (R-Tennessee), Steve Buyer (R-lndiana), Charles Canady (R-Florida), Chris Cannon (R-Utah), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), George Gekas (R-Pennsylvania), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Asa Hutchinson (R-Arkansas), Bill McCollum (R-Florida), James Rogan (R-California), and James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin)
Judge: William Rehnquist, chief justice of the Supreme Court
Place: Washington, D.C.
Dates of Trial: January 7-February 12, 1999
Verdict: Not guilty

SIGNIFICANCE: The Whitewater trials and the impeachment and Senate trial of the president pose a number of significant, if perplexing, questions: Can an independent counsel stretch his power as prosecutor to try to bring down a single target? What happens if that target is the president of the United States? Can our criminal justice system work if a witness can ignore the rules? Can criminal contempt be used to further punish a witness who has already served time for civil contempt for the same offense? When does helping someone obtain a lucrative job cross the line to become obstruction of justice? Can a plea bargain end the investigation that raises such questions? The complex history of Whitewater is significant because only two U.S. presidents have ever been impeached. The first was Andrew Johnson, who was tried in 1868 on a charge of conspiring against Congress and the Constitution. He was acquitted by one vote. The second was William Jefferson Clinton. It should be remembered that impeachment is an accusation, not a verdict. The House of Representatives can impeach for conduct unbecoming the office; a simple majority vote is required. The Senate then functions as the trial court. Conviction requires an affirmative vote by two-thirds of the Senate.

In 1978, Arkansas Attorney General Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, organized the Whitewater Development Corporation with the intention of building vacation homes in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Along with James B. and Susan McDougal, they borrowed $203,000 to buy 220 acres of land. That year, Clinton was elected governor of Arkansas.

Two years later, Bill Clinton lost his reelection bid. James McDougal, who had been Clinton's economic development director, bought a small bank and loaned $30,000 to Hillary Clinton to build a model house on land owned by Whitewater Development. In 1982, Clinton was reelected governor and Mc-Dougal bought a small savings-and-loan association: Madison Guaranty.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Whitewater Trials and Impeachment of a President: 1994-99 - The Whitewater Trials, The Impeachment, Regulators In, Mcdougal Out, Suicide, Special Counsel, Hearings - Anonymous Phone Calls, McDougal Indicted Again