once upon a time in arkansas
interview: viet dinh

Peter Boyer: OK, so we have 1992, and somebody goes in, quite possibly Vince Foster, goes into Rose Law Firm, prints out these billing records showing what work, what time Hillary spent on Madison Guaranty, and the billing records leave Rose. 1992 comes and goes, and election comes and goes, the purpose, in other words, for having that record, ostensibly, comes and goes. A new administration comes in, and that is no longer a question, what work Hillary did for Jim McDougal and Madison Guaranty. Why did those billing records even matter after that?

Viet Dinh: Well, they mattered very much actually, because there were ongoing federal investigations as to the propriety of the Rose Law Firm's representation of Madison Guaranty. One of the unfortunate facts of the savings and loans crisis was that quite often professionals, that is, accountants and lawyers, were either used as part of the scheme or helped to further the fraudulent schemes that ended up defrauding taxpayers of billions of dollars of money. And so, as part of this investigative procedure, the FDIC and the RTC investigated into whether Rose Law Firm's representation of Madison was proper.

And so, this investigation was ongoing, as part of the winding down process of Madison Guaranty. And, as a matter of fact, there were a number of subpoenas that were issued by these agencies for the Rose Law Firm billing records, simply because they are the best evidence, as we've discussed before, of what work was actually performed, by whom, and how much was billed for them.

Peter Boyer: So, we have two government agencies now--in the era of the Clinton presidency, he's already been sworn in, the Clintons are living in the White House. And you have two federal agencies that are looking for these billing records. Where do they go? To the Rose Law Firm, presumably, and ask for them. Is that where the subpoena would go?

Viet Dinh: I believe that would be the logical place, and the affected parties. I do not know the specifics as to the particulars of their investigation, but, logically, they would go to the Rose Law Firm and to affected parties, persons whom they have reason to know would have the records. We know that by 1993, certainly by 1994, the Department of Justice has now also joined the investigation, because of allegations that touched to the White House, and the appointment of the independent counsel, Robert Fiske.

And so, at that time, I believe there was also a Justice Department subpoena seeking records relating to Rose Law Firm's representation of Madison Guaranty.

Peter Boyer: And here's what I'd like to know about that: You know that there may be billing records - if you're one of these agencies, the Justice Department, FDIC, RTC, looking for whatever can be found regarding Rose's representation of Madison. You know there may be billing records. You go to Rose Law Firm and ask for these, and they, presumably, look in the computer disk and find that it's not there. Is that what happened?

Viet Dinh: That would probably be what happened. And that's how we come to know that the files were deleted.

Peter Boyer: And so, from that moment, until their discovery, those people who were quite alive and intimately familiar with the fact that a hard copy existed somewhere of those billing records, namely Webster Hubbell and the First Lady, Hillary Clinton. Did they at least offer that information, did they at least come forward and say, "Well, we know that perhaps the records don't exist in the computer, but at least they're somewhere in a hard copy form, on a piece of paper, several pieces of paper, because we had them printed out"?

Viet Dinh: We did not know of the existence of any hard copies, that is, we--by "we" I mean the general public and the federal investigators, and the Senate investigators also, did not know that there existed anywhere a hard copy of the billing records. And they were made specific, they were referred to specifically during the hearings of the Whitewater Committee, when we obtained the testimony of Webster Hubbell and Susan Thomases in December of 1995. And so, there was quite a number of avenues whereby even if the person did not personally see a subpoena or get a request for records from the lawyers responding to a subpoena, which is general course of action.

Whomever had the billing records would have known that they are probably the most hotly sought after set of documents within these various investigations. And nobody came forward, whoever had it. By 1996, when they did come forward, that was the first time we had knowledge that his hard copy existed. And, really, that was the first time we had knowledge that, indeed, Vince Foster had taken a look at them, because, on the billing records themselves--now, these are a copy of the original print-outs; they are not the original computer-run paper, but a copy of that paper; but an original in the sense that it had Vince Foster's handwriting in red ink on the copy itself, on this copy; and so, they were original copies.

So, we know that these billing records were in Vince Foster's possession, and, indeed, he had made notations to them, specifically directed to the First Lady, questions like, "HRC--I believe there's a subsequent bill?" "HRC"-- This is the first bill designating the various records that were found in what we now call the billing records. And so, at some point, then we know, by inference and by subsequent admission by the First Lady and the White House, that Mrs. Clinton had reviewed those records in 1992.

We also know that, because of fingerprints analysis that was performed by the FBI, information, the result of which was shared with the committee. And that indicated that Vince Foster's fingerprints appeared at a number of locations on the set of billing records, and also that Mrs. Clinton's fingerprints appeared at a couple of places on the billing records. And so, we know, at least, that those persons had handled the billing records.

Peter Boyer: So, just so I'm clear about this--you have an outstanding request by at least three of the federal investigatory agencies, for these billing records. And you have one officer of the Justice Department, Webb Hubbell, and one resident of the White House, Hillary Clinton, who know that a paper version of these records exists--even if they don't know where they are, they know they exist. And neither of those individuals came forward and volunteered the information, that this existed.

Viet Dinh: Right. And as I said before, nobody knew that these existed, and nobody, nobody even suggested that there would be a copy available out there somewhere, because, you know, these, as I said before, these are critical documents that is a subject of several subpoenas for over, at least, two years, until they're discovered. Certainly, whoever had the documents themselves were under a legal obligation to produce them. That much is clear. And the failure of that production, if it is conscious, if it's intentional, an intentional withholding of documents subject to a federal subpoena, would be obstruction of justice. The question is, who had the documents during this two year, two or three year hiatus that is unaccounted for in the time frame that we have.

Peter Boyer: Well, that is precisely one of the things that presumably you all, are trying to figure out. And so, let's follow that course.

Viet Dinh: We had already tried to figure that out, and our committee ended in 1996. Now I'm just a sleepy old law professor.

Peter Boyer: Is there reason to believe that the billing records made their way to Vince Foster's office in the White House?

Viet Dinh: There is no specific reason to believe that they were, indeed, in Vince Foster's office at the time of his death, or that's really the only relevant time that we have. But, certainly, it is a possibility, simply because we know that he had access to them in 1992, and he had handled them in, during that campaign. His fingerprints are on it. And there's no evidence suggesting that they specifically were in his office, but we certainly know that, at some point, he had possession of them. Whether or not it was he or another person who carried them to Washington is an open question, simply because we don't have any evidence as to, as to that.

But one reason why we do not know whether they were in Vince Foster's office at the time of his death was the lack of cooperation that the White House showed to federal investigators, at the time of his death. On the night of the discovery of Vince Foster's body, we have testimony from two park police officers that they had specifically requested to Webb Hubbell and others that the White House office be sealed, White House office of Vince Foster be sealed. That a guard be put there and nobody allowed access.

This is standard procedure in a death investigation, because they wanted to find out the cause of death. It was apparently a suicide, but they wanted to conclusively determine that, and a man's office is certainly one of the primary areas that they would search for any evidence, especially since the evidence was suggesting that was the last place that he left before his body was found.

They specifically requested that the office not be disturbed, the office be sealed. Instead of sealing the office, we've got several senior White House officials going through and riffling through the office. And then, two days later, when the federal investigators--again, the park police officers and now Department of Justice, senior Department of Justice officials--come over to go through the files of, that were present in Vince Foster's office, they were kept out, pending negotiation as to the procedures, how the files would be reviewed.

And so, we have a request to seal the office by the appropriate authorities. Instead of sealing the office to outsiders, the only person, as I can determine, that the office was sealed to were federal investigators. And a course of conduct that led the deputy attorney general at that time, Phil Heymann to call the White House counsel, Bernie Nussbaum and say, "Bernie, you're making a terrible mistake. This is not a way to conduct an investigation." And, certainly, at that time, there was a review of the documents in the office and a review, I might add, that the Department of Justice officials thought was wholly inadequate.

The investigators and officer were not allowed to actually review the files, but simply take Mr. Nussbaum's word as to what the files were, and take notes as to the inventory, rather than conducting an actual review. I think that the Justice Department officials characterized their role there as "window dressing", that they were just simply there to make this review look good, without playing any substantive role during the review.

Had the office been sealed, had a proper investigation been allowed to be conducted, so that we have an inventory as to all the materials in his office, at the time of his death, we could answer this question conclusively: What materials were in Vince Foster's office at the time of his death, and whether they related to the cause of his death, whether they contributed to a state of mind at the time when he made a decision to take his life.

Peter Boyer: Well, even in this confessedly inadequate categorizing of the material and the way it was handled in the days subsequent to Foster's death, we do know some general things about what was in there. What were the categories of materials that were in Foster's office?

Viet Dinh: We have, you know, the usual stuff that would be in a White House counsel's office: papers relating to nomination hearings, papers relating to the official business of the White House. But more significant, we have a number of files which related not to the official business of the White House, but to the personal dealings of the Clintons, and suggesting that Vince Foster actually played a significant role in acting as the Clinton's personal lawyer, rather than as a deputy White House counsel representing the President and the Presidency, rather than Bill and Hillary Clinton as private, as private citizens.

Those files relating to these personal matters run the gamut from Whitewater Development Corporation to Mrs. Clinton's stock investments. There were some questions raised at one point-- But the general mix was that some official business, including the investigation into the Travelgate affair, as it has been termed, the firing of, the removal of seven career travel office employees, and the subsequent investigation into the propriety of that action, and also the files relating to personal matters such as Whitewater.

Peter Boyer: The paper copy of the Rose Law Firm billing records, the famous billing records that mysteriously disappeared for two years plus, that copy was, in fact, not the original, but a copy. So, I have two questions to ask you about that: Does that mean that, presumably, the original exists somewhere now, that is still not located?

Viet Dinh: Unless it was discarded or destroyed, yes, we know that at least this copy had to be made from an original. Given the lapse of time and difficulty with us getting this set of billing records, I do not have very much confidence that we will find the original set of documents. I think that chances are that they have been lost or destroyed.

Peter Boyer: But the documents, the billing records, that were found, were a copy of the original, but they were Vince Foster's copy, were they not?

Viet Dinh: They were, because they had his handwriting on them in red ink, so the original handwriting on this set of copies of the billing records themselves.

Peter Boyer: So, they were Vince Foster's copy of billing records that were created, if not at his direction, at least with his knowledge, that were, through some period of time, at least, in his possession. He died only a few months after the election. Is it not, therefore, reasonable to guess, at least, that these billing records were in Vince Foster's office when he died?

Viet Dinh: It is certainly possible that they were in Vince Foster's office, or possession, at the time that he died. There may be other explanations that are out there. One is that the, we know from Webb Hubbell's testimony that the last he saw of the billing records was with Vince Foster. So, presumably, Vince Foster had it and brought them to DC, unless he had given them to other people for review or for other purposes.

One person we know that he gave this set to was Hillary Rodham Clinton, because he directed ... (inaudible) of his writings as notes to Hillary Clinton and, you know, suggesting asking questions, as it were, whether to see whether she recollect anything from the billing records. And we know that she received these records from Vince Foster, because we know that her fingerprints, in addition to Vince Foster's, were on the billing records themselves.

So, Vince Foster certainly had them, Webb Hubbell admits that he had them and reviewed them at one point, and we know that Hillary certainly had them at one point. The question is, who had them at the relevant point? And the relevant point being the end of 1992 campaign until August 5th, 1996, or thereabout, the first weeks of August, 1995, when they were discovered by Carolyn Huber in the book room of the White House.

Peter Boyer: But, Professor, what possible motivation, why would these papers, these billing records, be kept away from the authorities that were seeking them?

Viet Dinh: We really do not know the motive for concealment, which we can only guess as to why were they concealed by what they reveal. And what they reveal is the extent and nature of Mrs. Clinton's involvement and work in the Castle Grande transaction. Without the billing records, we would not have the full picture of the Castle Grande transaction as we now know.

As a matter of fact, the FDIC and the RTC inspector generals had concluded their investigation into the Rose Law Firm's representation of Madison Guaranty in August, 1995, at around the same time the billing records were discovered in the book room by Carolyn Huber. And they had concluded that investigation. They reopened that investigation in 1996, after the billing record surfaced, and now they have access to it. And it's only after this subsequent investigation, the reopened investigation, do we know the full extent and nature of, one, the fraudulent transaction underlying this whole land deal, and also Mrs. Clinton's involvement in facilitating, or drafting up documents, that facilitated the concealment of this fraudulent scheme.

What had happened was that the investigators used the billing records to refresh the memory of the key officer in this transaction, Don Denton, the Madison loan office. And Don Denton, upon checking his calendar, after being shown the billing records, said, "Oh, yeah, I remember this conversation. And this was a conversation where Hillary summarily dismissed my concerns regarding the propriety of this transaction, and she said, `You take care of the S&L business, I will take care of the legal matters.'" And, also, we know from the billing records that it was indeed Mrs. Clinton who billed for the client, for the drafting of the May 1st, 1986, option.

Peter Boyer: So, if a party were in possession of these billing records, and had been interested in protecting the First Lady, that might help to explain why they went missing for that period of time.

Viet Dinh: Certainly, I believe that is a general consideration as the motive. And certainly the special committee itself concluded that this was the primary motivation for concealing the record, not only the nature of the work, as we have talked just a minute ago, but also the extent of Mrs. Clinton's work. The billing records reveal that Mrs. Clinton billing 29.5, close to 30 hours, of work to this transaction, to the Castle Grande transaction--half the law firm's billing. And so, that is a significant amount of work on a very questionable transaction, indeed a transaction that federal regulators have characterized as a "sham deal". And, more important, it pinpoints Mrs. Clinton as the person who drafted and charged the client for the document that the federal investigator had concluded was used as a means to conceal the underlying fraudulent nature of this transaction.

Peter Boyer: Well, there are two questions about that: One, all of these years later -Castle Grande was 1986 - and a lot has changed since then. Two elections. What is the continuing relevance today of whatever happened to those billing records, whether they were deliberately withheld-- What difference does that make?

Viet Dinh: The difference, Peter, is that we know if a person deliberately withheld these documents from federal investigators, and a number of federal subpoenas were outstanding, that would constitute obstruction of justice. There is little question of that, because the subpoenas were applicable and they were specific, and they called for this document, and these were the critical documents to elucidate the nature of the transaction.

The questions that remain is, who did it?; and what level of intent? If it was deliberately withheld from federal investigators, with knowledge of their subpoena, then that would be obstruction of justice. And that goes to a much deeper question as to why it is that we have investigations as such. These are not primarily concerned about transactions that go back to 1986. The statute of limitations has run on these underlying transactions. We have a notion of the law that people shouldn't be held accountable for things that are so far gone; they should have a peace of mind.

But what they relate to is a pattern of conduct that tries to conceal the true nature of these transactions from federal investigators. We have a very strong governmental interest in finding out the truth. And we have a very, very strong interest of bringing about justice. And that interest cannot in any way be served when responsible people obstruct justice, and especially when, as it may turn out, which we do not know, but especially if it turns out that those persons happen to be among the people who are at the highest levels of our government.

We have faith, we should have faith, in our government officials. The founding fathers called for a higher civic duty amongst our officials. We hold them, rightly or wrongly, to a higher standard. But what we're talking about here is not any higher standard than an ordinary citizen, simply just to obey the law, and the average citizen has an obligation to advance justice, and certainly not to impede or obstruct justice.

Peter Boyer: A second question about the relevance of those billing records: I'd just like your reaction to the assertion made by Mrs. Clinton at the time of their discovery that, "This is delightful news to us, because, after all, this merely proves that point we've been saying all along: I did hardly any work on Madison Guaranty and this is evidence of that."

Viet Dinh: I do not think that is the case; as I mentioned, that she had significant involvement with the representation of Madison Guaranty, and, indeed, the majority of involvement with respect to a very questionable transaction, Castle Grande, to which she said that, also, at various points, that she not recall that she had done any work on that transaction.

Peter Boyer: And Castle Grande work done by Rose Law Firm was mostly Mrs. Clinton's work, the billing records show.

Viet Dinh: It was 29.5 hours was billed to the matter, and I think close to half of all the work that was billed by the law firm to Madison on that matter. Now, one of the defenses that--one of the answers that Mrs. Clinton's lawyer has offered as to this apparent contradiction in Mrs. Clinton's public and sworn statements regarding the nature of her involvement in Castle Grande, was that it was not known as Castle Grande to Mrs. Clinton. It was known as the IDC transaction, "IDC" being Industrial Development Corporation, the company that sold the land to Madison Guaranty.

That is a matter of, obviously, a matter of memory and a matter of recollection, and what I do know and what, is that almost everybody who has been involved in this case, including the federal regulators since its conception in 1986, throughout, and throughout the history of this case, has referred to this set of transactions as "Castle Grande". And, indeed, the advertisements for the eventual development, featuring Susan McDougal, went under the name of "Castle Grande". So, it was known publicly as Castle Grande. It was known among the affected parties, including the regulators, as Castle Grande. What Mrs. Clinton referred to it as, or knew it as, she has asserted to be IDC.

Peter Boyer: During your work on the committee, did you all ever come across any others who were that closely involved with this project, who claimed not to remember it as Castle Grande?

Viet Dinh: We did not. I think everybody referred to it as Castle Grande, from our, from the testimony that we received.

Peter Boyer: So, back to the billing records, whose significance you have underscored today for me. We have these documents that are under subpoena. If you are at all aware of the general fact of inquiry, you know that somebody wants these billing records. The parties who knew that they existed did not come forward for more than two years, until, in fact, they were discovered by Ms. Huber. These particular billing records, we know, belonged to--they were Vince Foster's copy. He may, in fact, have created them. We know that they were, at one point, in his possession, because his handwriting is on them. We know further that he gave them, at some point, to Mrs. Clinton, because there's a note on them addressed to her, and she did, in fact, receive them.

Is it not reasonable to assume that Mrs. Clinton, in fact, was in possession of those billing records throughout the period that they were missing, after Vince Foster's death?

Viet Dinh: Well, the special committee concluded that Mrs. Clinton was more likely than any other known person to have been, to have had possession of these records and had knowledge of their whereabouts when they were discovered by Mrs. Huber. In plain English, I think that means that she is most likely, the person most likely to have been in possession and to have, and to know the circumstances of their placing in the book room. That's the special committee's conclusion, based on the evidence that were discovered by a number of investigators, like myself, and others on the special committee. I think there was evidence to lead to that conclusion, to support that conclusion. Of course, as you know, there were dissenting members of the special committee, who took a different view of the evidence.

But what I do know is that we have three people who had access to the billing records, who had a motive to conceal the billing records....

Peter Boyer: And those three people?

Viet Dinh: Webster Hubbell, who in August of 1995 was on his way to jail, Vince Foster, who, by August, 1995, had already deceased, and Mrs. Hillary Clinton. Those three were the lead lawyers, as it were, for Rose Law Firm, the managing partners of the Rose Law Firm. Mr. Hubbell himself was the managing partner, but the evidence suggests that all three were very much running the firm while Mr. Hubbell was the nominal managing partner.

And, more important, Mrs. Clinton was the billing partner for Madison Guaranty, was the partner in charge of this client. And so, and the investigation, of course, centered around the Rose representation of Madison Guaranty. And so, those three people are the ones that should have been, and I would suggest, were most familiar with the details of not only Rose's representation of Madison, but also the progress of the investigation into, the subsequent federal investigation into Rose's representation of Madison Guaranty.

So, if they did not know about the subpoena, they should have known about the subpoena. And if I were the attorney, in response to a federal subpoena for records, these are the people I would first go to ask for any documents that they would have in their possession that is relevant, in response to this subpoena.

Peter Boyer: Were there subpoenas out, by the way, during the time when Vince Foster was still alive?

Viet Dinh: I do not believe so. I believe the subpoenas were issued in late 1993, and early 1994. As I mentioned, I do not know the specifics of the FDIC and the RTC investigations, and certainly those were ongoing. At what point did those crystallize into a specific subpoena demanding documents, I think it wasw a little bit later than that, but, certainly, the knowledge that the investigation was pending, and the information would be relevant to that information, was general and was known at the time.

Peter Boyer: And Vince died in July of 1993. And the events in the days surrounding that death we've discussed some today. What interests me particularly about the days and events surrounding Vince Foster's death are the series of telephone calls between Mrs. Clinton and some of her aides and associates--Maggie Williams, Susan Thomases, Bernie Nussbaum. When you all look at the records, and the notes, of those telephone conversations, do they seem to be just random communications between friends who have a shared grief, or does there seem to be the suggestion of a pattern, a purpose, to those calls?

Viet Dinh: The calls that I think we specifically focused on occurred on the 22nd of July, two days after Vince Foster's death. Certainly, on the night of Mr. Foster's death, there were a series of phone calls also, between the White House, certain officials, and Mrs. Clinton in Little Rock. But the calls that were most significant, I think, with respect to the handling of the records in Mr. Foster's office, were the calls that occurred on July 22nd. July 22nd was the day that Bernie Nussbaum was going to go over the materials in Vince Foster's office with the Department of Justice officials and the park police investigators.

All these investigators were there the day before, on the 21st, and toward the afternoon of the 21st. And, at that time, there were significant discussions regarding the procedure as to how they would handle this. And when they left that meeting--and, at that time, I believe that meeting ended late on the 21st, in the evening, six or seven--and as they left that meeting, the Justice Department officials believed they had an agreement as to how they would go about detailing the materials that were in Mr. Foster's office. And they were simply going to come back the next morning, because the time was late, so that they could undergo their search.

And it was indeed contemplated as an actual search by federal investigators, with the presence of the White House counsel, to protect the White House's interests, and with the presence of the Department of Justice officials, in order to oversee the entire process. What happened between the evening of July 21st and the morning of July 22nd at nine o'clock, when the investigators came in expecting to be able to, expecting to be able to review the files in Mr. Foster's office, is a series of early morning phone calls that started with a phone call from Mrs. Williams--I believe it was very early in the morning, before eight o'clock--to Little Rock, to Mrs. Clinton's house, where she was--to the house where she was staying.

Immediately after that phone call, Mrs. Clinton placed a phone call to a hotel here in Washington, DC. The hotel was the location where Mrs. Thomases was staying in Washington, DC, at this time. Immediately after that call ended, Mrs. Thomases called Mr. Nussbaum on this pager and left a message to call her. And at some point during that time, the two of them had spoken. And what we know from the testimony of Mr. Neuwirth, one of Mr. Nussbaum's assistants in the White House counsel's office, was that, that morning, he told Mr. Neuwirth that Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Thomases did not want federal investigators to have, quote, "unfettered access," unquote, to Mr. Foster's office.

And at that time was when the Justice Department officials, in their impression, Mr. Nussbaum broke their agreement of the night before, and instituted new procedures. And it sufficiently disturbed the Justice Department officials that they called back to the deputy attorney general, Philip Heymann, who told Mr. Nussbaum that he was making a terrible mistake.

Peter Boyer: "Are you trying to hide something here, Bernie?"

Viet Dinh: Well, actually, that did not happen until the end of the day, because, as it happened, the Justice Department's officials came back, came back from this review, which they thought were being mere window dressing, that it wasn't really a substantive review or investigation as to the materials in Mr. Foster's office, but it was a sham review, that they were there for window dressing. They described that to Mr. Heymann, who was understandably perturbed, and called Mr. Nussbaum from his house and said, "Bernie, are you hiding something?"

Now, realize, this is the deputy attorney general of the United States calling the White House counsel of the United States, both senior lawyers in the government, probably at the highest levels of attorneys in the federal government, and one is asking the other, "Are you hiding something?" This is the pattern of conduct that leads us to have problems like we have today, have questions that now arise: What records were in Mr. Foster's office at the time of his death?

We will never know, because the review that federal investigators had access to was not actually a review, and it wasn't a comprehensive listing of all files, and we know that, subsequent to that review, Mr. Nussbaum and Ms. Williams, the chief lady, the First Lady's chief of staff, came in for a second review of the files, and segregated the personal files, that what they deemed to be the "personal files" of the President and Mrs. Clinton, relating to the personal work that Mr. Foster was doing, segregated those from the files that should remain in the office.

Peter Boyer: Under the observation of what outside authority?

Viet Dinh: Nobody. It was a plenary review, as it were, between Mr. Nussbaum and Ms. Williams, and going over the files and separating one or two boxes of files, as deemed to be, quote, unquote, "personal files" of the President and Mrs. Clinton. And these files were removed from the office. And, you know, at the time, of course, we don't have an inventory as to what was actually removed on that day. And these were carried up to the third floor, third floor office of Mrs. Clinton, and placed in the closet in the third floor office. The third floor office, of course, is in the White House residence, adjacent to the book room where the records were subsequently discovered, the billing records were subsequently discovered.

We will never know, I don't think, unless, by some miracle of faith, that we actually come up with new evidence relating to this, we will never know what was in Mr. Foster's office at the time-- Or at least right now, we don't have any comprehensive inventory of all the files and documents that were in Mr. Foster's office.

Peter Boyer: But as of the night of July 21st, there had been something like a comprehensive inventory agreed to between the Justice Department and White House counsel Bernie Nussbaum, an inventory that, in fact, did not take place, and, that the Justice Department was surprised to discover the next day, would not take place. And what happened, you're telling, between then and the next day was this series of phone calls, a phone call from Mrs. Clinton's chief of staff, Maggie Williams, to Little Rock, to Mrs. Clinton, from Mrs. Clinton to Susan Thomases here in Washington, from Susan Thomases to Bernie, who then conveyed the news to the Justice Department, "Sorry, we're not going to do it the way we agreed. We're going to do it this other way, this much more truncated way."

Viet Dinh: Right, right. And we have the testimony of an associate White House counsel, Mr. Neuwirth, saying that--from Mr. Nussbaum--saying that, stating that Mr. Nussbaum had told him that Mrs. Thomases and Mrs. Clinton did not want investigators to have, quote, "unfettered access" to Mr. Foster's files.

Now, Mr. Nussbaum has testified that he does not recall telling Mr. Neuwirth this, but, in the phrase "unfettered access," is a rather catchy phrase that I think would stick in lawyer's mind, especially a junior lawyer being told this by the White House counsel. And this is the chain of events, you know, that led to the final communication. Now, of course, we only have inferences. We don't have the evidence of the phone calls, we don't have any evidence as to what transpired during these phone calls.

And I believe the testimony was that they were general consolation phone calls, which, you know, raises certain obvious questions: One, there were certainly a lot of consolation phone calls, two, consolation phone calls that happened quite early in the morning, and, three, consolation phone calls that are rather short in nature, you know, on the order of five, six, seven minutes. And at the end of the chain of events, that one phone call begetting another phone call, that ended up with this communication to Mr. Neuwirth that Mrs. Clinton and Mrs. Thomases did not want "unfettered access" by the federal investigators.

Peter Boyer: That was the instrument, the device, the legal device that was drawn up in order to obscure what amounted to a questionable portion of this sham deal.

Viet Dinh: Right. No question about it: The federal regulators from the FDIC and RTC concluded that the May 1st option, which Mrs. Hillary Clinton drafted, was used in order to conceal the true nature of this transaction, which was that it was a fraudulent transaction.

The mere act of executing the May 1st option was not illegal in and of itself. Its use as part of a pattern and scheme in order to conceal the underlying fraud was wrong. The question that arises, of course, is, did Mrs. Clinton consciously draft that option as a means to conceal the fraudulent nature of the transaction? It may be that she was duped, it may be that she was unwittingly serving the interests of the client, who had the fraudulent intent that she did not know.

I do think, however, in light of the testimony of Don Denton regarding his conversation with Mrs. Clinton on April 7th, 1986, when the offsetting set of notes were executed, alerting her to the possibility that this is improper under federal and state regulations, because they are offsetting the prior notes that she was on specific notice that her option and the work that she performed in drafting up the second set of notes, also, was part of an overall scheme to conceal a fraudulent transaction from the federal government.

Producer Mike Kirk: And that is not something, that if you were an attorney, you would necessarily want to be uncovered, let's say, if your husband was running for the presidency.

Viet Dinh: I think if you were any attorney, you would not want it to be uncovered. If you are part of the fraudulent scheme, then, of course, you are a member of that underlying conspiracy. And it is a fact that, I think, that any lawyer would live in dread of, let alone a prominent lawyer who is in the public eye.

Peter Boyer: And even subsequently, even years later, even past the time, let's say, of the statute of limitations regarding the actual transaction, even then it would not be the sort of information, the sort of association that one would want made public?

Viet Dinh: Right. The statute of limitations, of course, speaks to legal liability. It speaks very little to public perception. It is law, not politics. And when your husband is the President of the United States, I would, I think that one would be concerned with both the law and the politics. And even if no legal liability attached, certainly the potential for a political embarrassment is very significant.


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