Clinton Says He’s Told Truth on Whitewater

<i> From Associated Press</i>

President Clinton repeated over the weekend that he did nothing illegal in the Whitewater affair and that the matter of Susan McDougal, who has gone to jail rather than testify in the matter, was “none of my business.”

“I have told the truth,” Clinton said in an interview on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation” taped Saturday and aired Sunday. “I will continue to tell the truth. That is all I can do.”

Susan McDougal was convicted of bank fraud charges along with her ex-husband and fellow partner of the Clintons in the Whitewater land deal, James B. McDougal. She has been jailed for refusing to testify before the Whitewater grand jury.


Asked why, if he has nothing to hide, he doesn’t tell her to cooperate, Clinton said: “I have no comment on it. It is none of my business. She has a lawyer. And it would be very wrong for me to inject myself in this.”

Clinton noted that in a CBS interview last week, she said the truth, if told, would not harm the Clintons.

The president said the American people must decide whether the Whitewater investigation, which has been going on for three years at a cost of millions of dollars, “has been worth the money that has been spent on it or the time that is being drug out on it.”

For him, Clinton said, the matter “is just going to be over here in a box” while he concentrates on his duties as president.

And that includes working with Republicans to reach a balanced budget deal, he said.

On that subject, Clinton said, the two sides are moving closer after weeks of intense negotiations. “We will know, within a few days, whether we can get an agreement earlier or not,” he said. “I think there is a good chance we can.”

Clinton was conciliatory on a principal element of the deal, saying there should be an adjustment to the cost-of-living increases for tax-rate brackets, wages and government benefits such as Social Security in order to more accurately reflect the rate of inflation.


He said he sees “overwhelming consensus” that the current formula for determining cost-of-living increases overstates the inflation rate. Lowering cost-of-living increases for recipients of federal benefits could save the government billions of dollars, but Clinton, pressured by liberal Democrats, has been cool to changes.

Time magazine, in its edition on newsstands today, said Erskine Bowles, the White House chief of staff, met secretly with House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) last week to discuss changes in the consumer price index. Gingrich resisted because he and other GOP leaders consider it “political suicide,” the magazine said.

Clinton, in the CBS interview, also said it would be “very difficult” to envision endorsing a settlement that would allow tobacco companies to set up a huge trust fund but be immune from future lawsuits involving health problems.

“I do not know whether that can be done consistent with the public health or not,” he said.