Whitewater prosecutors questioned Hillary Rodham Clinton on videotape for five hours Saturday about her work as a private lawyer for the failed savings and loan at the center of the investigation. Her testimony was to be presented to a federal grand jury.
The session at the White House residence, held in lieu of a formal grand jury appearance by Hillary Clinton, marks the sixth time since June 1994 that the first lady has been questioned by prosecutors in the wide-ranging Whitewater probe.Saturday's testimony was negotiated over several days after Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr contacted Hillary Clinton's private attorney, David Kendall, according to sources familiar with the investigation. The sources spoke only on condition of anonymity.
It was videotaped so that it could be presented to the federal grand jury in Little Rock, Ark., that has been investigating Whitewater for the last two years, White House Counsel Charles F.C. Ruff said.
Ruff said the questions generally focused on Hillary Clinton's legal work in the mid-1980s for Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan, which was owned by her Whitewater business partners and eventually failed. At the time, the first lady worked for the Rose Law Firm in Arkansas.
"The subjects generally were matters concerning the Rose Law Firm's legal representation of Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan and Hillary Clinton's relationship with related individuals," Ruff said in a prepared statement issued about an hour after initial news reports of the testimony.
His statement did not say whether Hillary Clinton answered all questions posed to her. The session began about 1 p.m. EDT. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and other lawyers on his staff were present. The Starr team entered and left the executive mansion without being spotted by the skeleton crew of reporters staffing the White House on Saturday.
The president was playing golf at the time.
At a reception before a White House Correspondents Association dinner Saturday evening, Hillary Cinton said, "I'll let the (Ruff) statement speak for itself." Asked about the deposition, she said, "It went fine," smiling and noting that this was not her first testimony in the inquiry.
Prosecutors are trying to determine whether Hillary Clinton misled regulators or tried to conceal documents at her firm about the nature of her legal work back in the mid-1980s for the failed S&L, which was owned by James and Susan McDougal.
The first lady has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.
The videotaped testimony comes shortly before Starr has to decide whether to end the Arkansas phase of his investigation, which has focused on the Clintons' business dealings and the first lady's legal work dating to the 1980s, or ask a judge to empanel a new grand jury.
The grand jury that prosecutors have used to gather evidence in Little Rock over the last two years is set to expire May 7.
In recent weeks, that grand jury has spent substantial time collecting evidence and testimony from witnesses about Hillary Clinton and her former Arkansas law partner, Webster Hubbell.
Recent witnesses before the grand jury in Little Rock say prosecutors have questioned whether Clinton supporters tried to shape the testimony of key witnesses or conceal documents after the Whitewater investigation began.
Among the documents was Hillary Clinton's law firm billing records, which were missing for the first three years of the probe only to be found mysteriously in the first family's living quarters.
That discovery resulted in prosecutors subpoenaing Hillary Clinton to appear before a federal grand jury in Washington to explain why the records were missing for so long after they were subpoenaed.
Federal regulators alleged in a 1996 report that Hillary Clinton, as a private lawyer in the mid-1980s, helped create a legal document that was used by the S&L to deceive regulators. Two years ago, prosecutors identified the first lady in court documents as someone who could be indicted.
Since then, prosecutors have interviewed her several more times, most recently in January.
During that interview, prosecutors questioned Hillary Clinton briefly about the gathering of FBI background files on hundreds of Republicans that occurred at the White House.