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  Clinton Accepts 5-Year Law Suspension

By Pete Yost
Associated Press Writer
Friday, Jan. 19, 2001; 1:26 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON –– President Clinton has reached a deal with prosecutors to avoid indictment, requiring him to make a written acknowledgment he may have misled investigators in the Monica Lewinsky case and agree to a suspension of his law license, government sources said.

On his final day in office, Clinton was preparing the statement to be made Friday and agreed to accept a five-year suspension of his Arkansas law license, the officials said.

The deal will spare the nation the prospect of seeing one of its former chief executives put on criminal trial. Clinton will have immunity from further prosecution under the deal with Independent Counsel Robert Ray, the sources said.

In his statement, Clinton will acknowledge he may have made misleading statements in his sworn testimony in the Lewinsky matter, the sources said, speaking only on condition of anonymity.

White House press secretary Jake Siewert would not confirm the deal.

"The president has long said that he wanted to put this thing behind him," Siewert said. "We will have a statement at 2 p.m."

The deal effectively brings to an end the six-year Whitewater investigation that began with questions about the Clintons' Arkansas land deal but expanded to his conduct in the Oval Office.

Ray, who took over the investigation more than a year ago, had been using a grand jury to decide whether Clinton should be indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice after he leaves office on Saturday. A decision was expected soon.

Ray reached the deal with Clinton's attorney David Kendall, the sources said. "The deal is going to be announced within hours," said one of the sources.

The deal addresses the remaining legal issues from the president's affair with Lewinsky, a former White House intern, which prompted his impeachment by the House in December 1998 and acquittal in a Senate trial the following February.

The Arkansas Supreme Court had begun proceedings to revoke Clinton's law license, but the president has now agreed to have the license suspended for five years.

In addition to impeachment, a federal judge fined Clinton for misleading testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit that helped spur the Lewinsky revelations.

In recent months, Clinton had defiantly and repeatedly suggested that he would fight any indictment by Ray.

"I don't believe that I should be charged," Clinton said in an interview with "60 Minutes II" in December. "If that's what they want, I'll be happy to stand and fight."

Last April, Clinton told a conference of newspaper editors that he would not ask his successor for a pardon. "I don't think it would be necessary. I won't be surprised by anything that happens, but I'm not interested in being pardoned."

In recent days, however, even Republicans who had long criticized Clinton had urged there be no such trial.

The Senate Judiciary Committee's top Republican, Orrin Hatch of Utah, suggested that President-elect Bush pardon Clinton to "end a problem in America that needs to be ended."

Bush responded by saying, "I think it's time to get all of this business behind us" and let Clinton "move on and enjoy life and become an active participant in the American system." Regarding the possibility of a pardon, Bush has said, "The suggestion that I would pardon somebody who has never been indicted, that doesn't make any sense to me."

Behind the scenes, Kendall and Ray's office worked on a deal to avoid a grand jury indictment.

Ray had said the decision on a Clinton indictment was the last remaining business he had in the independent counsel probe that has spent more than $50 million since 1994.

President and Hillary Rodham Clinton were never formally accused of any wrongdoing in the Whitewater investigation, though their business deals were investigated and several of their associates convicted.

Their former Whitewater business partners, James and Susan McDougal, were convicted of fraud in a 1996 trial in which Clinton testified by videotape. Longtime Clinton friend Webster Hubbell, Mrs. Clinton's former law partner, also pleaded guilty to wrongdoing.

Ray's predecessor, Kenneth Starr, was asked by Attorney General Janet Reno to expand the investigation beyond Arkansas to the White House's improper gathering of FBI files, the firing of White House travel employees and ultimately the Lewinsky matter.

Clinton was forced to testify before a federal grand jury about his relationship with the intern and to make a dramatic national apology in August 1998 after months of denying an affair.

Weeks later, Starr sent a report to Congress saying there was evidence of impeachable offenses by Clinton.

The House, mostly along party lines, voted to impeach the president that December, but the Senate acquitted him a few months.

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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