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President Denies Any Wrongdoing

By Ruth Marcus and Howard Schneider
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 23, 1993; Page A01

President Clinton yesterday responded to allegations that he used his security detail while governor of Arkansas to facilitate extramarital affairs by saying he "did not do anything wrong." One trooper through his attorney denied reports that Clinton had offered him a job in exchange for his silence.

In his first interviews since what he described as "outrageous" new allegations, Clinton generally deflected repeated attempts to have him comment specifically on the allegations.

Clinton did address two specific charges: that he abused his power as governor by having state troopers help him carry on illicit affairs, and that as president he offered federal jobs in the hope of killing stories about his alleged activities.

"That absolutely did not happen," Clinton told wire service reporters who asked about allegations that he offered jobs to two troopers in exchange for their silence. Later, in an interview with radio reporters, Clinton said, "The allegations on abuse of the state or the federal positions I have, it's not true."

The White House said those Clinton statements, while phrased in general terms, were meant as blanket denials that Clinton used the security detail to help facilitate extramarital affairs.

In Little Rock, an attorney for state trooper Danny Ferguson released an affidavit stating that Clinton in his discussions with Ferguson "never offered or indicated a willingness to offer any trooper a job in exchange for silence or help in shaping their stories."

The affidavit, which rebuts one of the most damaging allegations in the recent reports, came from Robert Batton, who said "my client does not wish to converse with any member of the media and, therefore, has authorized me" to speak on his behalf. One of the two troopers who publicly accused Clinton of engaging in the illicit conduct, Roger Perry, offered a highly different account of Ferguson's conversation with the president. Perry said that Ferguson had told him that Clinton offered federal jobs to Ferguson and Perry in exchange for keeping the story quiet.

White House aide Bruce Lindsey said that earlier this week he had contacted Steven Engstrom, a Little Rock lawyer who is a friend of his, to see whether Ferguson had an attorney and would release a statement denying Perry's account. Engstrom spoke with Batton on his behalf, Lindsey said.

"All I was trying to do was to lock down the one issue that everybody said gave this story any current substance, which was the job offer," Lindsey said yesterday.

Ferguson has been identified as one of two other troopers who have made similar allegations about Clinton's infidelities but who have declined to go on the record with their accounts. His five-paragraph affidavit was silent about whether he had witnessed such activities.

Batton said Ferguson agreed to provide a limited affidavit on the issue of the job proffer because of the possible criminal implications. "That needed to be addresed and cleared up and that is what the affidavit was for," Batton said.

The statement does not address any of the other issues raised by Perry and the second trooper, Larry Patterson. Batton said Ferguson still was not willing to recount his participation in meetings with journalists this summer, or why he ultimately declined to let his name be used.

The troopers have alleged that Clinton as governor had them help arrange liaisons with women they regarded as steady girlfriends of the governor's, or negotiate meetings between Clinton and women he had pointed out to them at events around Arkansas. They said they lied to Hillary Rodham Clinton about the governor's whereabouts, and were frequently told when Clinton left on late-night drives to summon him on a cellular phone if Mrs. Clinton woke up.

In interviews with The Washington Post, the troopers conceded that much of their evidence is circumstantial, including their contention that the behavior continued after Clinton was elected president. One trooper, however, said he witnessed two incidents in Arkansas during the time Clinton was governor.

Both men were hazy on dates and locations, often giving a range of years before the presidential campaign began and at a time when Clinton acknowledged in a "60 Minutes" interview that he had caused "pain" in his marriage. The troopers have no phone logs or notes of their own that corroborate their recollections.

The White House has said that the charges are "ridiculous," dredge up information that was dealt with during the campaign, and come from people motivated either by money or political animus toward Clinton.

In interviews throughout the day, Clinton stuck to the administration's strategy of declining to engage in a detailed response to the allegations.

The president's comments were made in scheduled year-end interviews. They were milder in tone than statements a day earlier by Hillary Clinton, who denounced the stories as scurrilous attacks motivated by financial gain or political opposition to the president at a time when his fortunes appeared to be rising.

Asked whether he agreed with that assessment, Clinton said, "I don't have anything to say to add to what's been said. I think what I should do is keep working, doing the best I can at my job."

Yesterday, the networks canceled plans to interview Hillary Clinton after her office said she could not be asked any questions about the allegations. Her spokeswoman said the interviews were originally scheduled to talk with Mrs. Clinton about Christmas at the White House.

In a two-paragraph statement issued Sunday night, Lindsey described the allegations as "ridiculous," with "nothing that dignifies a further response." In that statement and a subsequent statement released Monday, Lindsey said that Clinton had spoken with an undisclosed number of state troopers about the allegations but that he had not offered anyone a job in exchange for their help on the story.

Since then, the White House has refused to provide additional details about the extent and nature of the efforts by the president and other senior officials to handle the potentially damaging allegations.

The affidavit by Ferguson's lawyer does not contradict a White House account of Clinton's conversation with an unnamed trooper about reports that troopers were accusing him of infidelities.

The White House said Clinton telephoned the trooper – whom sources later identified as Ferguson – after the trooper contacted him with information about "large sums of money . . . being dangled before several members of his security detail for stories" about his alleged activities.

It said that when Clinton asked why the troopers would make such charges, he was told that Perry was unhappy that he had requested a federal position from Clinton and received no response. According to the White House account, Clinton "said he did not remember that request."

The Ferguson account of the conversation does not mention Lindsey's statement about the troopers being offered money for their stories. In Ferguson's account, it simply says that Ferguson asked the president whether he had received a memo from Perry "requesting a position on one of the president's councils on drugs."

The affidavit agrees with the White House account that Clinton said he was not aware of such a request. But it then goes on to say that Clinton "said he would try to track down Perry's request and asked Danny Ferguson to get in touch with Roger Perry to see what his memorandum said and to get back in touch with the president."

However, the affidavit says, "No further discussions took place."

Lindsey said that the White House looked for Perry's job request after the story broke this week and that it could find no record of it. "On the essential points, the statements are in complete agreement," Lindsey said.

Asked why the president would express interest in helping secure a job for a man he believed to be spreading scandalous stories about him, a senior administration official said Clinton probably wanted to find out the reason for Perry's unhappiness. "Why wouldn't you want to see the memo?" the official said.

Marcus reported from Washington; Schneider from Little Rock, Ark.

© Copyright 1993 The Washington Post Company

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