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Starr Probes Clinton Personal Life

By Bob Woodward and Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 25 1997; Page A01

FBI agents and prosecutors working for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's Whitewater investigation have questioned Arkansas state troopers in recent months about their knowledge of any extramarital relationships Bill Clinton may have had while he was Arkansas governor, according to two of the troopers questioned and sources close to the investigation.

Agents also have questioned a number of women whose names have been mentioned in connection with President Clinton in the past, the sources said. The sources said that the extensive interviews were part of an effort by Starr's office to find close Clinton associates in whom he may have confided and who might be able to provide information about the veracity of sworn statements Clinton has made in the course of the Whitewater investigation.

The troopers said investigators asked about 12 to 15 women by name, including Paula Corbin Jones, a former Arkansas state employee who has filed a civil lawsuit against Clinton alleging he sexually harassed her in 1991. Clinton categorically has denied the allegation and has said he does not recall ever meeting Jones.

A White House spokesman and a private Clinton attorney said last night they had no immediate comment.

The nature of the questioning marks a sharp departure from previous avenues of inquiry in the three-year-old investigation, which began as an examination of the Whitewater land development project in which Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, first invested in 1978 along with Arkansas friends James B. and Susan McDougal. Until now, however, what has become a wide-ranging investigation of many aspects of Clinton's governorship has largely steered clear of questions about Clinton's relationships with women in Arkansas that arose during the 1992 campaign and the first two years of his presidency.

The two troopers, Roger Perry and Ronald B. Anderson, said the new line of questioning began this spring. In previous interviews, said the troopers, both of whom served on the governor's personal security detail, Whitewater investigators had said explicitly that they had no interest in Clinton's personal life.

"In the past, I thought they were trying to get to the bottom of Whitewater," Perry said in an interview with The Washington Post. "This last time, I was left with the impression that they wanted to show he was a womanizer. . . . All they wanted to talk about was women." He said he was interviewed in April for more than 1 1/2 hours by an attorney in Starr's office and an FBI agent.

Perry, a 21-year veteran of the Arkansas state force, said he was asked about the most intimate details of Clinton's life. "They asked me if I had ever seen Bill Clinton perform a sexual act," Perry said. "The answer is no."

Perry said he was asked, " `We would like to know if Bill Clinton had any contact with these women and if he had any extramarital affairs with any of them.' " He said he told investigators that he and other troopers either took Clinton to or provided vehicles to transport him to clandestine meetings with "seven or eight" of the women on the prosecutors' list at times when Hillary Clinton was out of town or asleep.

Anderson, a 12-year veteran of the Arkansas force, said he also was asked to review a list of names.

In an interview last week, Anderson said he refused to answer the questions about personal relationships Clinton may have had with women. "I said, `If he's done something illegal, I will tell you. But I'm not going to answer a question about women that he knew because I just don't feel like it's anybody's business.' "

The troopers said they also were asked about a half-dozen male acquaintances of Clinton's. Sources said a total of eight troopers had been questioned so far.

Asked yesterday about the questioning, deputy Whitewater counsel John Bates said: "We are continuing to gather relevant facts from whatever witnesses, male or female, who may be available. Our obligation is to acquire information from friends, business associates or other acquaintances or confidants."

Bates said that it is "perfectly appropriate to establish the circumstances of the contact" for a potential witness, including whether Clinton had an intimate relationship or affair with the person. Starr's purpose, he said, is to ensure that a full and thorough investigation is conducted that leaves no avenue unexplored. He said that senior lawyers in the independent counsel's office had approved the line of questioning.

Starr's investigators are trying to find people Clinton was close to during the 1980s and early 1990s, said a source familiar with the investigation, to ask them what Clinton might have told them about the Whitewater investment, the McDougals or Madison Guaranty – the Arkansas savings and loan owned by James McDougal. Investigators maintained that they did not set out to ask about Clinton's personal life but that such questions became essential in determining who might have participated in intimate conversations with the then-governor about his financial dealings.

Starr's investigation has been the subject of much political controversy over the years, as Democrats have accused the independent counsel of engaging in a partisan vendetta against the Clintons that has taken him far afield of the original inquiry. Republicans have charged the White House with stonewalling and trying to cover up misdeeds. Starr has publicly expressed frustration about what he considers uncooperative potential witnesses and incomplete documentation.

The questioning of Perry and Anderson about Clinton's personal life – as well as their apparent surprise at some of the questions – offered a certain amount of irony. They were among four members of the security detail whose allegations that they had facilitated clandestine meetings between the governor and some women formed the basis of explosive stories published in December 1993 in the American Spectator magazine and the Los Angeles Times.

After those stories, Perry's credibility came under attack from Clinton supporters, as he and another trooper admitted lying to cover up an automobile accident that could have resulted in disciplinary action against them.

Perry said investigators told him in the recent interview that there was a "high probability" he would be subpoenaed to testify before the Whitewater grand jury about Clinton.

Among the women Anderson said he was asked about was Gennifer Flowers, who alleged during the 1992 presidential campaign that she had a 12-year affair with Clinton.

Perry said he was asked whether Clinton had provided one of the women with gifts purchased from a Little Rock department store. He said investigators also asked whether another of the women they named had given birth to Clinton's child, and whether the child looked like Clinton.

In addition, he said, "They asked me about Paula Jones, all kinds of questions about Paula Jones, whether I saw Clinton and Paula together and how many times," Perry said, adding that he saw Clinton and Jones together once or twice in Little Rock in public places engaged in casual, passing conversation.

Perry said the prosecutors also asked him about Susan McDougal, who was convicted of fraud last year for obtaining a federally backed $300,000 Small Business Administration loan in 1986 under false pretenses. Some $50,000 of the money ended up in the account of the Whitewater Development Corp.

Her ex-husband James McDougal and former Arkansas SBA contractor David Hale, both of whom cooperated with Whitewater prosecutors after being convicted on charges related to the loan, have claimed that Clinton intervened to obtain the money for Susan McDougal. Both were given reduced sentences, in part because of their cooperation with prosecutors. Clinton has denied any role in the loan.

James McDougal also has alleged that his former wife had an affair with Clinton. Asked during an ABC "PrimeTime Live" interview last September whether she and Hillary Rodham Clinton had had a falling-out in the 1980s because she and the governor "were involved," Susan McDougal said: "That is such a personal question and I really don't think I want to talk about things like that. It's too personal. . . . It's so hurtful for so many people and it's just not a question that I want to answer."

That portion of the interview was not broadcast, but the outtakes were subsequently obtained by Starr under subpoena.

Susan McDougal also refused to answer questions about whether Clinton knew about the $300,000 loan. A week after the broadcast, she was taken before a grand jury and refused to answer the same question, or another about whether Clinton testified truthfully at her trial. She announced she would not testify at all, because she believes Starr is biased against the Clintons, and she has been in jail on contempt of court charges since then.

Staff researcher Jeff Glasser contributed to this report.

Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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