WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton’s legal fights over her use of a private email server while secretary of state are far from over, with multiple court cases still in progress.
But now she has another battle on her hands, as Washington watchdog Judicial Watch is working to make public the details of Whitewater, the decades-old scandal in which she emerged relatively unscathed at the time.
Judicial Watch lawyers appeared before a federal appeals court in Washington Friday arguing for the release of draft indictments of Hillary Clinton from the 1990s Whitewater scandal. A ruling is expected later.
The watchdog group has been demanding the National Archives release documents the archives maintains “should be kept secret [to preserve] grand jury secrecy and Clinton’s personal privacy.”
Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request for the documents in March 2015.
Then in October that year the group sued the National Archives and Records Administration for release of the 238 pages of related records.
U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton ruled that the documents must be withheld in light of Clinton’s “substantial privacy interest,” which he claimed outweighed any public interest in disclosure.
But Judicial Watch appealed, contending an abundance of information about Whitewater has already been made public and that “there is no secrecy or privacy left to protect.”
“Today we had an appeal, this is our appeal of the lower court’s decision that the archives was entitled to withhold these drafts,” Paul J. Orfanedes, the head of Judicial Watch’s Litigation Department, told WND. “We’ve been interested in Mrs. Clinton for decades. We think that there really is not privacy interests left, given the amount of material that has already been disclosed. The public interest is very great.”
The Clinton Whitewater scandal was a real estate scheme that surfaced during Bill Clinton’s bid for the presidency in which the Clintons and others allegedly made millions as predatory lenders.
The Whitewater Development Corp. was owned half by the Clintons and half by associates Jim and Susan McDougal.
Jim McDougal was also the primary partner of Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association, which partnered with the Whitewater group offering loans to people who couldn’t afford the payments.
When homeowners defaulted, the corporation quickly foreclosed and resold the property. Eventually, the Justice Department and independent counsel launched investigations.
Ultimately, the Whitewater Development Corp. and the Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan both failed, and the Clintons and the McDougals lost their initial $200,000 investment.
The Clinton’s walked away scot free, while several other people ended up in prison as a result of the FBI’s investigation of Whitewater.
Jim McDougal was convicted of fraud charges for making bad loans and later died of heart disease in a Texas prison.
Susan McDougal was convicted of fraud in connection with obtaining $300,000 federally backed small business loan. She refused to provide details to a grand jury of the Whitewater affair, was held in contempt of court and spent 18 months in jail. Bill Clinton pardoned her before he left the White House in early 2001.
The documents Judicial Watch are seeking stem from the Ken Starr investigation that nearly brought down Bill Clinton’s presidency.
Hickman Ewing, Starr’s chief deputy, wrote the draft indictments in April 1995 as part of his work with Starr’s investigation into the Clintons.
Ewing said he was spurred to draft the indictments because he doubted the legitimacy of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s statements in interviews in 1995. He said her comments about her law firm’s work for the failed Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan were not consistent with those of others at the firm.
According to Judicial Watch, the documents contain allegations that Hillary Clinton provided false information and withheld information from those investigating the Whitewater scandal.
Exposing the Clinton’s draft indictment, more than 20 years after the scandal broke, is not just an attempt to reveal Clinton’s disregard of the law and unaccounted corruption, Orfanedes explained. But the documents will shed light on how special prosecutors handle the litigation of high profile political figures.
“We thought they might be interesting in revealing what the special prosecutor was thinking back at the time,” he said. “The court is analyzing, trying to perform its balance: Is the privacy interest at stake greater than the public interest, or is the public interest greater than the privacy interest? Whichever is greater will decide whether or not the records are released.”
Orfanedes noted it was a three judge panel that was “asking lots of questions.”
“They were very concerned about making sure the privacy interests of these indictments were not disclosed to the public,” he said. “In general, it is not appropriate to disclose drafting documents to protect this privacy. Our counter argument to that was, so much is known about the investigation of Mrs. Clinton and the decision to prosecute or not prosecute, that there really is not privacy issues left – in this unique case. Not to say that in other cases, there is an overwhelming privacy issue. But in this case, there is so much information out there, there really is no privacy left.”
Clinton should no longer have the right to privacy while under investigation, Orfanedes argued, citing the investigation of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who was convicted in 2010 of money laundering and conspiracy, as precedent regarding the issue of privacy.
“The court said Mr. Delay acknowledged that he was under investigation so his privacy interest is diminished because now the world knows that he is under investigation and that there’s this weighty public interest in knowing how prosecutors are handling his investigation,” he said. “It’s balancing those two points and that’s exactly the two point we are arguing with Whitewater.
“There are about 12 versions of the draft indictment. We want to look at them. We want to compare them. We want to reveal them to the public, they can look at them and try to figure out more information about what that special prosecutor was doing,” he said. “See what we can learn. What it means for the current special prosecutor. What it means for future special prosecutors.”
In February 2016, Judicial Watch released 246 pages of previously undisclosed internal memos from Starr’s Office of Independent Council investigation in 1998, showing prosecutors had evidence that Hillary Clinton was guilty of criminal fraud in the Whitewater affair.
Judicial Watch said the documents also proved Clinton and her associate Webb Hubbell at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Arkansas, engaged in a criminal cover-up conspiracy that included destroying material documents and lying under oath to federal authorities.
Clinton’s objective, Judicial Watch argued, was to prevent the Whitewater affair from derailing Bill Clinton’s presidency.