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Fiske Implores Congress Not To Hold Whitewater Hearings

By John M. Broder
and Michael Ross
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

With pressure mounting for congressional hearings into the Whitewater affair, independent counsel Robert B. Fiske Jr. Monday implored the legislative leadership not to conduct such sessions because they would "pose a severe risk to the integrity" of his inquiry.

Fiske argued that Congress would want to interview the same witnesses, running the risk of "premature disclosures" and "tailored testimony." He also said that congressional grants of immunity to witnesses would seriously undermine his efforts to conduct a full and impartial inquiry.

Democrats immediately brandished the Fiske plea as protection from the rising tide of Republican calls for open-ended Congressional hearings into the legal and financial dealings of President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton in Arkansas and the behavior of the administration during the current investigation.

As Congress sparred over the Whitewater investigation, officials at the White House narrowed their list of candidates for White House counsel, with Lloyd N. Cutler, former counsel to President Carter, and Harry C. McPherson Jr., who served as counsel to former President Johnson, viewed as the leading contenders. A final decision is expected as early as today.

The appointee would replace Bernard W. Nussbaum, who submitted his resignation on Saturday after a series of missteps on Whitewater and other matters.

Late last week Fiske subpoenaed nine current and one former administration official to produce testimony and records records related to several meetings between White House and Treasury Department officials about the Whitewater case. Acting White House general counsel Joel Klein instructed all White House officials to search for papers that might fall under the special counsel's order.

Clinton acknowledged Monday that he had been informed last October that he and his wife were under scrutiny in a federal investigation into the failure of an Arkansas savings and loan owned by a former business partner of the Clintons.

But he said he knew nothing of meetings between regulators and White House aides to discuss the status of the investigation into the failed thrift, Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan.

Clinton repeatedly stressed his intention to cooperate fully with the special counsel's investigation.

"We are not covering up or anything, we are opening up. We are disclosing," Clinton said. "No one has accused me of any abuse of authority in office . There is no credible evidence and no credible charge that I violated any criminal or civil federal law."