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Bill Clinton

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Shortly after the appointment of Kenneth Starr to investigate the Clintons’ Whitewater dealings— the appointment that would lead to his impeachment—

the President sends an upbeat letter to his cousin:  “I . . . am confident . . . that the end will bring us out all right.”

William Jefferson Clinton, born William Jefferson Blythe III, 1946–.  42nd President of the United States.  Typed Letter Signed, Bill, one page, 6¾” x 9⅞”, on blind-embossed, engraved stationery of The White House, Washington, August 24, 1994. 

Just shy of three weeks after the appointment of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr—the investigator whom Clinton said was chosen because of his antagonism toward him, and whose work would later result in Clinton’s impeachment on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice—the President strikes a confident, upbeat tone in this letter to his cousin in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas.   “Hang in there with me,” he urges her, predicting that “the end will bring us out all right.”

Thanking her for a birthday card, he writes, in full:  “Your sweet words and the birthday card arrived at just the right time.  You’ve been a big part of my life for all 48 years, and what you said means so much to me.  /  I’m working hard here and am confident—as you are—that the end will bring us out all right.  Hang in there with me.  /  Hillary and Chelsea send their love.  We hope to see you soon.”

Clinton was not pleased that Starr had been named on August 5, 1994, to lead the investigation into the controversy surrounding the dealings of the Clintons and their associates Jim and Susan MacDougal in the Whitewater Development Company, a failed real estate venture formed to develop vacation property along the White River in Arkansas.  Starr was a Republican former Solicitor General and Court of Appeals judge whom President George H. W. Bush once considered for appointment to the United States Supreme Court.  In his memoir, My Life, Clinton wrote that Starr had “a real and blatant conflict of interest” in serving as the independent counsel but “had no intention of stepping aside” because his “bias against me was the very reason he was chosen and why he took the job.”  Bill Clinton, My Life 613 (2004).  Clinton called Whitewater “an obsession with bogus scandal.”  Id. at 567.

Indeed, Clinton saw the Starr appointment of part of a right-wing conspiracy against him.  Starr was appointed by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the nation’s highest profile Court of Appeals, selected by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.  Clinton had signed the new independent counsel law providing for that method of appointment, but he nevertheless thought that the existing special prosecutor, Robert B. Fiske, Jr., a moderate Republican whom Attorney General Janet Reno had appointed and whom Clinton saw as fair, would be appointed as independent counsel.  But, Clinton said, Rehnquist—who by that time had been on the Supreme Court more than 22 years, the last almost eight of which as Chief Justice—“had been an extremely conservative Republican activist before he came to the Supreme Court.”  Id. at 606–07. Rehnquist chose a three-judge panel led by Judge David Sentelle, whom Clinton described as “an ultra-conservative protégé” of North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms.  Clinton said that Helms, a conservative Republican, “had decried the influence of ‘leftist heretics’ who wanted America to become a ‘collectivist, egalitarian, materialistic, race-conscious, hyper-secular, and socially permissive state.’”  Id. at 612–13.  Because the panel “also contained another conservative judge,” Clinton said, “Sentelle could do whatever he wanted.”  Id. at 613.  Just “a couple of weeks before the Fiske-Starr switch,” Clinton said, Sentelle had lunch with Helms and North Carolina’s other Senator, Duncan “Lauch” Faircloth, who Clinton said was Fiske’s biggest critic.  “The three said they were just discussing prostate problems,” Clinton wrote. Id. 

Clinton did not mention that Sentelle, too, was a native North Carolinian who, with Helms’s backing, had been appointed by President Ronald Reagan as both a federal District Court judge in North Carolina and then as a Court of Appeals judge.  Nor did he say that Starr had served with Sentelle on the Court of Appeals.  In a story published the day Clinton wrote this letter, the Washington Post reported on Democrats’ criticism of the luncheon but implied that Sentelle disliked Fiske because the “only difficulties Sentelle faced in his elevation . . . to the federal appeals court came at a time when conservatives accused the American Bar Association’s judicial selection committee”—a committee that Fiske chaired—“of giving liberal groups names of Republican judicial nominations, leaks which gave the groups time to mount opposition.”  Toni Locy & Marilyn W. Thompson, Lunch Among ‘Old Friends’ Causes Latest Whitewater Ripple, Wash. Post, Aug. 24, 1994.

Clinton concluded that, with Starr’s appointment, there was “a bizarre definition of an ‘independent’ counsel: he had to be independent of me, but it was fine to be closely tied to my political enemies and legal adversaries.”  Starr, he said, “had been an outspoken proponent” of the suit against him by Paula Jones, who accused Clinton of sexual harassment, “appearing on TV and even offering to write a friend-of-the-court brief on her behalf.”  It was Clinton’s testimony in the Jones lawsuit about his relationship with former White House Monica Lewinsky that resulted in Clinton’s impeachment, and later acquittal by the Senate, after Starr broadened his investigation into Clinton’s Whitewater financial dealings.

Dale Hefner Drake (1914–1996), to whom Clinton wrote this letter, was President Clinton’s first cousin on his mother’s side.  Drake’s father, Isaiah Russell, was the half brother of Virginia Clinton’s father, Eldridge Cassady.  Eldridge and Edith Cassady, who operated a grocery store in Hope, kept young Bill Clinton while Virginia attended school in New Orleans to become a nurse anesthetist after the death of Bill’s biological father, William Jefferson Blythe Jr.

This is a beautiful letter.  Clinton has signed in blue.  The letter has a very faint crease in the right blank margin opposite the text that is not apparent in the scan.  Overall the letter is in very fine condition.


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