- Spring: Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, in the middle of a flirtatious and sometimes sexual relationship with Bill Clinton and recently "exiled" to the Pentagon, befriends a fellow "exile," Linda Tripp. Tripp is a volatile, politically conservative person with a grudge against the Clinton White House. Over the next year, Lewinsky gradually takes Tripp into her confidence, telling the eager Tripp more and more details about her relationship with Clinton. Tripp begins thinking about how best to use Lewinsky's confidences to hurt Clinton. (Marvin Kalb, Executive Intelligence Review)
- April: Clinton vetoes HR 1833, a bill which outlaws third-trimester or "partial-birth" abortions, saying the legislation should include a provision to allow the abortion procedure if needed to protect a woman's health as well as her life. Congress fails to override the veto. (CBS)
- April 1: David Hale takes the stand in the Jim Guy Tucker/Jim and Susan McDougal conspiracy trial, which is becoming more and more of a political witch hunt against Bill Clinton. Prosecution attorney Ray Jahn overcomes a spate of defense objections to turn Hale's testimony towards his allegations that Clinton took part in a fraudulent loan scheme along with Hale, Tucker, and Jim and Susan McDougal. The purpose, as with so many other instances in this trial, is to get media coverage, and the media complies, reporting breathlessly that Hale, a convicted embezzler who has been described by other witnesses as a "pathological liar," has testified that Clinton took part in dirty financial dealings. Hale has no evidence except his own word, but the OIC prosecutors, led by Jahn, take Hale's testimony and run with it. On the second day of testimony, Hale tells a story of then-Governor Clinton showing up unannounced at the Castle Grande shopping center construction site, wearing a jogging suit, discussing a fraudulent loan with Hale and Jim McDougal, and finishing by warning the men that his name could not appear on any loan documents. Jahn avoids mentioning that in earlier testimony, during a 1989 FBI investigation, Hale told a very different story about the loan, one which did not mention Clinton at all. The defense attorneys are quick to realize that Jahn's seemingly disjointed examination of Hale is most likely an attempt to "parcel out" accusations against Clinton for the media, and they strenuously object to Hale's testimony as "the purest hearsay." If the OIC isn't indicting Clinton, they say, then the prosecution needs to stop using this case to build a case against Clinton in the courtroom for the media. This time the prosecution is outflanked, and abandons that line of inquiry.
- Cross-examination is a disaster for Hale. The defense shows that every single dime Hale embezzled from the loan he claims Clinton took part in went directly into Hale's pocket. He blasts Hale's recollected conversations as pure hearsay, forcing Hale to acknowledge that nothing he has said about Clinton can be corroborated by anyone else. The defense even shows that his so-called business partner, Jim McDougal, had twice turned him down for loans. Almost every document that ever went through Hale's hands regarding his financial dealings had been either altered or forged; the defense pins one fraudulent document after another on the increasingly discomfited Hale. Worse for Hale's political motivations, the defense manages to get into evidence Hale's connections with Jim Johnson, the unrepentant white supremacist who is at the heart of the Arkansas Project, the loosely organized get-Clinton cartel funded by right-wing billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. Here Hale descends into complete fantasy. He didn't know Jim Johnson hated blacks. He didn't know anything about Johnson's vituperative, voluble hatred of Clinton. He didn't know that the two guiding lights of Citizens United, Floyd Brown and David Bossie, who have spent the last two years perpetuating one Clinton smear after another, and who have been coaching Hale and supplying him with money ever since his 1994 conviction, had any grudge against Clinton or were even political operatives; he thought they were journalists. After further shattering of Hale's credibility surrounding the Castle Grande meeting, and proving that the OIC had tolerated Hale's lying on the stand in his March 1996 sentencing hearings, the defense tries and fails to show that Hale has been protected and coached by Theodore Olson, the eminent conservative Washington lawyer and member of the Arkansas Project; their attempts to do so are thwarted by the judge. Jahn angrily objects to the defense trying to show that Olson was a former law partner of Kenneth Starr, a line of inquiry that, had it been allowed, might have started to expose the entire structure of the Arkansas Project. The judge sustains the objection.
- Some media mavens, listening to David Hale twist for nine days on the stand, have had enough. Columnist Meredith Oakley of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a longtime foe of Clinton's and an avowed conservative, is appalled at Hale's transparent mendacity. "[Hale] is a shame and a disgrace to America," Oakley writes. "[The] case against Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and Jim and Susan McDougal...is so full of holes and so full of lies admitted to by Hale that it's become more of a laughingstock than the Arkansas political system it seeks to discredit."
- The prosecution fares little better with their next witness, Stephen Smith. A former aide to Bill Clinton in Little Rock, Smith is another former business partner of the McDougals who, like so many others, lost their money in McDougal's increasingly bizarre schemes; Smith had pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge regarding a loan from McDougal though he feels he committed no crime. His decision was based on the fact that he couldn't afford to go through a lengthy felony trial and possibly lose his job with the University of Arkansas. Part of his deal with the OIC, who prosecuted his case, involves refusing to tell his story to the media and to testify against Tucker and McDougal. He is given a written script by OIC lawyers and told to read it verbatim to the jury. But Smith screws up his courage with the prosecutors and balks, saying that the script is full of misstatements and lies. "There were charges in there," he says years later, "that involved things that I had told them were not true, things that I had repeatedly told them I had no knowledge of. They asked me to implicate other people in a criminal conspiracy.... It was one of the most intimidating things I had ever experienced, I think. At this time I had already pled guilty to a misdemeanor and was awaiting sentencing.... On one hand, I thought maybe it was a trick that they had put this false testimony in there and were asking me to read it to the grand jury so they might charge me with perjury. On the other hand, if I refused to read it and incriminate other people, they might argue that I wasn't cooperating, or at least, you know, the story I was telling -- what I knew the truth to be -- wasn't the story they had in mind." The prosecutors try and fail to browbeat Smith into reading the script; at one point deputy prosecutor Bradley Lerman screams in Smith's face, "Tucker is a millionaire. Why are you protecting him?" Smith's testimony is inconclusive at best -- he hardly knows Tucker, and feels sympathetic for McDougal because of his myriad health problems.
- The prosecution's final witness, on May 3, is FBI agent Michael Paukus. Paukus, an accountant, traces the McDougals' activity with the $300,000 loan to Hale; defense attorneys object, unsuccessfully, that McDougal's haphazard and often fraudulent accounting practices make Paukus's straight-line scenario hard to believe. But the real winner for the prosecution is the impression created by the mainstream media, led by the New York Times, saying that Paukus proved that Bill Clinton had benefited from the loan. Oddly enough, a far more accurate story of Paukus's testimony is written by Associated Press reporters, saying that Paukus had failed to make any connection between the now-infamous loan and Clinton, and in fact, Paukus never even mentioned Bill or Hillary Clinton. But the Times turns the AP story on its head, reporting that Paukus had proven that money from the loan was used to cover Clinton's Whitewater expenses. The Times again refuses to countenance the 1995 Pillsbury Report's own conclusions over the loan, which shows conclusively that the Clintons had no involvement whatsoever with the loan. The benefit to the smear-Clinton crowd is huge: the Times's assertion that $50,000 from the loan had gone into Clinton's pocket is one that will be echoed for the rest of the Clinton presidency and beyond, figuring prominently in a raft of columns by William Safire and articles by Michael Kelly and James Stewart, and a PBS Frontline special, not to mention several public pronouncements by Kenneth Starr. (Joe Conason and Gene Lyons)
- April 3: Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski, a former UC-Berkeley professor, is arrested at his Montana cabin, where he has lived for years without running water or electricity. Some right-wing commentators, citing Kaczynski's statements that some of his bombings were in revenge for environmental depredations, call him a "liberal terrorist" or "eco-terrorist," though Kaczynski's political leanings are never made clear. (Unabomber Timeline)
- April 3: Starr officials tell the press that they "have focused on the sale of tax-exempt bonds to finance a $13.9 million Arkansas prison, trying to determine whether money was diverted illegally to several Arkansas politicians, including Bill Clinton." The legal and ethical outrages of this leak are myriad. The clear intent is to smear Clinton with baseless charges that he stole money from the prison system, charges that the Starr investigation was never able to document whatsoever; Starr had no legal right to make such allegations in the press until he had evidence to back them up. Since he never found any such evidence, he chose the underhanded route of making a baseless media smear. Moreover, such an investigation into the Arkansas prison system is well outside the purview of Starr's Whitewater investigation. (Washington Times/James Carville)
- April 11: UNSCOM reports that almost all Iraqi banned weapons have been destroyed, though a small amount remains. Over the summer, UNSCOM will supervise the destruction of Al-Hakam, Iraq's primary site for producing bioweapons. (UN/Iraqwatch/Electric Venom)
- April 22: Convicted felon David Hale testifies that in 1985 he was pressured by Bill Clinton to make a $300,000 loan to Susan McDougal, and to keep Clinton's name out of the transaction. Clinton denies the charge in videotaped testimony, and goes on to state that Whitewater had always been managed by Jim McDougal, and that he had always considered McDougal to be fair and honest. Hale's charge is never substantiated. It is later proven that Starr's investigative committee, the Office of the Independent Counsel, gave Hale over $56,000 after he agreed to testify; the money came from an American Spectator slush fund financed by Richard Mellon Scaife. Supposedly McDougal takes Clinton aside during this time and asks that he pardon Susan McDougal if she is convicted, a tale that is later proven to be untrue. (Washington Post, David Brock, H.R. Clinton, Susan McDougal)
- April 22: A Starr official tells the New Yorker's Jane Meyer that there's a 50-50 chance that Hillary Clinton will be indicted on charges stemming from the Whitewater investigation. The leak starts a firestorm of media commentary and further escalates the attack from the right wing. Unfortunately, the official lied; Starr's office will later be forced to admit that it never had the evidence it hoped to have to indict Clinton, and they never seriously considered filing charges against her. But the media frenzy will be more than they could have hoped. (New Yorker/Albany Times/James Carville)
"Emotional appeals about working families trying to get by on $4.25 an hour are hard to resist. Fortunately, such families do not exist." -- Republican representative Tom DeLay, House Majority Whip, during a debate on increasing the minimum wage, Congressional Record, H3706, 04-23-96, quoted by Brandi Mills
- April 24: Clinton signs into law the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, a compendium of legislations partially inspired by the Oklahoma City bombing written largely by the Republican leadership in Congress. Ostensibly passed to "deter terrorism, provide justice for victims, provide for an effective death penalty, and for other purposes," the Act imposes sharp limitations on the ability for defendants to file habeas corpus motions, and allows for federal courts to uphold decisions from lower courts even if those decisions violate the Constitution. It also streamlines the process for convicts to receive the death penalty by limiting their appeals, and imposes severe restrictions on the legal rights of immigrants. Clinton's motives in signing the AEDPA into law are not entirely venal; the bill is part of his under-the-radar but quite active "war on terror" but Clinton's record as a supporter of civil liberties is not good no matter what his motivations may be. The AEDPA is strongly supported by conservative Republicans such as Orrin Hatch, Jesse Helms, and Lauch Faircloth, and fought by liberal Democrats, including civil libertarian Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who observes that "Habeus corpus has little to do with terrorism," and continues, "Nothing in our present circumstances requires the suspension of habeus corpus. We are dealing with a fundamental provision of law [which] is at the very foundation of the legal system designed to safeguard our liberties. We are putting in jeopardy a tradition of protection of individual rights by federal courts that goes back to our earliest foundation." "The first [provision] did away with due process, and the second indulged in guilt by association," Georgetown law professor David Cole reports. The bill also limits the right of habeas corpus and limits the access a defendent has to federal court. Civil libertarians on the left and right are dismayed by the restrictions imposed on Americans' civil rights.
- This is one of many examples where Clinton, in spite of the far-right vilification against him and his policies, is actually in close agreement with the GOP. Other examples include welfare reform, banking deregulation, the drug war, media deregulation, and capital punishment. Interestingly enough, the same right-wing pundits and lawmakers who cried so loudly and so shrilly about Clinton's "jackboot liberalism" have been, by and large, completely silent on Bush's far more overt and draconiam assaults on American liberties. Mark Crispin Miller writes, "...Clinton, whose civil liberties agenda was Republican, was often loudly charged with fascist tendencies by the Republicans, while Bush/Cheney, whose civil liberties agenda is fascistic, were treated largely with respect and deference by Republicans (and, until 2004, by most Democrats), as if the patent despotism of this rogue administration was appropriate and right for the United States. (Buzzflash, Wikipedia, Mark Crispin Miller)