- Summer: The Arkansas Project, a secretive collective bent on bringing down the Clinton presidency, is disintegrating over internal squabbles and accusations. Robert Tyrrell, the editor of the American Spectator, lost a lot of credibility with his fellow Project members over his obsession with the Mena narcotics story. Not long after the Project received a hefty infusion of $225,000 from two Scaife foundations, with the promise of $75,000 more to come soon, Scaife Foundation president Richard Larry accuses Spectator publisher Ronald Barr of squandering over $1 million in Scaife contributions. On July 10, Tyrrell, Burr, and other Project officials gather at attorney Theodore Olson's Washington office to discuss the accusations. Tyrrell announces that he intends to audit the Project fund documentation and find the missing money. Burr is incensed, believing that Tyrrell is trying to pin the blame on Project operatives Stephen Boynton and David Henderson, the two primarily responsible for handling the Project monies. Burr counters with his own idea of an audit of the entire Project's spending, to be headed by Boynton and Henderson. The competing audits reflect a growing tension between Burr and Tyrrell. Burr believes that Tyrrell has been spending money lavishly on himself -- on his house, on dinner parties, on liquor, and other personal expenses unauthorized by anyone. Burr, afraid of an IRS audit on what purports to be a nonprofit organization (the Spectator Foundation), has been scrutinizing Tyrrell's expenditures and does not like what he sees. Both Tyrrell and Larry drop their calls for audits and explanations, but Burr does not, soliciting an audit proposal from accounting giant Arthur Andersen LLP (of Enron fame), which will audit the expenditure of $2.4 million between October 5 and early November 1996, for a fee of $50,000. Tyrrell, working on his own book, a piece of satirical speculative fiction entitled The Impeachment of Bill Clinton, has no time for an audit. On September 9, he orders Burr to buy expensive advertising time on Rush Limbaugh's show for his as-yet unfinished book, an expenditure Burr finds dubious, especially since Tyrrell, not the magazine, would profit from book sales. Tyrrell also dislikes Burr's characterization of a "fraud audit" of Spectator and Project finances.
- The two are no longer speaking; Burr knows that Tyrrell is contemplating firing him, and begins dickering hesitantly over severance terms. He refuses to back down on the audit, knowing that money has been misspent and not wanting blame to be fixed upon him. On September 30, Tyrrell sends Burr a memo declaring any "fraud audit" terminated and saying he will take care of any accounting review. On October 6, Burr writes Tyrrell to insist that Arthur Andersen be hired to conduct an audit, but doesn't realize that he has been fired the day before. Tyrrell, at a closed meeting of the Spectator Foundation board members at his home, pushed through a resolution terminating Burr's position with the magazine (Burr has published the magazine for 30 years) and naming Theodore Olson as the foundation's new secretary-treasure. Tyrrell will take over the publishing duties himself. Burr is offered a deal to take $350,000 in severance benefits if he will agree never to speak of either the magazine or the Arkansas Project; Burr eventually takes the deal and leaves, never speaking of either subject ever again.
- Burr's firing raises hackles at the magazine. Conservative humorist P.J. O'Rourke quits, later telling the Washington Post, somewhat ingenuously, "The tendency of the magazine to do this Clinton-obsessive stuff, I don't get. It seems strange and somewhat embarrassing." He calls Burr's firing "reprehensible." Two months later, when the Spectator savages Ruddy's book The Strange Death of Vincent Foster, Richard Mellon Scaife angrily informs Tyrrell that he will no longer subsidize the magazine. Scaife does not learn the details of just how much of his money has been squandered for years. His appointed overseers, Boynton and Henderson, have paid themselves lavish salaries and taken untold, but huge, amounts of Scaife's donated funds for themselves. Few enterprises in history can be more accurately described as "a falling out of thieves" than the dissolution of the Arkansas Project. (Joe Conason and Gene Lyons)
Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi forges ties with American neoconservatives; helps strategize Republican attacks on Clinton over US policy towards Iraq
- June: Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi, a charming, secular Shi'ite Muslim with overwhelming ambitions, addresses the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. The speech is an early attempt by Chalabi and his aide, former Rendon marketing specialist Francis Brooke, to reach out to the most extremely conservative members of the US Congress to become his benefactors. "We needed a new campaign," Brooke says, and "Chalabi was a great candidate. He'd spent his whole life getting ready for this." Brooke and Chalabi decided to imitate the strategies used by the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC), which had been so successful in organizing support for Israel within the government and the citizenry. During the speech, Chalabi tells his listeners that it will be easy to topple Saddam and replace him with a government that was friendly to Israel, if the US would provide minimal support to an armed insurgency organized by Chalabi's dissident group, the INC. Although Chalabi later denies that oil had played a role in his campaign, he tells the Jerusalem Post in 1998 that in the speech, he offered the restoration of the oil pipeline from Kirkuk to Haifa, which has been inoperative since the creation of Israel in 1948. Chalabi wins the interest and support of a number of American neoconservatives, most of whom had been members of the first Bush administration and are now part of Washington think tanks. The neocons, staunch supporters of the Likud wing of Israeli politics, are looking for a new cause to take the place of their opposition to worldwide communism, and Chalabi -- educated, secular, charming, comfortable in the American centers of power, receptive towards Israel and apparently committed to spreading democracy throughout the Middle East -- fits the bill. In return for their support, Chalabi becomes far more right-wing in his political views, making, in the words of the director of the Council on Foreign Relations, Judith Kipper, "a deliberate decision to turn to the right." American liberals and moderates are less likely than conservatives to back Chalabi's plans to oust Saddam Hussein.
- Brooke recalls, "We thought very carefully about this, and realized there were only a couple of hundred people" in Washington who were influential in shaping policy toward Iraq. So he and Chalabi set out to win these people over. Before long, Chalabi is on a first-name basis with thirty members of Congress, such as Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich, and is attending social functions with Richard Perle, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense and now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Dick Cheney, the CEO of Halliburton. Brooke says, "From the beginning, Cheney was in philosophical agreement with this plan. Cheney has said, 'Very seldom in life do you get a chance to fix something that went wrong.'" But the neoconservative most enamored of Chalabi is Paul Wolfowitz. "Chalabi really charmed him," recalls an American friend of Chalabi's. "[Wolfowitz] told me they are both intellectuals. Paul is a bit of a dreamer. ...He just thought, This is cool -- he says all the right stuff about democracy and human rights. I wonder if we can't roll Saddam, just the way we did the Soviets."
- To solidify his support from American conservatives, Chalabi and Brooke concoct a policy that even Brooke admits was "naked poiitics." The INC has a disastrous record of achievements and foiled CIA operations under Clinton, though Clinton's involvement with authorizing those operations is minimal at best. Chalabi and Brooke decide, why not turn those failures on their collective head and blame Clinton for the failures of the CIA and the INC? "Clinton gave us a huge opportunity," Brooke recalls. "We took a Republican Congress and pitted it against a Democratic White House. We really hurt and embarrassed the President." According to Brooke, the Republican leadership in Congress "didn't care that much about the ammunition. They just wanted to beat up the President." But senators Trent Lott and Jesse Helms "were very receptive, right away" to Chalabi's ideas of overthrowing Hussein. In 1998, after the Republicans in Congress force hearings on the CIA's failures in Iraq, Chalabi's think-tank allies such as Richard Perle give testimony that excoriates the Clinton administration. (New Yorker)
- June: Purchasers of the salacious Clinton Chronicles video receive a call from a telemarketer, asking if they can play a tape from former US representative William Dannemeyer for the listener. The tape features Dannemeyer growling, "[T]he office of the president is held by a liar and a criminal.... I have talked with other congressmen, and they will consider a vote for impeachment.... My friend, representative Henry Hyde, is already studying the law on impeachment, but it is up to us as voters to pressure congressmen, especially Clinton's Democratic cronies.... I'm calling for committees of impeachment to be formed across the United States to lead concerned citizens and help them rise up in the name of democracy." The telemarketer then returns, asking the listener to sign a petition and then make financial contributions to the organization Citizens for Honest Government. Listeners who ask about Al Gore are told, "Right now, we are in the process of impeaching Bill Clinton. We are planning the same process for Al Gore." The call is part of the CHG, led by the Council for National Policy's Pat Matrisciana's, plan for bringing about impeachment that began in January 1997. Dannemeyer, an extreme right-winger with ties to the religious right, is their public spokesperson. He tells audiences and readers that he is sure the Clintons had Vince Foster murdered, that they had Little Rock public investigator Luther "Jerry" Parks murdered (Parks was shot in his car by an unknown assailant), and that they are responsible for other murders as well. He predicts the "imminent" indictment of former Clinton lawyer Bernard Nussbaum and former White House personnel director Craig Livingston "for perjury and obstruction of justice." Matrisciana, in an essay titled "slaying the Clinton Dragon" published in the CHG newsletter, chimes in with his predictions of utter destruction before Clinton's second term expires: "Personally, I don't believe that America can survive four more years of a Bill Clinton presidency. His ungodly, globalist, socialist agenda is deadly.... The good news is, he'll never get away with it. You see, Bill Clinton can be impeached." For a contribution of $1000, Matrisciana says he can ensure Clinton's eventual impeachment.
- Matrisciana doesn't have to rely on the largesse of the usual elderly, fixed-income donors that have helped to fund CHG before now. The wife of former CIA director William Casey sent Matrisciana a check for $10,000 just before the November 1996 elections. Matrisciana has also welcomed "journalist" Christopher Ruddy, a creature of billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, into the fold. Ruddy and Matrisciana are planning a new video, The '60 Minutes' Deception, which will blast the show's host, Mike Wallace, for debunking Ruddy's book on the Foster suicide, and portray both Wallace and CBS as liars and liberal Clinton apologists. Using money from Scaife, they plan on an entire media assault, with advertising in the Washington Times, a call-in show on National Empowerment Television (NET), and numerous appearances by Ruddy and others on conservative radio shows. The Scaife-funded group Accuracy in Media helps Matrisciana fund the video and helps peddle it; money also comes from Paul Weyrich's Free Congress foundation, which operates the satellite network NET. CHG also has a bankroll of something around $3 million of its own, though Matrisciana always poor-mouths his operation, calling it a "bootstrap" non-profit operation.
- In May, the CHG newsletter will feature an op-ed by US representative Bob Barr calling for Clinton's impeachment. Barr, too, is an ally of Scaife, having used Scaife money to help found the Southeastern Legal Foundation. Barr will become the point man for the press for impeachment. And Matrisciana's colleagues in the Council for National Policy are also active. The June 1997 meeting of the CNP, held in Montreal, focused heavily on impeachment, with a panel presided over by former Reagan attorney general Edwin Meese, whose endorsement of the CHG appears on every newsletter. Meese himself has plenty of experience with corruption, having fended off his own independent counsel, who brought charges against several of his associates but not against Meese himself. In June, Meese and Barr hold a press conference announcing that they have sent a letter to Henry Hyde asking that impeachment proceedings begin. The sponsor of the event is Floyd Brown, the head of Citizens United and a fellow member of the CNP. Brown complains in a letter to supporters that the Republican leadership of the House asked Barr to "back out and cancel" his appearance at the press conference; the reluctance of the House leadership only spurs the efforts of Brown and the others to bring impeachment to the fore. (Joe Conason and Gene Lyons)
- June 1: The New York Times Magazine prints a fawningly sympathetic profile of Kenneth Starr. He is described as "a deeply religious man...who reads the Bible every morning," and reiterates the entire laundry list of refuted and disproven claims about the Clintons' supposed crimes related to Whitewater, along with the newer insinuations that Susan McDougal is covering for the Clintons. The article, illustrated by a dramatic photo of Starr and deputy prosecutors Hickman Ewing and Jackie Bennett, provides a list of Clinton's "victims," including the taxpayers who funded a $28 million investigation. Reporter Jeffrey Rosen says that Clinton's most tragic victim may be Starr himself, who has found himself, like B'rer Rabbit, entangled in the tarbaby-like imbroglio of Whitewater and now unable to extricate himself. Rosen quotes unnamed sources close to Starr who allege that Hillary Clinton is a liar, and charge that Susan McDougal, currently jailed for refusing to testify before Starr's grand jury, is seeking a "license to lie" in front of the jury. McDougal will later say that Starr wanted her to testify to statements about the Clintons that she knew to be false, and that he threatened her with perjury charges if she didn't testify in the way he directed. Clinton lawyer David Kendall responds with a letter printed in the media that accuses Starr of a "leak-and-smear" campaign: "[G]rand jury secrecy rules are aimed at preventing precisely this kind of leak-and-smear damage.... What conceivable right do representatives of the [OIC] have to speculate like this?" Three former special prosecutors agree with Kendall's assessment. (Arkansas Times, H.R. Clinton, Joe Conason and Gene Lyons)
- June: Ann Coulter, a conservative attorney, and journalist David Brock, author of the scandalous and badly sourced "Troopergate" article for the American Spectator, host a "kind of debutante weekend" for the new darling of the right, Internet gadfly and Hollywood gossip-monger Matt Drudge. Drudge began his career at the CBS gift shop, collecting gossipy tidbits and posting them on his Web site, The Drudge Report. He has produced a few scoops, including breaking the news in 1996 that Bob Dole would choose Jack Kemp as his presidential running mate, but more importantly, Drudge has established himself as a reliable outlet for right-wing gossip and rumor. Brock and Coulter present Drudge to a gaggle of young conservatives, who are impressed by Drudge's brashness and his Walter Winchell-like fedora. Drudge tours Newsweek, picking up an innocuous bit of information about the Starr investigation from investigative reporter Michael Isikoff, which Drudge massages into an overhyped "world exclusive." Isikoff later acknowledges he made a mistake even speaking to Drudge. Soon after, Drudge phones Isikoff and gets the reporter to confirm that he is working on a story about Kathleen Willey's allegations of an unwanted sexual approach from Bill Clinton. Drudge gets something of an off-the-record confirmation of the story from an unnamed source in the White House, a young staffer who instructs Drudge that everything he tells Drudge is off the record and no mention of their conversation is to be made. Drudge, heedless of journalistic ethics, not only mentions the conversation, he publishes it verbatim in his July "blockbuster" story about Willey. A month later, he publishes a savage, unverified story stating that Clinton senior official Sidney Blumenthal abused his wife. Blumenthal immediately files a $30 million defamation suit; Drudge quickly withdraws the story, but Blumenthal will continue the lawsuit until late 2001, when it becomes apparent that Drudge is using the lawsuit to generate publicity for himself. Drudge has proven that he will print anything, reliable or not, that smears Clinton or his administration, and becomes an outlet for anti-Clinton rumors and attack pieces along with Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing attack mavens. Nevertheless, Drudge continues to have a strong following, especially among younger, less traditional journalists as well as Clinton-haters.
- As a side note, the Drudge-reported story about Blumenthal is found to be the work of former Wall Street Journal editorial page writer John Fund. Fund was a frequent visitor to CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and other television news outlets, where he became known for his rants against Clinton's moral turpitude. On February 23, 2002, Fund will be arrested by the NYPD for beating up his girlfriend, Morgan Pillsbury (the police find Fund hiding in the nether regions of the conservative Manhattan Institute). Fund is embarrassed, at least for a time, when the truth of his own bizarre sexual past comes to light: not only has Fund been the much younger Pillsbury's lover, and gotten her an abortion after getting her pregnant (Fund is, of course, an outspoken opponent of abortion), but has, years before, been the lover of Pillsbury's mother. Fund, a "happily married man," has had an inordinate number of lovers between mother and daughter as well. Fund will be fired from both the Journal and MSNBC, but will land a job as political commentator at, of all places, the Christian Broadcasting Network. Fund will begin appearing in recent years as a regular guest of CNN's Paula Zahn. (Marvin Kalb, Mark Crispin Miller)
Project for New American Century founded
- June 3: The right-wing think tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC) is founded in Washington. It flatly states that its main goal is to achieve global political and military dominion for the United States. Their first action is a statement that calls for "a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity." Members include Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Jeb Bush, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby, James Woolsey, writer Francis Fukuyama, William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, Bush's Vice President Dan Quayle, billionaire publisher Steve Forbes, Reagan national security official and key Iran-contra figure Elliot Abrams, and writer Norman Podhoretz. Funding for the PNAC comes from right-wing billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife and his network of foundations. It is this organization that coins the term "Pax Americana" to sum up its ideas for global dominion. Later, ABC's Ted Koppel will characterize PNAC's ideas as "a secret blueprint for US global dominion." Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern says that the PNAC members had a certain reputation around Washington: "When we saw those people coming back into town, all of us said...'Oh my God, the crazies are back.'" McGovern says that their geopolitical schemes of world domination would typically go "right into the circular file." (CCR, Dominion, Asia Times, Amy and David Goodman, Al Franken)
- June 4: Asked to compare the Whitewater and Watergate scandals, reporter Bob Woodward, who helped break the Watergate scandal, says there is no comparison: "[T]here are no tapes. There are no witnesses that are really credible, who are contemporaneous, to say 'I was there, and Clinton said, let's do this that's illegal, or let's do this that is corrupt.' And we have years of inquiries, and you have to think as a reporter on all of these things, you know, maybe he didn't do any of them. There are kinds of allegations that shoot all over the place all of the time, and no one is a greater repository of allegations than Bill Clinton. And no doubt some of them, or maybe lots of them, are false -- or maybe even all of them are false. But the things linger. There's no closure. All of the Clinton scandals, if you look at them, they've piled up. They're like airplanes circling National Airport, and none have landed." (CNN/James Carville)
- June 21: After continued problems with Iraq's compliance with UNSCOM inspections, the UN Security Council passes Resolution 1115 demanding immediate access to all sites for inspection. (UN/Electric Venom)
- June 25: The Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Susan Schmidt report that while the Starr commission is theoretically investigating Whitewater for a third year, in reality they have all but given up on finding any proof of wrongdoing in the real estate deal and are now trying to dig up any dirt they can find on Bill Clinton's sex life. Among the myriad of witnesses are two former state troopers, Ronnie Anderson and Roger Perry, who took part in the "Troopergate" allegations of 1994. Anderson refuses to discuss Clinton's sex life, telling the prosecutors, "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 anyone's business." Both Anderson and Perry claim that OIC officials showed them a list of women's names and asked if any of the names match their knowledge of Clinton's former trystmates. Perry named "seven or eight," and both say that the prosecutors seem very interested in finding information about an illegitimate child Clinton may have fathered. They are questioned about Gennifer Flowers, Susan McDougal, and, intensively, about Paula Jones. One of the troopers says, "In the past, I thought they were trying to get to the bottom of Whitewater.... 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." While the initial reaction from the mainstream media is quite critical of Starr's sudden redirection of the investigation towards Clinton's sex life, by this time next year these same media outlets will be lining up for gossip and tidbits. Amazingly enough, Starr's office confirms the story, with deputy counsel John Bates terming the questioning "perfectly appropriate" and merely conducted to establish the relationship between an investigative target and a possible witness; an unnamed source "familiar with the investigation" says that the focus is to find a former Clinton lover in whom he might have confided details about Whitewater. How Paula Jones, who claims to have encountered Clinton exactly once for a matter of minutes, would know any such details is hard to fathom. (Washington Post/James Carville, Joe Conason and Gene Lyons)
- June 25: Whitewater investigators begin taking testimony from four Arkansas state troopers about allegations concerning Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs while governor of Arkansas. While the troopers' stories had been thoroughly debunked years before, Starr's team decides that, since its investigation of Whitewater is bearing little fruit, it will refocus its efforts on proving Clinton had affairs outside of his marriage. Clinton's lawyers protest, saying the investigation has nothing to do with Whitewater, but Starr presses on. (CNN)
- Late June: Clinton's efforts to negotiate a settlement with the Paula Jones legal team reach an impasse. Clinton's lawyer, Robert Bennett, has already said that Clinton will consider "some sort of financial resolution," but the Jones lawyers insist on a public apology, an action Clinton is not willing to take. Meanwhile, Jones's lawyers are scrounging up everything they can find on Clinton's sexual history. They are focusing on Kathleen Willey's story of sexual harassment in the White House, and, through the auspices of Linda Tripp and Lucianne Goldberg, have a very good idea of much of what Willey has told Tripp and reporter Michael Isikoff. Lawyer Joseph Cammarata is displeased when Isikoff refuses to divulge Willey's name, nor does he appreciate Isikoff's refusal to set up a meeting between him and Willey. Cammarata had assumed that Isikoff was an informal member of the Jones team; Isikoff's rebuff irritates him. On July 1, Cammarata solicits the help of private investigator John Brown, who has helped Citizens United operatives find dirt on Clinton in the past, for help in pinpointing Willey's identity. Brown turns to Larry Wood, whose background is shadowy -- his claims of being a former Nashville and Memphis police officer cannot be verified -- but whose connections to OIC deputy prosecutor Hickman Ewing are well known in the right circles. Wood also claimed to be Ewing's confidential informant, though that claim, too, cannot be verified. Brown knows that Wood has performed several clandestine information-gathering operations for Ewing and the OIC; he also knows that Wood is a prime liason between Ewing and certain members of the press, including Christopher Ruddy of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, John Crudele of the New York Post, and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Sunday Telegraph. Wood himself has claimed to be one of the key players in connecting the OIC with the Arkansas Project and other anti-Clinton organizations. He boasts to Brown of helping Ewing compile "whole file cabinets full of information about Clinton," most of it highly personal, extremely derogatory, and largely suspect. Wood claims to be the source for the OIC's list of Clinton's supposed paramours. Within a half hour of calling Wood, Brown receives a phone call giving him Kathleen Willey's name. (Joe Conason and Gene Lyons)