Saturday, January 08, 2005

Clintonista's Indictment Kept Secret for a Year

Though Hillary Clinton's former finance chairman David Rosen was actually indicted in 2003, the Bush administration kept it secret till the indictment was unsealed late Friday, a move that spared the former first couple and the Democratic Party significant embarrassment during the height of the 2004 presidential campaign.

"The indictment was handed down more than a year ago," the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

Citing "sources familiar with the probe," the Times said the Bush Justice Department decided that any criminal charges would not be made public until after last fall's presidential election for fear they would be seen as a politically tainted vendetta by the Bush Administration."

While under secret federal indictment, Rosen was able to continue working for top Democrats throughout the long presidential campaign, eventually joining the campaign staff of Clinton protege, Gen. Wesley Clark, who launched his own presidential bid on the advice of the former first couple.

The decision to keep the politically awkward indictment under wraps allowed Mr. and Mrs. Clinton to assume high profile roles attacking President Bush on the Iraq war, as well as a whole range of domestic issues, without having to answer questions about their role in Rosen's case.

In Sept. 2003, Mrs. Clinton went so far as to accuse the White House of corruption, saying Bush officials had deliberately covered up unhealthy air quality at Ground Zero in the days after the 9/11 attacks.

In a measure of the extraordinary sensitivity with which Bush officials handled the Clinton-related case, the Times said the Rosen probe was "being directed by federal prosecutors with the Public Integrity Section at the Justice Department's headquarters in Washington, who specialize in this type of case."

Although the 10-page indictment does not indicate whether others, including the Clintons, were suspected of wrongdoing, Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra told the Times, "All we can say is that there are no additional subjects at this time."

But a key witness in the case has alleged that Hillary Clinton had guilty knowledge of concealed campaign contributions for an Aug. 12, 2000 fundraiser on behalf of her Senate campaign, which formed the basis for Rosen's indictment.

Hollywood producer Peter Paul, who funded the star-studded Los Angeles gala, has claimed that Mrs. Clinton personally negotiated "the largest payment for the event that I underwrote."

Paul and the his lawfirm Judicial Watch have maintained since 2001 that Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaign deliberately undereported nearly $2 million in in-kind contributions he made to cover expenses for the Aug. 2000 event.

Celebrity fundraiser Aaron Tonken, another key figure in the probe, has also suggested that Mrs. Clinton may face legal trouble because of his testimony about work he did for the former first couple.

In a soon-to-be released book that covers his relationship with the Clintons, Tonken says he handed out checks to "certain pols" that were "illegal." And he personally witnessed a "brown bag" stuffed with cash going "someplace it shouldn't."

In 2002 deposition in an unrelated case, Tonken testified: "I'm a star witness against President and Mrs. Clinton. . . . regarding the fundraising activities that I've done on behalf of the Clintons."

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