- W. Gardner Selby American-Statesman Staff
A Texas congressman said President Bill Clinton intimidated the government’s lead lawyer into not seeking an indictment of Hillary Clinton for email misdeeds by telling her, “We killed Vince Foster.”
Did Clinton, desperate to help his wife, declare as much about killing Foster, the White House deputy counsel at the start of Clinton’s two terms?
That’s what Rep. Pete Olson said in a June interview on the Houston-based “Sam Malone Show.”
Conspiracy theories have abounded since Foster’s body was found in 1993 though the debunkers at Snopes.com said in a 1998 fact-check that they’re all of a part with unsubstantiated tales alleging the Clintons share a sordid history of sidelining people. Meantime, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker in 2016 found no basis to Donald Trump’s claim there was something “fishy” about the circumstances of Foster’s death.
In his radio interview, Olson, R-Sugar Land, initially said that it was “awfully strange” for Bill Clinton to bump into then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch at an Arizona airport at a time in 2016 when Hillary Clinton’s actions were under Justice Department review.
“I guarantee you,” Olson said, “they had the conversation where he basically said, ‘Mrs. Lynch, call your attack dog off. We’ve killed people. We killed Vince Foster. We destroyed Webb Hubbell. We will destroy you.’ And then what happens to things?” Olson said. “All of a sudden — well, she did it, yeah, it was all terrible, don’t know who got the information, very classified. But no indictment.”
Olson was correct about about a few points.
Bill Clinton on June 27, 2016, met privately with Lynch in a plane on the tarmac of Phoenix’s airport. Also, Hillary Clinton wasn’t indicted for how she handled confidential emails. By authoritative accounts, too, Foster, an Arkansas lawyer close to the Clintons, suffered from depression affected by what he felt to be his own personal failings in handling White House events including the Travelgate and Whitewater matters before he was found dead with a gun in his hand in a Washington-area park.
But we identified no evidence for Olson’s claim that Bill Clinton told Lynch the Clintons killed Foster.
Lynch insisted at the time that the conversation centered on topics such as Clinton’s grandchildren. Our search of the Nexis news database turned up no Bill Clinton statements about what was discussed.
Olson backed off after his account was brought to light by Right Wing Watch, a project of a liberal group, People for the American Way, 11 days after the radio interview. In a written statement made available the same day, Olson said in part that “in my discussion about Loretta Lynch and Vince Foster, I took the accusations a step too far. I regret my choice of words.”
On June 23, we asked Olson after he spoke at a Capitol Hill conference on civility in public life if he’d intended his radio comment about Clinton to be factual. Olson replied: “That was a little out of bounds. It was over the top. I regret it and I apologized for it.”
A series of investigations of Foster’s death include the July 1994 finding of a special counsel, Robert B. Fiske Jr., that Foster’s death in the area’s Fort Marcy Park in July 1993 was a suicide influenced by Foster’s depression associated with episodes involving his legal work for the Clinton White House. Fiske concluded that “Foster’s death was a personal collapse, not a White House scandal.”
“The Fiske investigation involved four lawyers, five physicians, seven FBI agents, approximately 125 witnesses; also DNA tests, microscopes and lasers,” The Washington Post reported.
In October 1997, an investigation by the office of Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr reaffirmed that Foster committed suicide.
We contacted Dr. Alan L. Berman, an expert on suicides who was quoted in the Whitewater report. Asked about Olson’s claim, Berman said, “There is not a scintilla of fact in this statement. It is a blatant falsehood, unsupported and unsupportable. There were four investigations into Foster’s death, all arriving at the same conclusion.”
Olson said Bill Clinton told the then-attorney general, “We killed Vince Foster.”
There’s no evidence of Clinton saying as much nor a factual basis to say that Foster’s death was a homicide caused by the Clintons. This claim, which Olson backed off after it became widely known, adds up to a baseless accusation. Pants on Fire!