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Hillary In Clear On Travelgate

Hillary Clinton won't be facing any charges in connection with the White House Travelgate scandal, but she could be facing new worries in her battle for the New York Senate.

Independent counsel Robert Ray said Thursday that there was "substantial evidence" the first lady played a role in the controversial travel office firings, contrary to her denials. But he said there was not enough evidence to warrant bringing perjury charges against her.

In a statement Thursday, Ray said he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that "any of Mrs. Clinton's statements and testimony regarding her involvement in the travel office firings were knowingly false."

Ray's remarks came after he closed out his investigation into the 1993 firings of all seven employees of the White House travel office, which spurred one of the first major controversies of President Clinton's tenure.

New York Republicans say Clinton's Senate campaign will be hurt by a fresh reminder of scandals that have dogged her husband's presidency.

"It's not going to lose the election for her, but it's not a plus. The biggest problem is that it reinforces a major existing negative for her," said Jay Severin, a Republican political consultant and television commentator. "It's a major reminder that she appears to be among those who look like they're above the law."

Democrats, however, say Ray's report will have no impact on the Senate race.

"It's basically no news," said New York Democratic Party Chairwoman Judith Hope.

"Sixty million dollars, six years later, the report confirms what Hillary has said all along, that she did nothing wrong ... The operative sentence to me is that the evidence was insufficient to prove to a jury that any of Mrs. Clinton's statements were knowingly false," Hope said.

"New Yorkers have made up their minds about this a long time ago and they know there's no there there," said Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson.

Independent pollster John Zogby shares that view, up to a point.

"Those who hate her will say, 'This is why we hate her,' and those who love her will say, 'Why don't they leave her alone?'" Zogby said. "I don't think it amounts to anything."

Pollster Lee Miringoff, who heads Marist College's Institute for Public Opinion, notes that while Ray's actual report is sealed for at least 90 days, there's likely to be a new round of news reports on it come early autumn.

"When it comes out in September, the Clinton people will say it's old news, but for those suffering from a heavy bout of Clinton fatigue it's more of the same," he said.

Rep. Rick Lazio, Clinton's Republican Senate rival, refused to comment on Ray's statement. But Lazio is facing a new campaign controversy of his own stemming from a federal investigation of some of his personal investments – and fellow Republicans are blaming Hillary Clinton for "orchesrating" the probe.

Lazio disclosed Thursday that federal regulators are looking into some of his securities trades, and that the Securities and Exchange Commission had asked "that we provide them with copies of certain account statements and trading records."

Lazio denied any wrongdoing and promised to provide all information and answer any questions asked of him by the SEC.

The probe appears to have started following a report in The New York Times last week that Lazio made a 600 percent profit in just a few weeks by investing in securities of a company controlled by some of his biggest campaign contributors.

New York Republican State Committee Chairman Bill Powers attacked the probe as "a carefully orchestrated political attack" by Clinton and her campaign.

"I guess (New Yorkers) are supposed to believe that the Clinton White House had nothing to do with a leak that came out the same day the independent counsel released released its 'Travelgate' findings about Mrs. Clinton," said Powers.