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Surprise From Susan McDougal

Whitewater figure Susan McDougal today came out in favor of the law that led to her imprisonment, saying that the independent counsel statute, which expired June 30, "can be effective ... but only if operated as envisioned and not as a political hammer."

"What is needed is not to throw the act out the window but rather to redefine the selection criteria and the oversight process," McDougal said in testimony to an administrative law subcommittee hearing requested by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the panel.

"Kenneth Starr and his underlings at the Office of Independent Counsel have been out of control from day one in their desire to get the Clintons," she asserted.

McDougal said the three-judge panel that appointed independent counsels is "led by a noted right-wing judge, David Sentelle" and has "chosen to appoint a series of clearly partisan attorneys who have espoused anti-Clinton views well before their selection." She said there were plenty of qualified, nonpartisan attorneys to choose from.

There was no immediate response to her testimony from Starr or Sentelle.

The panel also heard from Robert Bennett, who represented President Clinton in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit, as well as Reagan administration Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who was pardoned by President Bush two weeks before Weinberger was to face charges brought by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh in the Iran-Contra Scandal.

In a prepared statement, Bennett said: "Rather than freeing prosecutorial discretion from political bias, the act has become yet another weapon--indeed, a nuclear weapon in the arsenal of partisan politics."

Reagan White House political director Lynn Nofziger said in a written statement that he was "the target of an independent counsel who had nothing better to do with nearly three years of his time and mine than to try to put me in prison."

An aide to Rep. Nadler said that Nofziger and Bennett were asked to testify "to make the point that this isn't a Democrat trying to prove that Ken Starr was a bad guy. This is an attempt to deal with the independent counsel statute."

McDougal said that "if a true impartial investigator had been appointed in Whitewater ... the entire investigation could have been wrapped up in a year or less. There never was anything to Whitewater, as has been shown five years and $50 million later."

McDougal was convicted of four felonies in 1996 regarding a fraudulent $300,000 federally backed loan, then was imprisoned for her refusal to answer grand jury questions.

Starr obtained another indictment, charging her with criminal contempt and obstruction. After the trial ended with a hung jury, Starr decided not to retry the case.

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