Friends Indeed

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The White House fed out a little more line in the ongoing saga of Webb Hubbell, disclosing that the effort to help Hubbell find work following his resignation from the Justice Department in April 1994 extended up to the President's very door. After acknowledging Tuesday that former chief of staff Mack McLarty and current chief Erskine Bowles made calls and visits on Hubbell's behalf, White House special counsel Lanny Davis added that the President and First Lady "would not have discouraged Mr. McLarty from assisting Webb Hubbell, because he was an old friend," and indeed "may have been generally aware" of those efforts. For Whitewater prosecutors, the alacrity with which their star witness was able to find highly-lucrative employment has always been troubling, as was Hubbell's general recalcitrance after promising in December 1994 to assist them. To them, the reported $500,000 that Hubbell earned from various clients after resigning in the Whitewater scandal amounted to nothing less than a hush fund. But TIME's J.F.O. McAllister thinks that may be a stretch. "The story these guys are telling might actually be true. Webb was in fact a very popular guy around the White House at the time, and when he left, portrayed his trouble as merely a billing dispute. He was just a good friend who was in a spot, who had a family, who could use some help." Even if a bargain was indeed struck, "obstruction of justice is very difficult to prove, and this is a case where the White House really has its stories straight. All in all," says McAllister, " White House 1, Starr 0."