Almost 40 years after Bill and Hillary Clinton first entered American public life, they are to leave it beset by crushing humiliation.
There will be no first female U.S. President — this time. History will not be made by a wife following her two-term husband into the Oval Office. There will be no dynasty, no President Hillary Clinton.
Why did they think they deserved otherwise?
A zombie marriage killed long ago by Bill’s philandering was cynically reactivated to boost her White House ambitions.
Trump called her ‘crooked Hillary’. She certainly warranted the adjective ‘toxic’. She was chilly and aloof; the technocrat personification of America’s East Coast liberal elite that Rust Belt America and beyond had grown to despise.
In the end, too many people had simply grown tired of the Clintons emerging from scandal after scandal with their ambitions intact. But then, the Clintons always came with an awful lot of baggage, as this list of controversies proves . . .
The first whiff of scandal to surround the Clintons began with the 1993 sacking of the seven employees in the White House Travel Office, soon after Bill had become President.
These staffers were replaced by a commercial travel firm from Little Rock, Arkansas.
Critics claimed the changes were ordered by the Clintons so that their cronies — in one case a cousin — could take over the multi-million dollar business of White House travel arrangements.
A claim that Hillary had been instrumental in securing the firings — something she had denied — seemed to be confirmed by an internal White House memo unearthed in 1996.
The first whiff of scandal to surround the Clintons began with the 1993 sacking of the seven employees in the White House Travel Office (Clintons pictured in 1998)
A cover-up was alleged. In 2000, an official report on ‘Travelgate’ decided that while some of Mrs Clinton’s statements were ‘factually false’ and that she had played a role in the sackings, there was insufficient evidence to support the laying of criminal charges against her.
She was able to continue her ultimately successful bid for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
The Whitewater affair
‘Whitewater’ was the key financial scandal of the Clinton presidency. Neither Bill nor Hillary were prosecuted — after three inquiries failed to find sufficient evidence to link them to the criminal conduct of others — but two of their associates and a partner in her law firm were jailed.
Another crony had to resign as Arkansas governor. Along the way, Mrs Clinton became the first-ever First Lady to have been subpoenaed to give evidence, and a close aide was found dead. The Whitewater investigation by independent counsel Kenneth Starr would also expose Bill Clinton’s hectic sex life to the scrutiny of the world.
So what was it all about? In 1978, Bill was Arkansas attorney general and running for state governor. That year he and Hillary joined another couple, James and Susan McDougal, to borrow $203,000 to buy 220 acres in the Ozark mountains on which to build holiday homes. A company called the Whitewater Development Corporation was founded for the project.
‘Whitewater’ was the key financial scandal of the Clinton presidency (Clintons pictured just days before the 2016 election)
Mr McDougal, who was briefly employed as an adviser by Clinton when he became governor, left politics to buy a bank. This bank lent Mrs Clinton $30,000 to build a show house on the Whitewater land.
In 1982, McDougal also bought a small finance company called Madison Guaranty. The firm’s struggles and failure would be central to the ensuing furore.
Along the way Mr McDougal’s firm hired Hillary Clinton’s law firm and raised funds for her husband’s political war chest. In 1989, Madison Guaranty collapsed. The federal government had to bail it out using $60 million of public money. Mr McDougal was indicted on fraud charges but acquitted.
The matter did not end there, however. With Bill Clinton’s election to the White House in 1992 interest in and allegations about Whitewater only increased.
In 1993, shortly after he had filed three years’ worth of Whitewater tax returns for the Clintons, deputy White House counsel Vince Foster was found dead in a Washington area park. Police ruled it suicide.
But there was speculation that persons unknown had removed files from Foster’s office shortly after his body was found.
James and Susan McDougal were subsequently charged with bank fraud and jailed. Arkansas governor Jim Tucker was convicted of fraud and given probation. The state’s assistant attorney general Webster Hubbell, also drawn into the affair, was jailed for an unrelated fraud.
Hillary was accused by a New York Times columnist of being a ‘congenital liar’.
In 1996, prosecutor Starr would subpoena her to answer questions about her law firm. But while she had to appear before a grand jury, and President Clinton had to give videotaped evidence to the Whitewater trials, both escaped criminal proceedings.
Hillary was accused by a New York Times columnist of being a ‘congenital liar’ (pictured together in 1998)
But hardly scot-free. The collateral damage to both their marriage and his reputation was huge.
The Arkansas ‘assaults’
In 1999, Juanita Broaddrick, a nursing home administrator, alleged that she had been raped by Bill Clinton in 1978 when he was Arkansas attorney general.
She would not speak about the incident again until January this year, when she tweeted: ‘I was 35 years old when Bill Clinton, Ark. Attorney General raped me and Hillary tried to silence me. I am now 73 . . . it never goes away.’
She subsequently appeared on a panel at one of the presidential debates with Donald Trump and other alleged Clinton victims.
Mr Clinton’s predatory approach to young females was first described by Paula Jones, an Arkansas state employee. She alleged that in 1991, aged 24, she had been sexually propositioned by the then governor Clinton in a Little Rock hotel room. He also exposed himself, she said.
In 1994, with Clinton by then in the White House, Ms Jones filed a claim for sexual harassment against him and demanded $750,000 in damages. The case dragged through the civil courts until November 1998, when the President settled for the amount she had demanded. There was no apology.
By then the affair had spun way out of Clinton’s control. In the course of the Jones litigation, her legal team had tried to establish that the President’s alleged behaviour was part of a pattern.
Among those subpoenaed was one Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern.
She would initially deny in evidence any relationship. But the later Lewinsky testimony — which centred on an infamous semen-stained dress — and Bill Clinton’s pitiful semantics about what did and did not constitute sex, would lead to his impeachment.
‘Zippergate’ and Monica Lewinsky
In his deposition for the Paula Jones lawsuit, Clinton flatly denied ‘sexual relations’ with the then 22-year-old Californian Lewinsky.
Whitewater investigator Starr was informed otherwise by key witness Linda Tripp. He decided that the President had committed perjury. Later, before a grand jury, the President claimed that he thought ‘sexual relations’ did not include oral sex.
Clinton also made a humiliating televised statement, admitting to a ‘not appropriate’ relationship with the intern. A stone-faced Hillary stood by his side.
Bill Clinton was impeached in December 1998 on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice (Hillary with Bill during her speech following her defeat to Trump)
In fact, Miss Lewinsky would say that sex acts had taken place on nine occasions, including in the Oval Office, between 1995-97.
Clinton was impeached in December 1998 on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
As the nation held its breath the President was acquitted at trial before the U.S. Senate. He would still be punished, however. A judge found Clinton in civil contempt of court in relation to his misleading testimony in the Paula Jones case.
He was fined and ordered to pay costs. In January 2001 the Arkansas Bar Association suspended President Clinton’s licence to practise for five years.
Wealth and the Clinton Foundation
Mired in legal fees from their run-ins with prosecutors, the Clintons set about making money from their White House years. And how they have succeeded. Private speeches for banks and other corporations at $250,000 a time have earned them a fortune, put at $150 million.
Much of this wealth has been poured into the family charity, the Clinton Foundation, which was established in 1997. Bill, Hillary and their daughter Chelsea are all directors and the foundation has been used as a vehicle for a number of global philanthropic projects.
But it has also come under fire for poor accounting, alleged cronyism and conflicts of interest, and has laid the Clintons open to accusations of undue influence by wealthy donors.
Mrs Clinton reportedly pulled in $22 million in advances for her memoirs. Tax returns showed the Clintons’ 2014 income at $28 million.
The epithet ‘Learjet liberals’ — aimed at the Clintons and their ilk — is not meant to be flattering. It suggests a disconnect with the American people that Donald Trump was only too successful in exploiting.
It emerged that while Secretary of State, Mrs Clinton had been using a vulnerable private email server to send classified information
The Benghazi attack
On September 11, 2012, the American ambassador to Libya and three of his countrymen died during an assault by militants on the isolated U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Mrs Clinton, then Secretary of State, was accused by opponents of failing to protect U.S. installations and personnel. She knew the attacks were coming, they said, and did nothing.
The matter became a political football during Mrs Clinton’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. She had to testify before a House committee investigating the attack, but it failed to find a smoking gun which would damage her credibility as a leader.
But during the investigation another highly embarrassing matter concerning private emails came to light which would be seized upon by the Trump camp.
Once again she would be cleared of serious wrongdoing, but only at the 11th hour. The damage done to her campaign by this was possibly fatal, say some analysts.
The private emails
It emerged that while Secretary of State, Mrs Clinton had been using a vulnerable private email server to send classified information. This was at best reckless, at worst criminally negligent.
In July, the FBI announced it would not recommend criminal charges. While she had been ‘extremely careless’, it looked as if Mrs Clinton was in the clear.
Then came the bombshell. Ten days before polling day, FBI director James Comey sent a letter to Congress to say that his bureau was reviewing yet another tranche of Clinton emails related to her use of the private server. Trump’s people seized gleefully on this as evidence of poor judgment.
On Sunday, however, Comey said the FBI had given the emails a clean bill of health. But many Democrats feel that by then the damage had been done in the eyes of the voters. The Clinton dream of a White House dynasty was over.