Tuesday, May 31, 2016

HISTORY’S RICH WITH MYSTERIES----"VINCE FOSTER – The Skeleton in Hillary's Closet" by Earl Staggs

Earl is back today to close out May with a case that is relatively recent……


When I look at the past, I find stories about people which fascinate me, particularly those in which there is a curious mixture of fact, legend, and mysterious uncertainty. In this series of articles, I want to explore some of those stories. I think of them as mysteries swaddled in legend. While truth is always desired in most things, truth easily becomes staid and boring. Legend, on the other hand, forever holds a hint of romanticism and an aura of excitement borne of adventure, imagination and, of course, mystery.

VINCE FOSTER – The Skeleton in Hillary's Closet

On July 20, 1993, Vince Foster, a White House Deputy Council and long-time friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, told his secretary he would be right back and walked out of his office in the White House.  He didn't come back.  Later that day, his body was found in a park in a Virginia suburb of Washington D.C.
Three separate investigations were completed, and each one offered a conclusion that he had committed suicide.
In spite of those findings, there have been conspiracy theories surrounding his death from the very beginning.  Many people still feel he was murdered to prevent him from disclosing information he had been privy to during his time in the White House.  Vince found himself knee-deep in scandals named Whitewatergate and Travelgate, falsified tax returns, financial shennanigans from when Bill Clinton was Governor of Arkansas, and more.
Vince Walker Foster, Jr.,  was born on January 15, 1946, in Hope, Arkansas, where his father was successful in real estate sales and development.  Bill Clinton was a childhood neighbor and friend in his early years.  As Clinton later recalled, "I lived with my grandparents in a modest little house across from Vince Foster's nice, big, white brick house."
Vince spent more time with Hillary, however, in the days before all three of them wound up in the White House. 

In 1971, Vince joined  Rose Law Firm in Little Rock and was made a partner in 1974.  He served as head of the Arkansas Bar Association's legal aid unit, and worked with legal aid clinic worker Hillary Rodham.  He was instrumental in her being hired by Rose Law Firm and the two of them worked a number of cases together.  And, yes, there were rumors about them being together in intimate situations also.
Vince gained a reputation as one of the best trial litigators in Arkansas, and in her memoirs, Hillary called him, "one of the best lawyers I've ever known." He was one of her closest colleagues and best friends. She compared him to Gregory Peck's role as Atticus Finch in the 1962 film, To Kill a Mockingbird.
He received many awards from the Arkansas Bar Association, and in 1993,  the Association named him its Outstanding Lawyer of the Year.  The Washington Post said he was at "the pinnacle of the Arkansas legal establishment." 
After Bill Clinton's 1992 election as President, Vince joined his staff as Deputy White House Counsel.  Vince was not well-suited to top level politics.  Some of the matters he had to deal with were high profile and controversial and left him with feelings of anxiety and depression.   In addition, the Wall Street Journal made him a target of several hostile editorials. 
After only six months on the job, he had spiraled into depression.  He disliked the public spotlight and began to suffer from weight loss and insomnia.  He began drafting his letter of resignation.  His Arkansas doctor prescribed an anti-depressant medication over the phone, but the initial dosage was not enough to have much effect. The next day, he was found dead from a gunshot in Fort Marcy Park, a federal park in Virginia.  There was no mention of any other wounds on his body.
Investigators found a paper in his briefcase that had been torn into pieces.  It was initially interpreted as a "suicide note," but it was actually a draft of his resignation letter.  He also had scheduled an appointment with President Clinton for July 21, a day after his death.  It's assumed that meeting was to discuss his resignation.  The letter contained a list of complaints, including, "The WSJ editors lie without consequence" and "I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here, ruining people is considered sport."
In early May, 1993, Foster had given the commencement address at his University of Arkansas Law School alma mater, and said:         

"The reputation you develop for intellectual and ethical integrity will be your greatest asset or your worst enemy. You will be judged by your judgment. ... There is no victory, no advantage, no fee, no favor, which is worth even a blemish on your reputation for intellect and integrity. Dents to reputation are irreparable."

It's not hard to surmise that things he had to do on the White House staff violated those principles.
It's also not hard to picture a man so conflicted over the wide chasm between his job and his principles that he would take his own life to escape it.
It's just as easy to surmise that, according to conspiracy theorists, those in power felt Vince was a threat to cleanse his own guilt by exposing theirs to the public.  He knew too much, and those in power may have feared he would go public.  The order may have been to, "Take care of him and make it look like suicide"
Here are some of the points conspirators use to prove their theory that he was murdered:

            . . .a report confirmed the existence of a second wound to Vince's neck.  This would imply that he had been shot and killed by a gunshot to the neck,  then transported to Fort Marcy Park where a second shot was fired into his mouth to simulate suicide. 

            . . .the FBI faked a report in which Vince's widow identified the gun found with Vince's body. The gun she identified was silver.  The gun seen and photographed with his body was black. 

            . . .the White House is equipped with sophisticated entry control and video surveillance systems, yet no video record exists of Vince leaving under his own power and no logbook entry shows he checked out of the building.  

            . . the memory in Vince's pager had been erased.

            . . .a Secret Service agent and Hillary's chief of staff carried boxes of papers out of Vince's office before the Park Police showed up to seal it.

            . . .the position of the arms and legs of the corpse were drastically inconsistent with suicide.

            . . .had Vince put the gun in his own mouth and pulled the trigger, the gun, his hand, and the white sleeve of his shirt would have been coated with blood and organic matter. None appeared in the crime scene photos.

            . . .an FBI lab report revealed that Vince's fingerprints were not found on the gun.

So there you have both sides of a controversy which has remained alive since 1993.  The evidence that Vince Foster was murdered is strong.  There is also ample evidence that he could not deal with the stress of high level politics and took his own life.

While I find myself drawn to the scenario in which he was silenced by a bullet, I seriously doubt either of the Clintons were involved. Hillary was devastated by the news of Vince's death. He was a close friend. At that level of politics, there are people involved in major decisions who stay behind a curtain and pull strings. I'm sure we'll never know what really happened.

I'm just as sure that, as the race for the Presidency rolls on. . and on. . .and on, we might hear a lot more about the Vince Foster case and its relevance to politicians named Clinton. Unless someone can prove Hillary had something to do with Vince's death or even knew about it before it happened, I don't think it should be thrown in front of her campaign bus.

Earl Staggs ©2016

Earl Staggs earned all Five Star reviews for his novels MEMORY OF A MURDER and JUSTIFIED ACTION and has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.  He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars. 

He invites any comments via email at earlstaggs@sbcglobal.net

He also invites you to visit his blog site at http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com to learn more about his novels and stories.


Linda Thorne said...

I remember this well, but had forgotten many of the details. Thanks for the update. I was always curious what really might've happened. I'm not sure we'll ever know. I do remember hearing about people getting rid of things in Vince Foster's office. I remember suggestions of Hillary's involvement.

jrlindermuth said...

Just another of the many, many unproven allegations against the Clintons. Even Foster's sister repudiates the conspiracy theories and called Trump out on it when he raised the subject recently.

Earl Staggs said...

Linda, suggestion of Hillary's involvement have persisted since it happened, but there has not been any concrete evidence. Until we know for sure, I don't like to point fingers. It doesn't seem right to me for anyone to try to use this case against her now since there's no proof. It's that old innocent till proven guilty thing.

Earl Staggs said...

You're right, John. Using unproven allegations against anyone is not how things are supposed to work. In politics, unfortunately, the rules seem to be different and anything goes. That's one of the things about politics and elections that upset me.

Linda Thorne said...

Earl, I'm not saying blame should be put on Hillary. I was just remembering that Hillary seemed to be taking the blunt of the blame in the press back then. I don't know what really happened. The idea that he may've been murdered seems over the top to me. Definitely wouldn't think Hillary (or Bill for that matter) would be involved in any way in a murder. I see the part about her being upset by his death as quite likely.
Now, the "cover-up" part (removing documents) is something I can see happening. Politicians are known for trying to keep things out of the press (sometimes not even things that are that big of a deal).

Dia said...

This is so interesting! I'm curious about who conducted the three separate investigations and which one/s reported the second wound. Thanks for pulling together all the info succinctly.

Earl Staggs said...

Without irrefutable proof, Linda, I don't think the Clintons or anyone else should be blamed. It's still quite possible Vince took his own life. As for removing documents from his office, like you said, most politicians have things they would not like to be made public. Some of those may simply be extremely personal and some may be illegal. I think we would be shocked if all the hidden secrets in Washington were to come out.

Earl Staggs said...

The first investigation, Dia, was by the United States Park Police in 1993. Because of where the body was found, it fell in their jurisdiction. Due to Foster's position in the White House, the FBI assisted in the investigation.

A coroner, along with Independent Counsel Robert B. Fiske, investigated and released a 58-page report in 1994.

Following a three-year investigation, Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr released a report in 1997.

In addition, there was a mention of two investigations by the U.S. Congress, but I could find no details about them.

All of those studies concluded Vince Foster committed suicide by sticking a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger.

The report of another bullet wound came from Kenneth Starr's lead prosecutor, Miguel Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez referred to photographs showing a neck wound. In addition, four paramedics recalled seeing the wound. One of them described it as a bullet hole about the size of a .22-caliber round. Mr. Starr did not include any of this information in his final report, and this discrepancy eventually led to Mr. Rodriguez's resignation.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I believe there was also a discussion indicating that the body may have been moved. There was also the info that Foster was left handed yet the gun was found in his right hand.

Earl Staggs said...

Those are two more points stressed by conspiracy theorists, Jacqueline. Add up all the points, and it's easy to see why the question persists: Did he commit suicide or was he murdered? There are good arguments on both sides, which means we have another unsolved mystery which may never be solved.