Suicide of Vince Foster

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Deputy White House counsel Vincent W. Foster was found dead in Fort Marcy Park off the George Washington Parkway in Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., on July 20, 1993. His death was ruled a suicide by six official investigations, but remains a subject of conspiracy theories.

Suicide and investigation[edit]

Park Police discovered Foster, dead from an apparently self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head, in Fort Marcy Park off the George Washington Parkway in Virginia, on July 20, 1993. Foster was holding a gun in his hand. An autopsy and subsequent investigation later confirmed that Foster had committed suicide by shooting himself once in the mouth with the .38 caliber revolver found at the scene. [1]

Subsequent investigations found that Foster was distraught over accusations and criticisms related to the White House Travel Office controversy. Foster had confided to friends and colleagues that he was considering resignation, but feared that he could not handle the "personal humiliation" of returning to Arkansas in defeat. Foster admitted to his sister that he was depressed shortly before his death, and he sought treatment for depression one day before committing suicide. [2]

Although police found no evidence of foul play, several tabloids and right-leaning newsletters speculated that Foster's death may have been a homicide, possibly involving the Clintons themselves.[3] Subsequent investigations by White House special counsel Robert Fiske, and the Senate Banking Committee concluded that there was no evidence of a homicide. A final investigation, led by White House independent Counsel Kenneth Starr also concluded that there was no evidence to support the claim the Foster was murdered. Starr's report addressed several additional questions about physical and forensic evidence that had previously fueled speculation about the case. The report established that Foster owned the handgun used in the suicide, and confirmed that the body had not been moved from its position prior to its discovery by police. The report concluded “In sum, based on all of the available evidence, which is considerable, the OIC [Office of Independent Counsel] agrees with the conclusion reached by every official entity that has examined the issue: Mr. Foster committed suicide by gunshot in Fort Marcy Park on July 20, 1993.”[4]

The suicide has nevertheless continued to fuel speculation: then-presidential candidate Donald Trump made news in 2016 when he remarked in an interview with the Washington Post that Foster's death was "very fishy", and added "I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder. I don’t do that because I don’t think it’s fair.”[5]

Evidence[edit]

Torn note[edit]

A draft of a resignation letter, was found torn into 27 pieces after his death in a briefcase.[6] One piece, which may have contained a signature, was missing.

William Safire referred in The New York Times to "the so-called suicide note, which appeared belatedly in 27 pieces, not one with a fingerprint, and with the signature space missing"[7] The full text of the note is as follows:

I made mistakes from ignorance, inexperience and overwork
I did not knowingly violate any law or standard of conduct
No one in The White House, to my knowledge, violated any law or standard of conduct, including any action in the travel office. There was no intent to benefit any individual or specific group
The FBI lied in their report to the AG
The press is covering up the illegal benefits they received from the travel staff
The GOP has lied and misrepresented its knowledge and role and covered up a prior investigation
The Ushers Office plotted to have excessive costs incurred, taking advantage of Kaki and HRC
The public will never believe the innocence of the Clintons and their loyal staff
The WSJ editors lie without consequence
I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here ruining people is considered sport.[8]

Associate White House counsel, Steve Neuwirth, discovered the torn pieces of the note in Foster's briefcase on July 26.[9] After receiving the note from Neuwirth, White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum handled the note various times before giving it to Park Police Lieutenant Joseph Megby the following evening.[10]

The United States Department of Justice revealed the note's contents at a joint press conference with the Park Police on August 10.[10][11] The DoJ stated that a smudged palm print was on the note, but no fingerprints; they confirmed the handwriting as Foster's.[11]

Independent Counsel Robert Ray's report regarding the Whitewater controversy stated the FBI Laboratory performed a 1995 fingerprint examination of the note and identified Nussbaum's palm print on it.[10][12] The report stated that three separate handwriting analyses of the note by the Capitol Police and the FBI determined that the handwriting on the note was Foster's.[10]

Conspiracy theories[edit]

The Arkansas Project[edit]

On May 2, 1999, the Washington Post published new details on the pursuit of a Foster conspiracy in an article by David Brock, a key figure in the Troopergate and Whitewater scandals whose disillusionment with the political corruption motivating what would come to be known as the Arkansas Project ended his lifelong commitment to the Conservative movement and facilitated public dissemination of insider details on G.O.P. machinations. The article explains how Brock was "summoned" to a meeting with Rex Armistead in Miami, Florida at an airport hotel. Brock claims that Armistead laid out for him an elaborate "Vince Foster murder scenario" – a scenario that he found implausible.[13]

The Clinton Chronicles: A Political Firestorm[edit]

Veteran crime reporter Dan Moldea, wrote a book titled A Washington Tragedy: How the Death of Vincent Foster Ignited a Political Firestorm. Moldea was approached in 1997 by Regnery Publishing House, a famously conservative group whose leadership was nevertheless impressed by Moldea's published works, including an exhaustive critique of LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman, another Regnery author.[citation needed]

In researching the debacle created by and surrounding Foster's death, Moldea found that the most oft-used conspiracy scenario could be traced back to Park Police Major Robert Hines, who shared the idea with Reed Irvine (Accuracy in Media) and Christopher Ruddy (New York Post).[14] Moldea concludes, and Maj. Hines publicly maintains, that Hines incorrectly told Irvine and Ruddy "... that there is no exit wound in Foster's head ... I don't think there was anything nefarious here; he was being approached by reporters and he wanted something to say."[14] Still, the "missing" exit wound claim continued to surface.[citation needed]

Moldea's research sought, among other things, to discover the origins of this line of investigation into the Clintons' credibility. In an interview for Salon.com, he suggests that "Foster had some blond hair and carpet fibers on his suit jacket, and he had semen in his underwear. So, the Jerry Falwells and the right-wing crowd get a hold of this information, and…they start making movies alleging that the Clintons were involved in this murder."[14]

In 1994, Falwell subsidized the creation of a film called The Clinton Chronicles that featured Ruddy's claims that the gun that killed Foster was placed in his hand after the fact, and that Foster's body was laid out to give the appearance of suicide, among others.[14] Funding for the film was provided by Citizens for Honest Government, an organization to which Falwell gave $200,000 in 1994 and 1995.[15]

Citizens for Honest Government covertly paid individuals who had provided information to media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the American Spectator magazine;"[15] and in 1995, made discretionary payments to two Arkansas state troopers who had spoken out in support of the idea of a conspiracy surrounding Foster's death. The two troopers, Roger Perry and Larry Patterson, had also previously given testimony supporting Paula Jones' claims of sexual misconduct and misuse of government resources against Bill Clinton (see Troopergate).[15]

Patrick Matrisciana, president of Citizens for Honest Government, produced The Clinton Chronicles video and appeared in its commercials as an "investigative reporter" where he and Rev. Falwell engaged in the following exchange:[15]

Falwell: "Could you please tell me and the American people why you think that your life and the lives of the others on this video are in danger?"
Matrisciana: "Jerry, two weeks ago we had an interview with a man who was an insider; his plane crashed and he was killed an hour before the interview. You may say this is just a coincidence, but there was another fellow that we were also going to interview, and he was killed in a plane crash. Jerry, are these coincidences? I don't think so."

When asked about the spot, Matrisciana admitted he was not a reporter and replied "I doubt our lives were actually ever in any real danger. That was Jerry's idea to do that ... He thought that would be dramatic."[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Labaton, Stephen (1993-08-06). "Autopsy on Counsel to President Points to Suicide". New York Times. Retrieved 5 August 2017. 
  2. ^ Von Drehle, David; Schneider, Howard (1994-07-01). "Foster's Death a Suicide". Washington Post. Retrieved 5 August 2017. 
  3. ^ Watson, Russell (1994-03-20). "VINCE FOSTER'S SUICIDE: THE RUMOR MILL CHURNS". Newsweek. Retrieved 5 August 2017. 
  4. ^ Kessler, Glenn. "r No, Donald Trump, there’s nothing ‘fishy’ about Vince Foster’s suicide" (2016-05-25). Washington Post. Retrieved 5 August 2017. 
  5. ^ DelReal, Jose A.; Costa, Robert (2016-05-23). "Trump escalates attack on Bill Clinton". Washington Post. Retrieved 5 August 2017. 
  6. ^ Johnston, David; Lewis, Neil (February 4, 1994). "Report Suggests Clinton Counsel Hampered Suicide Investigation". The New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2017. ...One investigator said he had watched Mr. Nussbaum inspect the briefcase earlier without finding the note.... 
  7. ^ "Foster's Ghost", nytimes.com, January 6, 1994; accessed July 27, 2017.
  8. ^ Comprehensive Textbook of Suicidology. Guilford Press. 2000. p. 281. ISBN 1-57230-541-X. 
  9. ^ Ray, Robert W. (January 5, 2001). "Part E: The Discovery and Removal of Documents from Vincent W. Foster Jr.'s Office" (pdf). Final Report of the Independent Counsel in Re Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association. III. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Publishing Office. p. 277. Retrieved July 31, 2017. 
  10. ^ a b c d Final Report of the Independent Counsel in Re Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association, Volume III, Part E 2001, p. 278.
  11. ^ a b Apple Jr., R.W. (August 11, 1993). "Note Left by White House Aide: Accusation, Anger and Despair". The New York Times. Retrieved July 31, 2017. 
  12. ^ Moldea, Dan E. (1998). A Washington Tragedy: How the Death of Vincent Foster Ignited a Political Firestorm. Regnery Publishing. p. 367. Retrieved July 30, 2017. “…A fingerprint analysis of Foster's note by the FBI also reveals…that the palm print found on the note had been left by Bernard Nussbaum….” 
  13. ^ "'Arkansas Project' Led to Turmoil and Rifts". Washington Post: A24. May 2, 1999. Retrieved 2006-05-03. 
  14. ^ a b c d Lori Leibovich, "Why Vincent Foster can't rest in peace", Salon.com, May 28, 1998.
  15. ^ a b c d e Murray WaasThe Falwell connection, Salon.com, March 11, 1998.

Books[edit]

External links[edit]