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A Texas congressman said President Bill Clinton intimidated the government’s lead lawyer into not seeking an indictment of Hillary Clinton by telling her, "We killed Vince Foster."
Did Clinton, desperate to help his wife, declare as much about killing Foster, the White House deputy counsel at the start of Clinton’s two terms?
That's what Rep. Pete Olson said in a June 9, 2017, interview on the Houston-based Sam Malone Show.
Conspiracy theories have abounded since Foster’s body was found in 1993--all of a part with unsubstantiated tales alleging the Clintons share a sordid history of sidelining people. Over the years, debunkists at Snopes.com and for The Washington Post’s Fact Checker each found no basis to claims about fishiness in Foster's death.
Olson, R-Sugar Land, initially said in his radio interview that it was "awfully strange" for Bill Clinton to bump into then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch on an Arizona airport tarmac at a time in 2016 when Hillary Clinton’s handling of email was under Justice Department review.
"I guarantee you," Olson said, "they had the conversation where he basically said, ‘Mrs. Lynch, call your attack dog off. We’ve killed people. We killed Vince Foster. We destroyed Webb Hubbell. We will destroy you.’ And then what happens to things?," Olson said. "All of a sudden--well, she did it, yeah, it was all terrible, don’t know who got the information, very classified. But no indictment."
Olson was correct about about a few points.
Bill Clinton on June 27, 2016, met privately with Lynch in a plane on the tarmac of Phoenix’s airport. Also, Hillary Clinton was not indicted for how she handled confidential emails. By authoritative accounts, too, Foster, an Arkansas lawyer close to the Clintons, suffered from depression affected by what he felt to be his own personal failings in handling White House events including the Travelgate and Whitewater matters before he was found dead with a gun in his hand in a Washington-area park.
But we identified no evidence for Olson’s claim that Bill Clinton told Lynch the Clintons killed Foster.
Lynch insisted at the time that the airplane conversation centered on topics such as Clinton’s grandchildren. Our search of the Nexis news database turned up no Bill Clinton accounts of what was discussed.
A delayed backpedal
Olson himself backed off after his account was brought to light by Right Wing Watch, a project of a liberal group, People for the American Way, 11 days after the radio interview. In a written statement made available the same day, Olson said in part that "in my discussion about Loretta Lynch and Vince Foster, I took the accusations a step too far. I regret my choice of words."
On June 23, 2017, we asked Olson after he spoke at a Capitol Hill conference on civility in public life if he’d intended his radio comment about Bill Clinton to be factual. Olson replied: "That was a little out of bounds. It was over the top. I regret it and I apologized for it."
A series of investigations of Foster’s death include the July 1994 finding of a special counsel, Robert B. Fiske Jr., that Foster’s death in the area’s Fort Marcy Park in July 1993 was a suicide influenced by Foster’s depression associated with episodes involving his legal work for the Clinton White House. Fiske concluded that "Foster's death was a personal collapse, not a White House scandal," The Washington Post said in a news story at the time.
"The Fiske investigation involved four lawyers, five physicians, seven FBI agents, approximately 125 witnesses; also DNA tests, microscopes and lasers," the newspaper reported.
In October 1997, an investigation by the office of Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr reaffirmed that Foster committed suicide, the Post then reported.
"The report concludes that Foster was severely depressed about his work at the White House, took a revolver from a closet in his home, placed it in an oven mitt, and on the afternoon of July 20, 1993, drove to a Virginia park and shot himself," the story said. "And it contains new forensic details that refute the conspiracy theories that have long surrounded his death – that Foster was a victim of foul play, or that his body was moved to Fort Marcy Park after his death at another location, perhaps the White House," the story said.
The report itself states in its closing summary: "The available evidence points clearly to suicide as the manner of death." The summary also quoted Dr. Alan L. Berman, an expert suicidologist, saying: "No plausible evidence has been presented to support any other conclusion."
Previously, the story said, Fiske and two bipartisan congressional panels similarly concluded that Foster took his own life.
By email, we connected with Berman, who said of Olson’s claim: "There is not a scintilla of fact in this statement – it is a blatant falsehood, unsupported and unsupportable. There were four investigations into Foster’s death, all arriving at the same conclusion."
Olson said Bill Clinton said "we killed" Foster.
There’s no evidence of Clinton saying as much nor a factual basis for anyone to say the Clintons killed Foster. This claim, which Olson backed off after it became widely known, adds up to a baseless accusation.
Pants on Fire!
PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim. Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.
Web post, "GOP Congressman: Bill Clinton Warned Loretta Lynch He Would Kill Her Like Vince Foster," Right Wing Watch, June 20, 2017
Fact-check, "Clinton Body Bags," Snopes.com, Jan. 24, 1998, updated July 7, 2016
Fact-check, "No, Donald Trump, there’s nothing ‘fishy’ about Vince Foster’s suicide," the Fact Checker, The Washington Post, May 25, 2016
News story, "Texas congressman says remarks on Clintons, Vince Foster were 'a step too far,'" Texas Tribune, June 20, 2017
Statement from Rep. Pete Olson, June 20, 2017 (received by email from Melissa Kelly, deputy chief of staff, communications director, Rep. Olson, June 21, 2017)
Interview, Pete Olson, U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, June 23, 2017
News story, "Loretta Lynch, Bill Clinton meeting raises eyebrows," USA Today, June 30, 2016
News story, "Loretta Lynch to Accept F.B.I. Recommendations in Clinton Email Inquiry," New York Times, July 1, 2016
News story, "Comey: Loretta Lynch's Tarmac Meeting With Bill Clinton Forced Me To Go Public About Clinton Investigation," Real Clear Politics, May 3, 2017
Report, "Whitewater: The Foster Report," The Washington Post, posted Oct. 11, 1997
Email, Dr. Alan L. Berman, suicidologist, June 30, 2017
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