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Altman steps aside in Whitewater case

Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman, a political appointee serving as temporary chief of the federal thrift cleanup agency, recused himself from any further action on the investigation of an Arkansas savings and loan with ties to President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Altman announced he was taking the step Friday, one day after revealing during congressional questioning that he recently briefed White House officials on how his agency would proceed with potential civil claims growing out of the failure of Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan. Altman's disclosure was criticized as evidence that the White House is interfering in a case that directly affects the Clintons.

Altman also said he would step down as interim head of the Resolution Trust Corp. at the end of March. The RTC is disposing of failed S&Ls and pursuing civil and criminal cases against officers, directors, borrowers and others.

Meanwhile Friday, Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, the ranking Republican on the House Banking Committee, released new portions of a taped conversation in which the Clintons' former business partner, James McDougal, disputes their accounting of their investment in their joint Whitewater land venture. McDougal said in the 1992 conversation that the Clintons never made a $9,000 interest payment that they claimed on their 1980 federal income taxes and that they used corporate assets to pay off a personal loan.

In a memo, Leach said McDougal's comments "appear to indicate that the Clintons lost no money in Whitewater" and "they also suggest that the tax consequences which emanate from this venture merit careful scrutiny."