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Whitewater jury ends, probe goes on

The federal grand jury in Little Rock, Ark., that has been examining the Whitewater affair for the last two years completed its final working day Tuesday without bringing any charges against Hillary Rodham Clinton, a central target of the investigation.

While the expiration of a grand jury is usually cause for celebration to targets who are never indicted, White House aides said they were under no illusion that the Whitewater independent counsel, Kenneth Starr, had concluded his criminal investigations of President Clinton and first lady.

The grand jury in Little Rock had focused heavily on Mrs. Clinton's legal work more than a decade ago on behalf of the operators of a corrupt savings association, according to witnesses who appeared before the grand jurors.

As if to underscore that the investigations of the first family are far from over, another federal grand jury empaneled by Starr in Washington to investigate the president's relationship with a former White House intern heard more testimony from Vernon Jordan, the president's close friend. Jordan helped find a job in New York for the onetime intern, Monica Lewinsky, as she was coming under pressure to provide testimony about her relationship with Clinton in the Paula Jones sexual misconduct lawsuit.

The Washington grand jury is examining whether anyone committed perjury, obstruction of justice or witness tampering to hide the relationship between Clinton and Lewinsky.

Aides to the Clintons Tuesday pointed to the expiration of the Arkansas grand jury as further proof that no criminal case can be made against them, but they also held out little hope that prosecutors would slow their pursuit.

"Until they announce they will not empanel another grand jury, I'm not even going to break out a Diet Coke," said an adviser to the Clintons.

Press secretary Mike McCurry said the president is "not expecting that it will fundamentally change things one way or another."

"The persistent quest for something in Whitewater will likely continue," McCurry said.

Whitewater investigators also cautioned not to read too much into the end of the Arkansas grand jury, which was set to expire Thursday. They said the work of the old grand jury may be used by another grand jury, either a new one in Arkansas or the one in Washington.

"The investigation is ongoing," said Charles Bakaly III, counselor for Starr. "For someone to conclude there will be no future actions would be pure speculation."

Some White House aides accused Starr of waging a public relations campaign in which prosecutors were trying to divert attention from the lack of indictments out of Little Rock.

"We have had several working assumptions for some time," said one senior White House official. "One is that there were not and would not be any grounds for any action against Mrs. Clinton; second, that it would be extremely difficult for Ken Starr to acknowledge that."

The Arkansas grand jury has been examining the Clintons' ties to the late James McDougal and his former wife, Susan, operators of Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan, which failed in 1989 at a cost to taxpayers of more than $60-million.

In one of its final acts, the grand jurors indicted McDougal Monday on three counts of criminal contempt and obstruction of justice after she refused to answer questions about the couple's financial dealings with the Clintons, their partners in the Whitewater development venture. The indictment was the only one handed up by the grand jury, although previous grand juries summoned by Starr had indicted other figures involved in the case.

A grand juror leaving the Little Rock courthouse Tuesday expressed frustration at the outcome of the proceeding but said that the jury had been fair and thorough.

"There were a lot of open-ended things we had to close the door on," said the juror, who refused to identify himself. "It's sort of futile that we didn't do anything more than we ended up doing, but it was worth it."

For weeks, the Washington grand jury has been hearing from minor witnesses in the Lewinsky inquiry, but this week it appears it will be hearing from some important players. In addition to Jordan's appearance, White House aides say they expect Betty Currie, the president's personal secretary, to return soon.

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