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Editorial - The Union Leader Online

July 24, 1998 Richard Lessner

The fifth anniversary of Vince Foster's mysterious death passed this week with little notice.

When I was last in Washington, I drove out one afternoon to Fort Marcy Park on the Virginia side of the Potomac and parked in the space where Foster's locked car was found on the evening of July 20, 1993. Deeper in the park, near an old cannon, Foster's body was found, an antique pistol gripped awkwardly in his hand, his thumb on the trigger.

I do not intend here to rehash the many inconsistencies surrounding Foster's alleged suicide -- the mysterious "suicide note" found sans fingerprints during a second search of an empty briefcase, the inability of anyone to establish where the antique gun came from or where Foster got the bullets, the botched crime scene investigation, the mishandled autopsy, the conflicting chronologies.

No one in any official capacity is still investigating Vince Foster's death. The Park Service Police, the FBI and two independent counsels -- Robert Fiske and Ken Starr -- all have signed off on the official suicide finding. Only a handful of dogged researchers and conservative activists keep the Foster case alive, though on life support, mostly via the Internet and talk radio.

Yet Vince Foster is the one thread that runs through the scandals involving Bill and Hillary Clinton -- Whitewater, Travelgate, FBI Filegate and, yes, even the Monica Lewinsky affair. The truth about Foster's death doubtless could blow the lid off this cauldron of corruption.

Clinterngate appears to be unrelated to the previous Clinton scandals. This looks like a straightforward sex scandal involving a libidinous President, already known to be a notorious Lothario, and a star-struck and possibly conniving young woman. Yet even Monicagate reaches back to involve Foster.

It now is known that Linda Tripp's confidential file was among the more than 900 FBI files that the White House illegally obtained in 1994. Today, Linda Tripp is famous as Monica Lewinsky's friend who taped their conversations about steamy sex in the Oval Office and Bill Clinton's possible perjury, witness tampering and subornation of perjury.

But why was Linda Tripp's FBI file invaded way back in 1994 when she was an anonymous mid-level White House staffer? Because she was the last person in the White House to see Vince Foster alive the day he allegedly drove to Fort Marcy Park and shot himself.

At the time the White House grabbed the Tripp FBI file, the Clintonoids were scrambling desperately to get their ducks in a row -- that is, coordinate their stories -- on the events surrounding Foster's death in response to the first independent counsel investigation.

The man who pulled Linda Tripp's FBI file was the shady Craig Livingstone, the former White House security director. The reasonable conclusion is that Livingstone was looking for something to use against her, some leverage to make certain she would back the White House version of the Foster suicide. It was shortly after this that Ms. Tripp was transferred against her will to the Pentagon.

It also was Craig Livingstone who, the night Foster died, showed up at the hospital demanding to see the body. It was only after Livingstone and fellow White House aide Bruce Lindsey were allowed to view the body that Foster's car keys turned up in his trouser pocket. The Park Police had searched Foster's pockets at the scene in Fort Marcy Park, but failed to find his car keys. This puzzled the police and caused some to question the suicide scenario. How did Foster get to the park -- his Honda was parked in the lot -- without his car keys, unless someone was with him and took the keys, or he died elsewhere and his body was planted to make it appear a suicide?

Craig Livingstone also was observed removing boxes of files from Foster's White House office in the hours after Foster's death. Foster was the Clintons' lawyer on the Whitewater scandal and he was Hillary's hit man on the bogus Travel Office purge. It was Foster's copy of Hillary's subpoenaed Whitewater billing records that disappeared, only to turn up mysteriously two years later in the First Lady's office.

Charles Colson, the hapless Nixon aide in the Watergate affair, was sent to prison for searching one FBI file. Yet Craig Livingstone never has been indicted, let alone convicted, for illegally obtaining more than 900 FBI files. Today, Livingstone lives in sunny California and works for one of Bill Clinton's big campaign contributors.

What gives? Why has Ken Starr's investigation of Filegate fizzled? Because Craig Livingstone cannot be squeezed. He holds the trump card: The truth about Vince Foster's death. If Ken Starr were to indict, then Livingstone could threaten to reveal what he knows about Foster's death, and no one wants that.

Not Mr. Starr, who already has signed off on the suicide theory and who would look the fool were Livingstone to tell all.

Not Congress, which recoils from investigating the Foster affair. (Rep. Dan Burton was willing to probe Foster's death, and for his trouble he was roundly jeered in the Washington press.)  And certainly not the Justice Department, which has been thoroughly corrupted by the hideous Clintons.

No one, it seems, is anxious to think the unthinkable about the death of Vince Foster. So Craig Livingstone remains a free man, despite his egregious violation of federal laws and Linda Tripp's privacy. Five years after Vince Foster's body was discovered in Fort Marcy Park we are no closer to the truth about his mysterious death, though his ghost continues to haunt the Clinton scandals large and small.

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