Real estate mogul Donald Trump is beginning to turn back the clock to the 1990s by bringing up an event that drew numerous conspiracy theories: Vince Foster’s death.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Trump complained about the “nasty things” the Clintons have been saying about him, and then signaled that he would dig up old Clinton scandals to use as a bludgeon against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“It’s the one thing with her, whether it’s Whitewater or whether it’s Vince or whether it’s Benghazi. It’s always a mess with Hillary,” Trump said.
Trump went on to say that Foster’s death was “very fishy.”
“He [Foster] had intimate knowledge of what was going on,” Trump said. “He knew everything that was going on, and then all of a sudden he committed suicide.”
“I don’t bring [Foster’s death] up because I don’t know enough to really discuss it,” Trump continued. “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.”
Here are seven things you need to know about Foster’s death.
1. Foster was a childhood friend of former President Bill Clinton. Foster also worked in the Rose Law Firm with Clinton’s wife and followed the Clintons to the White House, where he served as the White House deputy counsel. The Foster and Clinton families were close and spent a lot of time socializing together.
2. Foster suffered from anxiety and depression. According to The Washington Post, Foster first told his Little Rock, AR physician about symptoms of anxiety and depression when he was tasked with evaluating appointees to the White House. His anxiety and depression became further exacerbated after a series of missteps by the Clinton administration:
In January 1993, Zoe E. Baird was forced to withdraw her nomination as attorney general because she had failed to pay taxes for a nanny; fresh from his inauguration, President Clinton was hit with charges of elitism and corner-cutting and incompetent screening. Foster blamed himself – the Fiske report shows him constantly shouldering blame for mistakes made in the chaotic White House – and the night of the Baird debacle Foster was literally sick from a panic attack.
But it was the following scandal that put Foster over the edge…
3. Travelgate was the final straw for Foster. Travelgate was the scandal that involved the sudden firing of seven people in the White House Travel Office that were subsequently replaced with “a firm with ties to the Clintons.” In the former first lady’s version of the story, Clinton requested that Chief of Staff Mack McLarty investigate the White House Travel Office out of “concerns of financial mismanagement and waste.” She further spun it as McLarty and former White House adminstrator David Watkins following through on her request by subsequently firing seven people in the Travel Office without her knowledge of it. Clinton told an independent counsel that she had zero role in the firings.
As is usual with the Clintons, the truth does not fit the former Secretary of State’s narrative. According to PBS News: (emphasis bolded)
Harry Thomason, a close friend of the Clintons, and Thomason’s partner Darnell Martens, had helped the Clinton campaign by providing charter air service. After the election, Harry was everywhere in and around the White House, working on improving the First Couple’s image. His most disastrous meddling came when his partner Darnell told Harry he’d heard rumors that the White House Travel Office was corrupt, and worse, disloyal to the First Family. (This happened in the time frame of the leaks about marital discord in the White House and everyone was ultra sensitive.) So Harry began pressing Hillary, telling her that the travel office people were “a bunch of crooks” and that “we’ve got to get our people in there.”
Hillary, in turn, pressed Vince Foster and David Watkins (who in her opinion were already failing her because of leaks, the secret service, etc,). Quickly, the whole messy and silly ‘Travelgate’ episode was in full swing.
The FBI was called in. A young cousin of Clinton’s appointed herself undercover agent in the Travel Office and started sneaking memos away in the dark of night. Harry Thomason kept asking Watkins what was being done. Hillary kept asking Vince Foster what was being done. The FBI showed a disconcerting willingness to help find some evidence of wrongdoing (though none of them had any solid basis for suspicion except for those ‘rumors.’)
The firings transformed into a scandal when the disgruntled ex-employees relayed the story to their friends in the media, which eventually blew up into a Congressional investigation since “the investigation had been slapdash, the firings hasty, and the odor of cronyism hung over the whole affair,” according to the Post.
Under oath, Watkins said to a grand jury that Clinton told him “we need to have our people in there.” Watkins has also written “that there would be hell to pay if … we failed to take swift and decisive action in conformity with the first lady’s wishes.”
The independent counsel, Robert Ray, concluded that Clinton was indeed involved with the Travel Office firings, but declined to prosecute her because “insufficient proof exists to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Clinton…knowingly gave false material testimony.”
While Clinton escaped legal consequences, the scandal broke Foster, as according to PBS the whole thing made him “quite sick”:
He was integrally involved in Travelgate, having been consulted by Watkins because he was a White House lawyer. He’d overseen the ‘investigation’ of the seven Travel Office employees (though he’d always been cautious about acting precipitously). He’d participated in meetings with the FBI. And most importantly, he’d discussed the problem with Hillary – who had impatiently asked him “what’s being done” about those crooked, disloyal Travel Office people.
The Post described Travelgate as becoming an “obsession” for Foster, especially when he and William Kennedy, who had been under Foster’s tutelage in the counsel office, were singled out for the blame. Kennedy was reprimanded over the incident, as Foster had assigned him to investigate the Travel Office. Ravaged with guilt, Foster begged his boss, White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum, for him to take the fall rather than Kennedy. Foster started “shouting” when Nussbaum denied his request, which was out of character for Foster.
It only grew worse for Foster from there, as he came under attack from a couple of editorials in The Wall Street Journal and was obsessively worried about being called in front of Congressional hearings because, as National Review‘s Stanley Kurtz writes, “After erasing Hillary’s fingerprints from the travel office firings, Foster knew he’d be vulnerable to charges of having misled congressional investigators while he was under oath.” Foster even considered resigning, but couldn’t face the embarrassment and shame that would have come with it. Foster’s last weeks of life were described as him being a “shell” and “going through the motions at work” as his anxiety consumed to the point where he couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and had to deal with sleep-deprived nights. He told his sister that he was suffering from depression and didn’t know what to do. She gave him a couple of psychiatrists to call, but he never met with them and took anti-depressant medication instead. Eventually, it all became too much for Foster.
4. Foster shot himself in the mouth with a revolver. On July 20, 1993 at 1 pm, Foster left his office with the words “I’ll be back.” At 5:30 pm, Foster’s body was discovered “resting on a slope beside a Civil War cannon.”
5. His death has been verified to be a suicide. An investigation conducted by the police determined that Foster’s death was suicide. Their findings were confirmed by Whitewater special counsel Robert Fiske and his team of “four lawyers, five physicians, seven FBI agents, approximately 125 witnesses; also DNA tests, microscopes and lasers,” according to the Post, as well as an investigation by Whitewater independent counsel Ken Starr.
6. Trump is repeating yet another conspiracy theory. Trump has already proven in this election cycle that he doesn’t mind promulgating conspiracy theories, such as when he paraded around the garbage National Enquirer story that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) father was involved in the assassination former President John F. Kennedy. The notion that Foster was murdered by the Clintons has been a conspiracy theory that has effervesced in online forums and websites such as Infowars, World Net Daily and Accuracy In Media.
7. This may actually benefit Trump. As HotAir‘s Allahpundit writes, “If ‘the Clintons killed Vince Foster’ finds new life among younger voters who already dislike Hillary and don’t remember our first national go-round with this topic 20 years ago, the public’s view of Hillary’s temperament, not Trump’s, will decline. Clinton dirt, real and imagined, is an easy way for Trump to close the gap with her among voters who can’t otherwise imagine elevating him to the presidency.”
However, Trump may be better off using Kurtz’s quote as a line of attack against Clinton: “Vince Foster’s suicide may have been a direct result of Hillary’s attempt to evade responsibility for her own decisions.”