A Guide to Bill Clinton's 1990s Controversies, Featured Again in 'Impeachment'

From depositions, on TV and at Clinton's impeachment trial, Americans got a front-row seat to the secrets and private moments of the most powerful man in the world

monica lewinsky and bill clinton
From left: Monica Lewinsky and then-President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Photo: Getty

The scandals that shadowed Bill Clinton's administration, which he insisted were fueled by partisan anger, seemed to reach their denouement when it was revealed he had an affair with a White House intern less than half his age.

As details of Clinton's behavior played out in televised hearings and at his impeachment trial, Americans got a front-row seat to the secrets and private moments of the most powerful man in the world.

While it seemed like something of an overnight sensation from the moment it broke in The Drudge Report, what became known as the Clinton-Lewinsky affair had plenty of lead-up.

Here's a chronological look at the allegations, controversies and investigations related to Clinton, which are chronicled in the new FX limited series Impeachment: American Crime Story.

1978: The Clintons make a land purchase in Arkansas

That year, Bill and Hillary Clinton, along with their friends Jim and Susan McDougal, bought 230 acres of riverfront land for $203,000 with the intention of selling it as vacation home lots.

The deal was ultimately a bust, and Jim bought a savings and loan association and renamed it Madison Guaranty. He ultimately defrauded both Madison Guaranty and another small-business investment firm, called Capital Management Services, to the tune of $3 million.

The scheme cost the federal government around $73 million and 15 people were charged for their role in the scandal. (Jim died in prison in 1998.)

The Clintons, however, were never charged and no wrongdoing was ever proven. They have adamantly maintained they had no involvement.

1992: Allegations about Whitewater begin to surface

Questions about the Whitewater dealings surfaced during Bill Clinton's 1992 bid for the presidency, with the Justice Department eventually opening an investigation into the matter and an illegal $300,000 loan provided to the McDougals.

July 20, 1993: Vince Foster kills himself

The deputy White House counsel, Vince Foster, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Fort Marcy Park off Virginia's George Washington Parkway. Foster reportedly suffered from depression, seeking treatment one day before his death, yet conspiracy theories soon began swarming (and persist decades later).

A series of investigations — one of which, according to a 1994 Washington Post report, involved four lawyers, five physicians, seven FBI agents and approximately 125 witnesses — confirmed that Foster's death was a suicide.

One month prior to his death, Foster had filed three years of delinquent Whitewater corporate tax returns and was said to be plagued by the evolving ethics investigations into the Clintons.

January 1994: Special counsel launches Whitewater probe

Attorney General Janet Reno appointed New York lawyer Robert Fiske Jr. as special counsel to investigate the Clintons' involvement in the Whitewater land purchase.

January 1994: Paula Jones comes forward

Shortly after the release of a story in the conservative magazine American Spectator, in which Paula Jones was mentioned by first name only, she came forward to allege that she had been harassed by President Clinton while he was serving as governor of Arkansas.

Two days before the expiration of a three-year statue of limitations, she filed a sexual harassment suit, seeking $750,000 in damages. Jones' claims served as the impetus for the broadening of the investigation into Clinton's pre-presidency financial dealings.

Later, a state trooper confirmed parts of Jones' account, but alleged that she volunteered her phone number to Clinton and asked to be his girlfriend. The accounts came two years after Clinton had publicly admitted to "marital wrongdoing" in the past.

August 1994: Ken Starr takes over Whitewater probe

Kenneth Starr, who served as solicitor general under former President George H. W. Bush, took over Fiske's probe into the Whitewater dealings. Starr's legal team included future Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who worked for Starr in the Bush-era Justice Department.

Linda Tripp
Linda Tripp. Dave Tracy/ Getty

Fall 1997: Linda Tripp starts recording

Linda Tripp, a career civil servant moved from the White House to the Pentagon, began taping conversations she had with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern who recently began working in the Pentagon with her. In the tapes, Lewinsky detailed the affair she had been having with President Clinton since November 1995.

October 1997: Tripp plays the tapes for a reporter and a book agent

In a meeting with with Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff, book agent Lucianne Goldberg, and her son, Jonah Goldberg, Tripp played a tape of one of her conversations with Lewinsky. Newsweek ultimately opted not to move forward with its story on the then-unsubstantiated affair.

Dec. 17, 1997: Lewinsky is subpoenaed

Lewinsky — who left her job at the Pentagon around this same time — was subpoenaed by lawyers for Jones for Jones' suit against the president.

Dec. 28, 1997: Lewinsky visits the White House

Lewinsky made her final visit to the White House, to privately discuss the subpoena with President Clinton. She later told prosecutors that the president encouraged her to be "evasive" to investigators during the meeting.

Monica Lewinsky
Monica Lewinsky. Roberto Borea/AP/Shutterstock

Jan. 7, 1998: Lewinsky files an affidavit denying the affair

In an affidavit filed as part of Jones case, Lewinsky denied ever having had a sexual relationship with President Clinton.

Jan. 12, 1998: Tripp contacts Starr

Tripp contacted Starr's office to discuss the Lewinsky tapes, which detailed both the affair and indicated that Clinton and his friend Vernon Jordan (who had earlier helped Lewinsky find work in New York after leaving Washington, D.C.) may have told the former intern to lie under oath.

Jan. 16, 1998: The probe expands

After Tripp reached out, Starr got permission from a panel of federal judges to expand his probe, allowing him to formally investigate the possibility of perjury and obstruction of justice by Clinton in the Jones case.

Around the same time, Tripp (wearing a wire) and Lewinsky met at the Ritz-Carlton. FBI agents interceded and questioned Lewinsky in a hotel room.

Jan. 17, 1998: Bill Clinton gives sworn deposition

In a sworn deposition given as part of the Jones lawsuit, Clinton denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky — a lie that would later fuel his impeachment.

Monica Lewinsky
Monica Lewinsky (center) in May 1998. Bob Riha, Jr./Getty

Jan. 19, 1998: The Druge Report mentions Lewinsky

Lewinsky's name surfaced publicly for the first time, via The Drudge Report, a nascent conservative news and gossip website. A post on the site mentioned that Newsweek had allegedly delayed publishing a piece on the affair between Clinton and Lewinsky.

Jan. 26, 1998: Clinton addresses the nation, denies the affair

In a now-notorious public statement delivered on national television, Clinton denied the claims of his affair with Lewinsky, saying, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky."

July 28, 1998: Lewinsky turns over the blue dress

In exchange for grand jury testimony, Lewinsky received transactional immunity. She turned over over a semen-stained blue dress to Starr's investigators.

Aug. 17, 1998: Clinton testifies before grand jury and addresses the nation

Clinton became the first sitting president to testify before the Office of Independent Counsel as the subject of a grand jury investigation.

Following his testimony, Clinton addressed the nation live via television, admitting to an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky but saying he never asked anyone to "lie, hide or destroy evidence or to take any unlawful action."

Sept. 9, 1998: The Starr Report is referred to Congress

Starr delivered his referral — known as the Starr Report — to Congress, leading to Clinton's impeachment in the House of Representatives on two counts: perjury and obstruction of justice.

November 1998: Clinton settles with Jones

Clinton settled with Jones for $850,000, but did not give her an apology or admit guilt, in exchange for her agreement to drop the appeal.

Clinton impeached

Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives and charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.

Feb. 12, 1999: Clinton acquitted by the Senate

Clinton's five-week impeachment trail came to an end in February, and he was acquitted on the two counts by the Senate.

Neither he nor Mrs. Clinton were ever criminally accused for their role in the Whitewater land deal that first spurred Starr and his investigators.

Three separate inquiries found insufficient evidence to tie the Clintons to the criminal conduct of others involved in the transaction.

Impeachment: American Crime Story airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on FX.

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