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Notes on Another Clinton Scandal: Was Vince Foster Killed?

Vincent Walker “Vince” Foster, Jr. (January 15, 1945 – July 20, 1993) was a Deputy White House Counsel during the first few months of President Bill Clinton’s administration. Before that he was a partner at Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, Arkansas and a colleague and friend of Hillary Rodham Clinton. At the White House, he was unhappy with work in politics, and spiraled into depression, leading to his suicide in 1993. His death remains a subject of interest among conspiracy theorists.

Wrestling with evident depression[9][11] (which after his death would be assessed as clinical depression),[17] Foster was prescribed the anti-depressant medication Trazodone over the phone by his Arkansas doctor, though he was given an insufficient initial dosage to have much effect.[9] The next day, Foster was found dead in Fort Marcy Park, a federal park in Virginia. He was found with a gun in his hand and gunshot residue on that hand. An autopsy determined that he was shot in the mouth and no other wounds were found on his body. A suicide note of sorts, in actuality a draft resignation letter, was found torn into 27 pieces in his briefcase. The letter contained a list of complaints, specifically including, “The WSJ editors lie without consequence”[18] and lamenting, “I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here ruining people is considered sport.”

His funeral Mass was held at the Cathedral of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Little Rock. Bill Clinton gave an emotional eulogy in which he recalled their boyhood times together and quoted a line from Leon Russell’s “A Song for You”: “I love you in a place that has no space and time.”[19] Foster was buried in Memory Gardens Cemetery in his hometown of Hope. Foster was 48 years old and was survived by his wife and three children.

There have been three official investigations into Foster’s death, all of which concluded that he committed suicide.[20]

The first was by the United States Park Police in 1993, in whose jurisdiction the original investigation fell. Due to Foster’s position in the White House, the Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted in the investigation. Investigations by a coroner and Independent Counsel Robert B. Fiske, in a 58-page report released in 1994, also concluded that Foster had committed suicide.[14] Theories of a cover-up still persisted, some of which were promulgated by the Arkansas Project. After a three-year investigation, Whitewater independent counsel Ken Starr[21][22] released a report in 1997 also concluding that the death was a suicide.[14] In addition, two investigations by the U.S. Congress found that Foster committed suicide.

Foster’s death, occurring just six months into the new administration, is thought by some to have ended the optimism and remaining innocence of the White House staff.[23] White House chief-of-staff and childhood friend Mack McLarty said that “It was a deep cut. It clearly had a tremendous impact.”[23] Fellow White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum felt that if Foster had lived, he would have helped resist the calls to appoint Independent Counsels, and the many investigations lumped under the Whitewater umbrella that occupied the administration and Clinton for the rest of his presidency, might not have happened.[23] As it happened, how Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, Margaret Williams, in particular handled Foster’s files and documents immediately after his death became an issue of much investigation itself.[14][24]

His passing also had an effect on Rose Law Firm, as many within the firm had expected Foster to become its leader once he returned from service in Washington.[10] He was also thought likely to someday become president of the state bar association or a choice for a federal judgeship.[2] Beginning in 1993, the Vince Foster, Jr., Outstanding Lawyer Award was given out annually by the Pulaski County Bar Association to recognize members who contributed to the bar and advanced the legal profession