WASHINGTON -- The last chapter in the seven-year White House travel office controversy is being played out at a bad time for Hillary Rodham Clinton -- in the midst of her campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Independent Counsel Robert Ray won't prosecute anyone in the long-running investigation, but he is putting the finishing touches on a report likely to be made public before the November election, officials say.
Some documents and testimony gathered by Ray's office and already on the public record suggest Mrs. Clinton played a central role in instigating firings at the travel office, which makes transportation arrangements for the White House press corps. She denies being involved.
The report could be sent to a three-member federal appeals court panel as early as next week and publicly released three months from now after lawyers for the first lady and others named in the document have had an opportunity to respond, say legal sources familiar with the investigation, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Among the questions that could be answered in Ray's report is whether then-deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster and other presidential aides tried to protect the first lady from criticism by saying she had little to do with the purge.
Ray's predecessor, Kenneth Starr, zeroed in on the travel office in January 1996 when a memo by presidential aide David Watkins surfaced stating that Mrs. Clinton had been behind the firings.
A year and a half earlier, Mrs. Clinton had denied ordering the dismissals in written answers a White House lawyer submitted on her behalf to the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress.
The first lady continued to insist she didn't direct the firings.
Ray's decision marks the second time since he took over for the oft-criticized Starr that he has closed down an inquiry without any prosecutions in the long-running probe of the Clintons.
The White House had no immediate comment.
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