WASHINGTON -- President and Mrs. Clinton were given crucial advance warning that regulators were running out of time to sue them in connection with the failure of Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan, a Republican lawmaker charged.

As the Senate Banking Committee kicked off its inquiry into the Madison/Whitewater affair, Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y., said the information put the Clintons in a better bargaining position with the Resolution Trust Corp.

On Feb. 2, 1993, deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman met with Harold Ickes, the deputy White House chief of staff, Sen. D'Amato said. Mr. Ickes testified under oath that Mr. Altman told him the investigation could not be completed prior to expiration of the statute of limitations, he added.

Mr. Ickes further testified, in depositions before Friday's hearing, that he passed that information on to the Clintons, Sen. D'Amato said.

"Armed with that inside information, the Clintons could safely reject any RTC request for a tolling agreement," the senator said.

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