Clifford, Clark M.


1991 TLS from the Washington superlawyer, Democratic presidential advisor, Defense Secretary 1968-69, his last years mired in scandal he ignores in this letter!



Autograph ID: 7180
Condition: Very good, 2 mail folds
Description: “(1906-1998) Washington superlawyer and ultimate insider, political advisor to Democratic Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter. White House Counsel 1946-50, Secretary of Defense. In his later years, he was a key figure in BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International) scandal, which led to a grand jury indictment. After law school in St. Louis, he practiced law 1928-43. A naval officer 1944-46, he was assigned to the White House 1945 and promoted to captain while asst. naval aide then naval aide to President Truman. He became asst. to the Truman’s Naval Adviser and after discharge from the Navy, remained as Truman’s White House counsel 1946-50. He was a key architect of Truman’s 1948 campaign and helped win Truman election. As presidential adviser, he successfully advocated prompt 1948 recognition of the new Jewish State of Israel over the objections of Secretary of State Marshall. Of similar importance was his preparation of the 1946 top secret Clifford -Elsey Report for Truman which detailed numerous ways in which the USSR had violated various treaties and understandings with Western powers, and was instrumental in turning USSR relations toward a harder line. He participated extensively in efforts that resulted in the National Security Act of 1947 and its 1949 amendments. In 1960, Clifford was a member of President-elect Kennedy’s Committee on the Defense Establishment; in May 1961, JFK named him to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board which he chaired 1963-68. After LBJ became president, Clifford served as an unofficial White House Counsel. In 1968, he succeeded McNamara as Defense Secretary. He favored the Sentinel anti-ballistic missile system to which McNamara had given only lukewarm backing. An important effect of Sentinel, he thought, would be to encourage the USSR to enter arms control talks; before leaving office, the LBJ administration arranged for negotiations that led to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Clifford took office committed to rethinking LBJ’s Vietnam policies which ate up most of his time. The North agreed to negotiations which began in Paris in mid-May 1968 and on Oct. 31, 1968, to encourage their success, LBJ, with Clifford’s strong support, ordered an end to all bombing in No. Vietnam. Even with a continued buildup, Clifford preferred to emphasize that the South’s army could take over a greater share of the fighting, that the administration would place an absolute limit on the number of US troops in Vietnam, and that it would take steps, incl. bombing restrictions, to reduce the combat level. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction on LBJ’s last day in office. He ended his term as Secretary with his reputation actually enhanced. His law practice and lobbying made him wealthy due to his influence and seemingly limitless connections.

TLS on 10 ½ x 7 ¼ Clifford & Warnke law offices letterhead. Washington, July 11 1991. He thanks a Massachusetts admirer for his May 13 note and apologizes for delay in replying to him but it “has been one of the busiest times in my career and my mail has suffered of it!”. He appreciates the “words of support and encouragement” and states that “the ’60 Minutes’ shows were interesting to do.” With envelope.

Clifford chaired First American Bankshares 1982-91, Washington’s largest bank. Nominally owned by Arab investors, he led a distinguished board to exercise daily control. In 1991, Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau disclosed his office found evidence that BCCI secretly owned First American and convened a grand jury to determine whether Clifford and his partner had deliberately misled federal regulators. BCCI was found by regulators to be involved in money and arms trafficking, bribery, support of terrorism, sale of nuclear technologies, tax evasion, illegal purchases of banks and real estate, smuggling, illegal immigration, and at least $13B in unaccounted funds. It was disclosed that Clifford made about $6M in profits from bank stock bought with an unsecured BCCI loan. The grand jury brought indictments, and the DOJ opened its own investigation; his NYC assets were frozen. On March 17, 1991, Clifford fenced with Mike Wallace on CBS’ “60 Minutes”, denying he lied to regulators in 1981 about the ownership of First American Bankshares, Inc., saying he only recently learned that a rogue foreign firm secretly and illegally held a controlling stake, explaining how his First American Bank came to be owned by a foreign institution convicted last year of laundering drug cartel money. For 62 years he practiced law “without a cloud,” sighed Clifford, “Now this.” The 84-year-old lawyer said that the deception triggered “the deepest sense of anger I have ever felt…I would hope someday there would be some retribution because it has brought to me the most difficult period of my life.” While maintaining innocence, criminal charges were dropped in 1993 because of his ill health. In 1998, the year he died, he settled with the Federal Reserve and the last civil lawsuits against him.”
Type: Letter

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