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Mark Fabiani

April 10, 2013


SONYA ROSS, Associated Press

Jun. 19, 1996 1:54 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Leaked segments of a Whitewater committee report were flying around town. There was a lot of harsh talk about the president’s wife, and it was up to Mark Fabiani to speak for the White House on television.


“I don’t see how you put a good spin on this,” intoned Charlie Gibson, host of ABC’s “Good Morning America.”


Fabiani spun anyway.


He called the committee’s chairman, Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, a Republican “henchman” who is “ethically challenged” himself. How, Fabiani questioned, can the public believe a report based on the “kangaroo court” D’Amato has conducted for 14 months at taxpayer expense?


“Senator D’Amato neither had the moral authority nor the political guts to ask the first lady a single question,” Fabiani concluded.


Hard words from a man described by friends as easygoing and quiet. But the words speak to the essence of Fabiani: toughness within the family man who toiled on Whitewater through his first Father’s Day and who kept his cool during a mugging at gunpoint earlier this year.


“The only thing that surprises me is the public Mark Fabiani. When I knew him he was quiet and shy,” said Alan Dershowitz, Fabiani’s law professor. “I wish I could hire him and keep him for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, the president got him first.”


Fabiani, 38, is a special associate counsel to Clinton. His primary duty since April 1995 has been as spokesman on Whitewater, the travel office firings, the FBI files and other messes that could damage the Clinton presidency.


Lately he’s done this a lot, in newspapers and on network news programs, on CNN, even on Court TV.


“My man. The human garbage disposal,” White House spokesman Mike McCurry said of Fabiani. “He takes all the garbage and disposes of it.”


Fabiani also is a fiercely private man. He declined to grant an interview for this article. His friends and colleagues won’t divulge details of his private life, even whether his newborn is a son or a daughter.


“He’s smooth. And skilled,” says senior Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos. “He’s sane enough to get out of here when he can to go see his new baby.”


“We made him go out and do a television show on Sunday morning, Father’s Day,” McCurry said. “He got home in time to see his baby.”


Before taking on the convolutions of Whitewater, Fabiani was a deputy under Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, whose last terms were stained by ethics woes.


Fabiani is a graduate of the University of Redlands and Harvard Law School, class of ’82. He served as a law clerk for U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt and became Bradley’s legal counsel in 1985, rising to chief of staff four years later.


Fabiani came to Washington in 1993 as a speech writer for Attorney General Janet Reno, and later became a deputy assistant housing secretary who helped manage the Clinton administration’s empowerment zone program.


In January, after a long day of fielding questions about first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s grand jury testimony on Whitewater, Fabiani was mugged as he left a subway stop in suburban Alexandria, Va.


His attackers put him into a car and drove him to automated teller machines, forcing him to withdraw $1,600 in cash and taking his Rolex watch, his briefcase and a cellular telephone. They ultimately returned everything but the cash, gave him $10 for a cab and released him unharmed.


Fabiani was back at work the next day.


“I was scared out of my wits when I read about that,” Dershowitz said. “But it was typical Mark. He was cool under the circumstances.”


In law school, Fabiani studied under Dershowitz, putting what the esteemed law professor described as “an inordinate capacity for hard work” to use in the defense of Claus von Bulow, whose conviction of attempting to murder socialite wife Sunny was overturned on appeal.


Dershowitz said he was attracted to Fabiani’s ability to simplify the complex, and brought him on to do legal research and analysis. “He’s just the guy the White House needed,” the professor said. “When he handles a case he’s like a surgeon. He’s skilled and able and very perceptive.”


John Podesta, former White House point man for Whitewater and other issues, said Fabiani has distinguished himself because he does not “let things sit around and fester.”


“He’s kind of mastered being combative,” Podesta said. “This adds to his experience and I’m sure it will serve him well.”


But then again, Podesta said, Fabiani may decide to simply spend more time with his infant son or daughter.


“I was in his office the other day and I noticed quite a number of baby pictures out, more than pictures with stars and starlets,” Podesta said.


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