Clinton 'Bewildered' by Pardon Mess
Pat Milton - Associated Press - February 15, 2001
Bill Clinton said Thursday that he is
"bewildered" by the controversy over his last-minute pardon of
fugitive financier Marc Rich and he blamed Republicans for fueling
In a telephone call to Geraldo Rivera, host of CNBC's "Rivera
Live," the former president again denied any wrongdoing in
pardoning a man who had faced federal charges of evading more than
$48 million in taxes, fraud and participating in illegal oil deals
"There's not a single, solitary shred of evidence that I did
anything wrong, or that his (Rich's) money changed hands," Clinton
said, according to Rivera. "And there's certainly no evidence that
I took any of it."
Clinton's comments were not recorded, but a transcript of
Rivera's notes was provided to The Associated Press. A call to
Clinton's transition office was not returned.
The pardon is the subject of congressional inquiries and a
criminal investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office in
New York, which indicted Rich in 1983. Prosecutors are trying to
determine whether Clinton was somehow bribed to grant the pardon.
"I was blindsided by this," Clinton told Rivera. "I just
wanted to go out there and do what past presidents have done, but
the Republicans had other ideas for me."
Clinton pointed out that Rich was once represented by lawyer
Lewis Libby, now Vice President Cheney's chief of staff.
"It's terrible!" he told Rivera. "I mean, he had three
big-time Republican lawyers, including Dick Cheney's chief of
U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, in a brief statement issued
Thursday, confirmed her office and the FBI are investigating
whether federal laws were broken in the pardons of Rich and his
partner, Pincus Green.
The probe is expected to examine bank and telephone records and
Critics have noted that Rich's former wife, Denise Rich,
contributed an estimated $450,000 to the Clinton Presidential
Library Fund, more than $1.1 million to the Democratic Party and at
least $109,000 to Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign.
Denise Rich has refused to answer questions before Congress,
citing her constitutional right against self-incrimination. Her
spokesman has not returned calls seeking comment, but Rivera said
he spoke to her by telephone Thursday.
"I spend half my time crying and half my time laughing," she
said, according to Rivera. "But that's not so unusual for me - I'm
such an emotional person."
Days after the pardon, Denise Rich said in a statement that it
was "entirely appropriate" for her to be among those who
petitioned Clinton. She said her political fund-raising and
charitable activities had nothing to do with the pardon granted to
"The pardon given to Marc Rich will give him the opportunity to
visit his daughter's grave for the first time," she said in the
statement. One of the couple's three daughters died from cancer in
As part of the probe, federal investigators are expected to
determine whether campaign finance laws were broken - in
particular, whether Rich, who renounced his U.S. citizenship,
illegally funneled money through his former wife's accounts.
In any event, legal experts said prosecutors will have a
difficult task proving bribery in the case.
"It may not be difficult to show a transfer of funds, but
proving that it was done with the intent of getting preferential
treatment is tough," said Philip Weinberg, a professor of
constitutional law at St. John's School of Law. "It goes to what
was in the person's mind when they did it."
See Also: The Clemency Page