Clinton Pardon Statement Questioned
David Ho - Associated Press - February 19, 2001
WASHINGTON - Former President Clinton's latest explanation
for his pardon of Marc Rich raises more questions than it answers,
say critics intent on finding out whether political donations and
connections aided the fugitive financier's cause.
The former president's last-minute pardon of Rich, who has lived in Switzerland since fleeing a 1983 indictment on tax evasion and
other charges, has prompted congressional hearings and an
investigation by federal prosecutors in New York.
Clinton said Sunday he made his decision "on the merits as I
saw them, and I take full responsibility for it."
"The suggestion that I granted the pardons because Mr. Rich's
former wife, Denise, made political contributions and contributed
to the Clinton library foundation is utterly false," Clinton wrote
in an opinion column in The New York Times. "There was absolutely
no quid pro quo."
Clinton also wrote that three well-known Republican lawyers who
once represented Rich "reviewed and advocated" the pardon case.
All three denied that assertion and Clinton appeared to back away
His spokesmen said Clinton did not mean the three lawyers were
involved in the pardon process now, but rather that legal arguments
made by them on Rich's behalf in past years were taken into
Investigators want to know if Rich bought his pardon by passing
money through his ex-wife, who has acknowledged making large
contributions both to Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate race and to
the presidential library. Democratic Party sources have put the
library donation at $450,000.
"The American people want to know why one of the most wanted
fugitives in the world was granted a pardon," said Rep. Dan
Burton, R-Ind., whose House Government Reform Committee has held
hearings on the pardon.
"This editorial doesn't explain it," he said Sunday on CNN's
New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who as U.S. attorney obtained
indictments against Rich for tax evasion, fraud and racketeering,
called the pardon procedure Clinton described "a very strange, new
way to handle the criminal process."
"The op-ed piece raises more questions than it answers,"
Giuliani said on "Fox News Sunday."
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., a senior member of the Senate
Judiciary Committee, which is also reviewing the pardon, agreed.
"He does not say why he did not talk to the prosecuting
attorneys. He does not say why he didn't talk to the pardon
attorney for the Department of Justice and didn't follow their
regulations, Specter said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Clinton cited eight reasons for pardoning Rich and his partner
Pincus Green. He said five reasons were directly related to his
conclusion that the case was improperly handled when criminal
charges were filed in 1983.
He wrote that he pardoned Rich only after concluding that a
civil court should have handled the case, and he fashioned the
pardon to allow for the pursuit of new civil charges.
Clinton added that many high-ranking Israeli officials and
Jewish community leaders urged the pardon because of Rich's
contributions to Israeli charities.
The former president also wrote that "the case for the pardons
was reviewed and advocated" by former White House counsel Jack
Quinn and three Republican attorneys: Lewis Libby, Vice President
Dick Cheney's chief of staff; Leonard Garment, a former Nixon White
House official; and William Bradford Reynolds, who ran the Justice
Department's civil rights division under President Reagan.
Reynolds, a Washington lawyer who represented Rich in the early
1990s, said of Clinton's column: "I was astounded. I have had no
communications with the Clinton administration or the president or
Jack Quinn having to do with the effort to obtain the pardon at any
Juleanna Glover Weiss, speaking for Cheney, said Clinton's
assertion about Libby's involvement is "nonsense."
Garment did not immediately return telephone messages but was
quoted by The Times as saying, he hadn't "endorsed the idea of a
The column, as published in early editions of the paper, said
the pardon "applications were reviewed and advocated" by the
But during the press run, Clinton's office called to ask that
the column be changed to say "the case for the pardons was
reviewed and advocated" by the three, The Times said. Subsequent
editions carried that wording.
Even the revised column, however, left the impression that the
three were directly involved in the pardon review.
Clinton's intended point was that past arguments made by the
lawyers were used by Quinn, Rich's attorney in the pardon
application, the former president's spokesmen said.
"It was their legal analysis and their tax analysis that formed
the foundation for the pardon," Lockhart said on ABC's "This
Week." "It was all of their work that persuaded the president
that he ought to grant the pardon."
Mr. Clinton's Explanation
US Jewry Slams Clinton for Blaming Rich Pardon on Jews
The Clemency Page