- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2001

Here we thought that the Clintons discussed everything between them over grapefruit and coffee in the morning. Well. Yesterday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton put on one of her trademark performances, facing reporters with flinty determination in the U.S. Capitol, denying that she had any knowledge whatsoever of former President Clinton's appalling series of pardons, or of her very own brother's newly revealed and inexcusable $400,000 lobbying fee for securing pardons for two wealthy felons. One decision involved a pardon for Glenn Braswell, a convicted swindler who, at the moment of his pardoning, was under criminal investigation by federal authorities in "a massive tax evasion and money-laundering scheme," according to court filings. The other decision commuted the prison sentence of Carlos Vignali, who was convicted six years ago and sentenced to 15 years in prison for his central role in a massive drug ring that sold more than 800 pounds of crack cocaine.

Mrs. Clinton was "saddened" and "disappointed" by her brother Hugh Rodham's actions, but, alas, ignorant. Remarkably, so was Mr. Clinton, as averred in a statement released by him the day before. Mrs. Clinton didn't even call Mr. Rodham for several days after allegedly learning of the fee. Whether you believe any of this (which most people won't), one thing is crystal clear in Pardongate it is every man and woman for him/herself. Mrs. Clinton wants very badly to wash her hands of her husband's pardons in a way she never did when the scandal was his sexual behavior with an intern in the Oval Office. For Mrs. Clinton, there's no standing by her man now that he is out of office.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton's lovely husband, the "incredibly shrinking ex-president" (as Time magazine's cover this week has it), did his best earlier in the week to defend his pardon of fugitive billionaire and tax fraud Marc Rich. The former president on Sunday sought to vindicate his universally criticized pardons on the august op-ed page of the New York Times.

In his essay, Mr. Clinton offered eight specific "legal and foreign policy reasons" for the Rich pardon. In typical Clintonian fashion, the former president relied upon one weasel word after another to explain how he learned the "essential facts" of the Rich and Green cases. The 1983 indictments of Messrs. Rich and Green, who had previously fled the United States, included more than 50 felony counts charging the two fugitives with evading $48 million in taxes and illegally trading oil with Iran during the 1979-1981 hostage crisis. "I understood," the president began one reason. "It was my understanding," he began another. "I was informed … ." This is how Mr. Clinton gathered "the essential facts." What he neglected to mention was that the source of these supposed "facts" was none other than Jack Quinn, whom he only identifies as "my former White House counsel." Mr. Quinn, of course, is also the attorney Mr. Rich had retained and generously compensated.

In many instances, including the cases of Messrs. Rich and Green, the pardoning process overseen by Mr. Clinton completely and deliberately circumvented the normal pardoning procedures that other presidents had rigorously used. Writing this week in the Wall Street Journal, Hamilton Jordan provided a devastating critique comparing the pardoning processes of the Clinton and Carter administrations. Having witnessed the pardoning process firsthand as President Carter's chief of staff, Mr. Jordan concluded, "It is difficult for the average citizen to comprehend how outrageous Bill Clinton's pardons are to those of us who have worked in the White House." If he had suggested to Mr. Carter that he grant a pardon "to someone who contributed generously to our campaign and even promised to contribute to the Carter presidential library, he would have thrown me out of the Oval Office and probably fired me on the spot," Mr. Jordan wrote.

Indeed, contrary to the pardon process in the Carter administration, the Rich pardon had been intentionally concealed from the federal prosecuting office that brought the charges. And the pardoning attorney at the Justice Department wasn't even consulted until 1 a.m. on Jan. 20, less than 12 hours before Mr. Clinton left the presidency. Such actions were unconscionable not only to Mr. Jordan, but Mr. Carter himself in a speech Tuesday described the Clinton procedures as "disgraceful," concluding, "I don't think there is any doubt that some of the factors in [Mr. Rich's] pardon were attributable to his large gifts."

Regarding the two cases in Mr. Clinton's New York Times essay in which he named specific individuals outside his administration who supposedly supported the pardon, he either hid relevant facts or simply lied about them. Mr. Clinton identified Bernard Wolfman of Harvard Law School and Martin Ginsburg of Georgetown University Law Center as "two highly regarded tax experts" who "concluded" that Mr. Rich's companies had acted properly. Mr. Clinton failed to mention that the law firms employing Messrs. Ginsburg and Wolfman billed Mr. Rich nearly $100,000 for the expert opinions they rendered. Nor did Mr. Clinton deem it important to note that Messrs. Wolfman and Ginsburg have acknowledged that they made "no independent verification of the facts" beyond the "facts" provided to them by Mr. Rich.

In the initial essay Mr. Clinton submitted to the Times, he asserted that the pardon "applications were reviewed and advocated" by "three distinguished Republican attorneys: Leonard Garment, a former Nixon White House official; William Bradford Reynolds, a former high-ranking official in the Reagan Justice Department; and Lewis Libby, now Vice President Cheney's chief of staff." This audacious lie proved to be too much, even by the former president's low standards. The Times literally had to stop the presses in order for Mr. Clinton to replace a bald-faced lie with a disingenuous statement that claimed again erroneously that "the case for the pardons" had been "reviewed and advocated" by the three Republicans.

"The suggestion that I granted the pardons because Mr. Rich's former wife, Denise, made [more than $1 million in] political contributions and contributed [at least $450,000] to the Clinton library foundation," Mr. Clinton asserted, "is utterly false. There was absolutely no quid pro quo." This bold statement, it's worth noting, comes from the man who once challenged reporters to "find any evidence of the fact that I changed government policy solely because of a contribution."

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