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Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and Judiciary Committee member, said he hoped nothing comes up that would jeopardize his nomination if Mr. Holder’s was formally nominated. But he said, “He’ll have to answer questions, and his record will speak for itself.”

Valuable connections

Mr. Holder had talked with Mr. Quinn on numerous occasions concerning the political viability of a presidential pardon, committee records show. It was Mr. Quinn who arranged for a telephone call with the White House, during which Mr. Holder said he was “neutral, leaning towards favorable” on the idea of pardoning Mr. Rich.

In testimony before the House Government Reform Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 2001-02 inquiry, Mr. Holder said the phone call was not intended as a formal approval of the pardon by the Justice Department. He said he did not view the comment as a recommendation because he “didn’t have the ability to look at all the materials that had been vetted through the way we normally vet materials.”

“What I said to the White House counsel ultimately was that I was neutral on this because I didn’t have a factual basis to make a determination as to whether or not Mr. Quinn’s contentions were in fact accurate, whether or not there had been a change in the law, a change in the applicable Justice Department regulations, and whether or not that was something that would justify the extraordinary grant of a pardon,” he said.

Mr. Holder and Mr. Quinn vigorously denied any wrongdoing during the committee hearing. At one point, Mr. Holder angrily rebutted suggestions by Republicans of a possible deal in the case. Pointing his finger at then-Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, who made the suggestion, Mr. Holder said his actions in the pardon were “consistent with the law and with my duties as deputy attorney general.”

Mr. Quinn said at the time that the pardon was deserved because the government’s case was flawed, adding that prosecutors misused the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act as a “hammer” to indict Mr. Rich and Mr. Green. He said prosecutors Morris Weinberg Jr. and Martin J. Auerbach constructed a legal “house of cards” based on meritless charges.

But Mr. Auerbach and Mr. Weinberg both expressed “outrage” over the pardon, adding that it was not deserved. They had refused for 17 years to negotiate with Mr. Rich.

“If we had a legal house of cards, it was all aces,” said Mr. Auerbach. “The one card we did not have was the ‘get out of jail’ card and Mr. Rich now has that card.”

Mr. Weinberg said during a committee hearing that the Rich investigation was the biggest tax-fraud case in U.S. history and that Mr. Rich had shown “an utter lack of remorse or contrition.” Records show that federal prosecutors told Mr. Rich’s attorneys beginning in 1983 that it was their policy not to “negotiate dispositions of criminal charges with fugitives.” Mr. Rich, while a fugitive, remained a force in world commodity trading.

The House committee concluded in the March 2002 report that Mr. Holder played a significant role in facilitating the pardon, first by recommending Mr. Quinn to Mr. Rich’s legal representatives, and by delivering what it called a favorable opinion of the last-minute pardon to the president from a position of authority.

Merits of the case

Mr. Clinton told reporters that the pardon was based on the merits of the cases as argued by Mr. Quinn and that the $1.3 million Mr. Rich’s ex-wife, Denise, contributed to the DNC had nothing to do with the decision. He said the American people would support the pardon “if they take a look at the record.”

In addition to the DNC donation, Mrs. Rich, a songwriter, also contributed to directly to Mr. Clinton and to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and donated more than $7,000 worth of furniture for the Clintons’ New York home.

A memo released by the committee showed that Mr. Clinton told the DNC finance chairman 10 days before the Rich pardon that he was doing everything “possible to turn around” White House lawyers opposed to the fugitive financier’s pardon. It said Mr. Clinton personally called Beth E. Dozoretz, the DNC’s national finance chairman, to say “he wants to do it.”

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