- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2001

House investigators probing Bill Clinton's pardon of billionaire financier Marc Rich have focused on a 1996 campaign promise by Mr. Clinton who said he would not issue any presidential pardons unless they were first reviewed by the Justice Department.
Investigators want to know why Mr. Clinton violated his own pledge in granting pardons on Inauguration Day to Mr. Rich, former Whitewater figure Susan McDougal and 20 others, whose clemency requests were never reviewed by the Justice Department but went directly to the White House.
"He certainly made his intentions clear in 1996 when first asked about pending pardons, but his actions now call into question the validity of those promises," said one House investigator who asked not to be identified.
During a 1996 PBS interview about the possible pardons of his former Whitewater business partners James and Susan McDougal, Mr. Clinton said:
"My position would be that their cases should be handled like others. There's a review process for that, and I have regular meetings on that, and I review those cases as they come up, after there's an evaluation done by the Justice Department. That's how I think it should be handled."
The Rich and McDougal pardons were among 140 Mr. Clinton signed less than two hours before leaving office. Among the other 20 pardons that bypassed the Justice Department review process were those to Mr. Clinton's brother, Roger; Whitewater figures Stephen Smith and Chris Wade; and Tyson Foods Inc. executive Jack L. Williams.
The House Government Reform Committee is investigating whether Mr. Clinton's last-minute pardons were based on improper motives; if law-enforcement authorities were consulted; and if any regulations governing the lobbying of the president were violated. The committee will begin hearings on Thursday.
"In light of former President Clinton's stated policy on granting pardons, it's somewhat astonishing that he pardoned Marc Rich without a full review by the Justice Department," said Committee Chairman Dan Burton, Indiana Republican.
"The regular process was obviously circumvented and the president could not have had the benefit of his own Justice Department's recommendation. It leaves us wondering what happened here," Mr. Burton said.
The Rich pardon, which angered Justice Department officials and outraged many Republicans and Democrats, came after Mr. Rich's attorney, Jack Quinn, personally lobbied Mr. Clinton. Mr. Quinn told Mr. Clinton that Mr. Rich and his business partner, Pincus Green, were "extraordinary businessmen and philanthropists who have lived exemplary lives" and that they had wrongfully been indicted.
Mr. Quinn, who served as Mr. Clinton's chief White House counsel, also told Mr. Clinton the government's case had been debunked in a 1985 report by Harvard University professor Bernard Wolfman and Georgetown University professor Martin Ginsburg, husband of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
But House investigators said the report was refuted by prosecutors years ago. They also noted that the report itself acknowledged that Mr. Wolfman and Mr. Ginsburg made their evaluations based solely on information they obtained from Mr. Rich's attorneys.
House investigators also stressed that companies owned by Mr. Rich and Mr. Green pleaded guilty in 1984 to tax evasion and under a plea agreement paid $200 million in fines.
Mr. Rich fled to Switzerland after his 1983 indictment on charges of racketeering, tax evasion and violations of federal energy regulations for trading oil with Iran while Americans were being held hostage in that country. He was accused of diverting $70 million in illegal profits to Swiss banks from the resale of crude oil. The case was referred to at the time as the biggest tax fraud in U.S. history.
One area of concern for investigators is the connection of Mr. Rich's ex-wife, Denise Rich, to the pardon. She donated $1.3 million to Democrats, including Mr. Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic National Committee and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
Mrs. McDougal was convicted in 1996 in a scheme involving bogus loans in the Whitewater case. Sentenced to two years in prison, she served only 3 and 1/2 months before a judge released her because of a back problem. She served 18 months on a separate contempt citation for refusing to testify before a grand jury about Mr. Clinton's role in the Whitewater affair.
Mr. Smith pleaded guilty in 1995 to misdemeanor conspiracy involving a bogus Small Business Administration loan. An aide to Mr. Clinton when he was Arkansas governor, Mr. Smith pleaded guilty in exchange for his testimony in the Whitewater probe.
Roger Clinton served two years in prison for his guilty plea in a drug case, but later cooperated with state authorities against other suspected drug defendants.
Mr. Wade pleaded guilty to bankruptcy fraud and submitting false applications in the Whitewater case. Mr. Williams was convicted of making false statements to the FBI to conceal his knowledge of illegal gifts to former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy.

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