- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2001

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said yesterday that Bill Clinton's presidential pardon of billionaire fugitive Marc Rich is "outrageous" and should be investigated by Congress.

The Mississippi Republican said the pardon is legal but highly questionable and that basic parameters need to be outlined regarding the president's power to grant pardons to individuals.

"We should at least take a look at what happened and ask ourselves, should we take some action to try to prevent abuses that do occur?" Mr. Lott said.

The right to grant pardons is outlined in the Constitution, but Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, also agreed pardon procedures should be examined.

"I think the important question is, is there something more Congress can do to try to express through ourselves the will of the American people about a procedure for issuing pardons," Mr. Lieberman said.

The pardon by Mr. Clinton just hours before President Bush was sworn in was the dominant topic of Sunday's news shows yesterday.

Mr. Lott was asked on "Fox News Sunday" if Congress should investigate whether the president has the constitutional power to grant pardons, and Mr. Lieberman appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press." The main guests on ABC's "This Week" were New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney, and Mr. Rich's lawyer, Jack Quinn. Vice President Richard B. Cheney appeared on all three networks and on each was asked the administration's reaction.

Mr. Rich is at the center of one of the largest tax-fraud cases in U.S. history, in which it is charged he funneled more than $70 million in illegal profits from the resale of crude oil from Iran to Swiss banks.

Mr. Quinn said his client will return to the United States and is willing to face any civil penalties on charges that he owes millions in back taxes.

"He will and should face any assertions that he owes civil penalties," Mr. Quinn said.

Mr. Clinton's pardon cannot be revoked. However, Newsweek is set to report today that Justice Department lawyers are examining obscure 19th-century court cases that ruled pardons must be served on the individual in question or the person's lawyer in order to be valid.

Several of Mr. Clinton's pardons, including that of Mr. Rich, have not been processed by the Justice Department and have not been served.

Asked if the Bush administration planned to overturn the pardon, Mr. Cheney said, "not that I'm aware of."

However, Mr. Cheney added "that doesn't mean somebody at Justice or elsewhere isn't looking at it, but I've not been involved in any conversations about undoing the pardons."

Mr. Cheney said the Bush administration would seek counsel from prosecutors and the Justice Department before issuing any pardons.

"Obviously there's been a lot of criticism on the grounds that Mr. Rich never was brought to justice, never tried or convicted, that the pardon sort of pre-empted what had been a serious effort to bring him to justice over the years on the charges that have been made against him," Mr. Cheney said.

Mr. Rich was indicted in Manhattan federal court in 1983 for tax fraud and illegal oil purchases from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis.

He shortly thereafter fled the country and is now living in Switzerland.

Mr. Giuliani pursued Mr. Rich as a federal prosecutor in the early 1980s, and said yesterday that he saw no basis for a presidential pardon.

"He ran away, he was indicted, he refused to stand charges, he traded with Iran during the hostage crisis, traded with Iraq, also traded with South Africa when we had an embargo against South Africa," Mr. Giuliani said.

"I haven't heard a single thing that would be normally part of a pardon application."

Mr. Lieberman said prosecutors and the Justice Department should be consulted before pardons are issued, or else the decisions will inevitably invite second-guessing.

"In this case what really troubles me is that this man, Marc Rich, never served any time. In fact, was a fugitive from justice," Mr. Lieberman said.

Mr. Giuliani said that pardons are valuable, but that Mr. Clinton has put the practice in question by pardoning Mr. Rich.

"There's no question there should be a congressional investigation into this. I mean, particularly given the fact that Mrs. Rich donated over a million dollars for the Democratic Party, for Mrs. Clinton, the Clintons, and I think there are many people who know that she was going around trying to get a pardon for her former husband," Mr. Giuliani said.

The House Government Reform Committee said last week it wants to know if Mr. Clinton had an improper motive for the pardon, if law enforcement authorities were consulted before it was granted and if any regulations governing the lobbying of the president were violated.

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