- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2001

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee suggested yesterday that George W. Bush pardon President Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal to help mend the nation.

"I can't tell President-elect Bush what to do … but I think it would end a problem in America that needs to be ended," Sen. Orrin G. Hatch said yesterday on "Fox News Sunday."

"I think it's time to put this to bed. It's time to let President Clinton fade into whatever he's going to fade into, and I just don't see keeping it alive any longer, and I don't think there's a jury in America that is going to convict President Clinton," the Utah Republican said.

The independent counsel investigating Mr. Clinton's conduct in covering up a sexual relationship he had with a young White House intern has said a decision to prosecute will come "very shortly" after the president leaves office Jan. 20.

Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said Mr. Clinton has said he is not seeking a pardon, and "we take him at his word."

Four weeks before President Ford pardoned former President Nixon, the White House press secretary had ruled out such a pardon, affirming Mr. Ford's previous stance that "the public would not stand for it."

But on Sept. 8, Mr. Ford issued the pardon. He later explained that his initial stance was in response to a hypothetical question, but in the White House he had to "deal with reality."

"I would do that … just end the whole thing," said Mr. Hatch, who returns as Judiciary Committee chairman when Mr. Bush is sworn in Jan. 20. "I would pardon him."

Former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican, has hinted that a pardon would be justifiable.

"The president has had his trial, and it is over," Mr. Hyde said on the day the Senate acquitted Mr. Clinton. Mr. Hyde, who managed the case against Mr. Clinton in the Senate, said that to "follow up with an indictment and put the president on trial would diminish the institution of the presidency and the nation in the eyes of the world."

A spokesman said yesterday that Mr. Hyde has not changed his opinion.

On CNN's "Late Edition," Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said, "I don't know what he would be pardoning him for, unless the independent counsel brings up charges."

A federal grand jury in Washington has been hearing evidence against Mr. Clinton at independent counsel Robert Ray's request.

Based on a report submitted by Mr. Ray's predecessor, Kenneth W. Starr, the president was impeached by the House for perjury and obstruction. The Senate acquitted him of obstruction on a 50-50 vote and the Senate voted 55-45 against convicting him of perjury. A two-thirds majority was necessary for conviction.

Mr. Clinton, a lawyer, is undergoing disbarment proceedings in Arkansas for his sworn testimony in the Paula Jones case, in which he denied having sex with Miss Lewinsky.

The Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct says Mr. Clinton is unfit to practice law because of that testimony.

"I don't have any control over that, and I don't spend much time thinking about it," Mr. Clinton said in a CBS News interview last year of Mr. Ray's pending decision.

"I'll be happy to stand, I told you before, if that's what they want, I'll be happy to stand and fight," Mr. Clinton said.

The Constitution gives the president the right to grant reprieves and pardons. While presidents in the past have made some pardons conditional, there is nothing to prevent a president from granting a pardon, whether the beneficiary wants it or not.

Conservatives have been torn on the issue.

While some say a pardon would make a mockery of the judicial system, others have backed Mr. Hatch.

Michael Vlahos, a former Reagan administration official, advocated a "full and complete pardon of William Jefferson Clinton" in National Review Online.

Even former President Bush, the president-elect's father, has signaled his distaste for extending the saga.

"Do I hope that something bad happens to President Clinton? No, I really don't," Mr. Bush said in December. "I don't want something bad to happen. He's been through a lot. The country's been through a lot. Let's heal and forget."

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