Key Republican senator backs pardon for Clinton
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The likely chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday that he would support a pardon for President Clinton if President-elect George W. Bush proposes one.
A presidential pardon is absolute and does not require a vote by Congress.
Although Clinton has said he does not think he has done anything that requires a pardon and would not seek one, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said it would be a good way to end the legal controversies surrounding some of Clinton's conduct in office and business deals prior to becoming president.
"I think it's time to put this to bed," Hatch said on "Fox News Sunday."
"I can't tell President-elect Bush what to do, and he has every reason not to do that, but I think it would end a problem in America that needs to be ended," said Hatch, the probable choice to be chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when the Bush administration takes over January 20.
Bush has said he takes Clinton at his word about not seeking a pardon if indicted or convicted.
Although Clinton was acquitted after an impeachment trial, the investigation into his conduct on several fronts continues.
Independent counsel Robert Ray last summer convened a grand jury to hear evidence about whether Clinton committed perjury or obstructed justice in the Paula Jones case, and to continue the investigation of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, legal sources have told CNN.
Ray, a former federal prosecutor who succeeded Ken Starr as independent counsel, pledged when he took over to continue the investigation to determine whether the president violated any federal laws.
The continuing criminal probe focuses on whether Clinton tried to obstruct justice by trying to conceal evidence or conspiring with Lewinsky, a former White House intern, or others to hide evidence.
Clinton was later impeached by the House on perjury charges stemming from his characterizations of his affair with Lewinsky, but acquitted by the Senate.
Ray has also repeatedly said that if criminal conduct is found, there would be no indictment against Clinton until after he leaves office later this month.