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Bush rules out pre-emptive pardon for Clinton

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- President-elect George W. Bush, responding to a question about a presidential pardon for Bill Clinton, said Monday he thinks it's time to "get all this business behind us" and let Clinton enjoy life outside the White House.

Cheney and Bush
When asked by reporters if he would consider a presidential pardon for Bill Clinton, Bush, right, responds: "I wouldn't pardon somebody who hasn't been indicted." Vice President-elect Dick Cheney is at left.  

Independent Counsel Robert Ray has been investigating whether Clinton committed a crime in lying about his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and has not ruled out an indictment soon after he completes his term in office January 20.

At a news conference Monday, Bush was asked if he would consider a pardon for Clinton even before Ray acts.

"I wouldn't pardon somebody who hasn't been indicted," Bush responded. "I think it's time to get all of this business behind us. I think it's time ... to allow the president to finish his term, and let him move on and enjoy life and become an active participant in the American system. And I think we've had enough focus on the past. It's time to move forward."

"But the suggestion that I would pardon somebody who has never been indicted, that doesn't make any sense to me, frankly," he added.

Earlier Monday, Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said Clinton "has neither asked for nor sought a pardon, and we take him at his word."

On Sunday, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the likely chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee again after Bush takes office, said he favored a pardon for Clinton.

"I think it's time to put this to bed," he told Fox News Sunday.

"It's time to let President Clinton fade into whatever he is 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."

In response to questions, Hatch said he would pardon Clinton even before Ray acts.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, disagreed with that approach in an interview on CNN's "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer.

"I'm not sure, if I were President Clinton, I wouldn't want to be pardoned for something that I believed that I didn't do," said McCain, who ran against Bush in last year's Republican primaries.

In one of his first acts upon assuming office in 1974, President Gerald Ford pardoned ex-President Richard Nixon for his role in Watergate, a decision that may have cost him election to the White House in his own right, though historians have credited his act with helping the nation get past the scandal.


Monday, January 8, 2001



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