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Senate pardon probe wins conditional Democratic support

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congressional committees on both sides of the Capitol intend to hold hearings next week looking into former President Clinton's controversial pardon of financier Marc Rich.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has tentatively scheduled two days of hearings next Wednesday and Thursday, according to a spokesman for Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, who has been given a leading role in the inquiry.

The Senate panel will look into the propriety of pardoning Rich, who was indicted in absentia in 1983 on tax evasion and racketeering charges. He has been living outside of the United States since that time.

A Specter spokesman said a tentative witness list includes Marc Rich's former wife Denise, who has donated roughly $1 million to Democrats, including the successful Senate bid of Hillary Clinton; Jack Quinn, Rich's attorney and former Clinton adviser who lobbied the former president for the pardon; Eric Holder, the deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was a federal prosecutor in the Rich case.

The House Government Reform Committee, which already launched its own investigation, will hold a hearing next Thursday on the pardon of Rich and associate Pincus Green, sources told CNN.

Rich's pardon was one of 140 Clinton issued hours before he left office Jan. 20.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said Wednesday he is not opposed to hearings looking into presidential pardons, but he said he is wary of another round of congressional investigations targeting the Clintons.

"Looking into these matters from time to time is not necessarily counterproductive, and so long as it doesn't become a partisan witch hunt and again get another attack on two people that I think have been attacked enough --that is the Clintons -- then I wouldn't have any strong objections to doing it," said Daschle, who has previously criticized the Rich pardon.

On the House side, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Indiana, the chairman of the House panel, has also invited acting Attorney General Eric Holder and Quinn to testify.

In addition, the committee has asked the original prosecutor in the case, Morris Weinberg Jr., to testify.

The committee will also ask a still-to-be-determined Clinton administration official to explain why the pardon was granted.

Committee spokesman Mark Corallo said Thursday's hearing may be the first of several into the scores of controversial pardons issued by Clinton on his last day in office.

Corallo said Burton is not trying to overturn Rich's pardon but "to shed light" on how and why the decision was made.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, told reporters Tuesday he was asking the Senate Judiciary Committee to review presidential power to pardon in general, as well as Clinton's pardon of Rich.

"We believe that the Judiciary Committee would be the one that would need to take a look at that, just basically, do our oversight work," Lott said.



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