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House Hears On Clinton Pardon of Marc Rich

Aired February 8, 2001 - 10:50 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you live now back to Washington, D.C., and to the House Government Reform Committee appearing on the pardon of financier Marc Rich.

You're looking at Jack Quinn. He's the attorney who represented Mr. Rich in the pardon that was granted just before President Clinton left office.

Let's go ahead and listen to Mr. Quinn's opening statement.


I am well-aware that I have a near-impossible challenge today in trying to convince you of the merits of the pardon, but I do welcome the opportunity to sit before you and to answer your questions about the case that I made and the process I followed.

I acted here as a lawyer who believes in the merits of the case that I made. I acted as a lawyer who vigorously and ethically pursued my client's interests, as I'm required to do under the Canons of Ethics. And I acted as a lawyer who followed a process that included, not excluded, the United States Department of Justice.

I took on Marc Rich as a client nearly two years ago, after careful review of his case and in the belief that in the American legal system any person accused of wrongdoing is entitled to representation by a lawyer who advocates his position honestly, ethically and conscientiously. That is what I did, nothing more and nothing less.

I appreciate the responsibilities of this committee. And while I agree with President Bush that a president's constitutional right to grant pardons is unfettered, and that the Congress cannot impose it's own process on that prerogative, I also appreciate that it is helpful to your oversight responsibilities to understand, as best as I can help you understand, what happened in this particular case.

In that regard, I have cooperated with you, consistent with my ethical obligations to my client, by providing information and documents. And I assure you, I will continue to be cooperative and as helpful as I can be.

I want to emphasize at the outset that the process I followed was one of transparency at both the Department of Justice and the White House. In filing my pardon petition, I included in this big document the views of the prosecutors, most particularly in the form of the indictment that they lodged against my client.

On more than one occasion, I urged the White House counsel to seek the views of the Justice Department. I did so because I thought that was the professional way to proceed and because I had worked with Deputy Attorney General Holder in the past. I had and continue to have enormous respect for him and for his legal judgment, and I was confident that before any decision was made on this matter, his views, and perhaps those of others at the Justice Department, would be sought.

In point of fact, I believed the consultation by the White House with Mr. Holder would help me make my case, because for over a year, since October of 1999, I had had a series of communications, orally and in writing, with him about Mr. Rich's case. I knew that he was familiar with the allegations in the indictment, and I had taken pains to familiarize him with the case we put together disputing the allegations in the indictment.

But most importantly, what I hoped he could convey to the White House was the sense that Marc Rich and his lawyers were at an absolute impasse with the Southern District and that this matter could not and would not be resolved short of a process such as a pardon.

As I think you know by now, I personally notified Mr. Holder in his office on November 21, 2000, that I would be sending a pardon application to the White House. I told him then that I hoped I could encourage the White House to seek his views, and he said I should do so. I then delivered this two-inch-thick pardon application to the White House on December 11, more than five weeks before the pardon was granted.

While the application was under consideration, I wrote to Mr. Holder on January 10 of this year and asked him to weigh in at the White House, expressing the hope that he would support my application.

I hoped for his support. I didn't know whether it would be forthcoming or not, but I hoped he would support it.

Still later, I called Mr. Holder on the night of January 19. I told him that the Rich pardon application was receiving serious consideration at the White House and that I understood that he would be contacted before a decision was made.

I understand from him and from the former White House counsel, Beth Nolan, and from the former president that Mr. Holder was indeed consulted. I believe that the views he expressed in that consultation were significant to the decision that was made.

The process this pardon followed gave the president the time and the opportunity to weigh his decision carefully. For over five weeks, the White House had time to consider the views of White House attorneys, the Justice Department and anyone else with whom it might choose to discuss the matter in order to make a judgment on the merits.

As to the merits, you have before you my pardon application, and I understand that the gentlemen to my left disagree with me strenuously about this. But I remain to this day absolutely and unshakably convinced that the prosecutors constructed a legal house of cards in this indictment.

At the heart of this case is a tax charge that I do believe is meritless. That tax charge formed the basis for attendant fraud charges, and that in turn formed the basis for one of the very first uses in a case of this kind of the federal racketeering statute. A use, by the way, which you should know the Department of Justice does not condone any further.

It was this misuse, I believe, of RICO, on top of the misuse of RICO predicates -- and underlying all of it, a tax and energy case that I think...

KAGAN: We are going to interrupt Mr. Quinn here for just a moment to show that we're following a couple events in Washington all at the same time.

The lower left of your screen, you see House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. This is an event sponsored by the Democrats, their counterproposals to the Bush tax cut plan. We'll be hearing more from the Democrats in a little bit. We have our cameras and microphones there.

Right now, I want to continue to listen to Jack Quinn, the lawyer for Marc Rich, as he testifies before the House Government Reform Committee.

QUINN: ... and the Southern District to consider the arguments we made on the law and to reopen discussions with us representing Mr. Rich. That conversation and other contacts that I had with the Department of Justice are reflected in the documents that I have provided to the committee, and they are summarized in Appendix B to my testimony.

My notes of November 8, 1999, reflect a telephone conversation in which I was told that some senior Department of Justice officials thought that the refusal of the prosecutors in New York to meet with Mr. Rich's attorneys was ill-considered and, in fact, ridiculous. Subsequently, I was told that some senior officials at the Department of Justice had come to believe that the equities were on our side.

Nevertheless, the prosecutors from the Southern District refused to discuss the case with us. Given this intractable impasse, we decided in October of this year to seek a pardon. I decided to file the pardon application directly to the White House, because I knew that pardons are sometimes initiated at the White House and not at the Department of Justice. I would point out to you that in today's Los Angeles Times it's reported that some 47 of these applications were initiated at the White House without going through any process at the Department of Justice. As Mr. Waxman indicated earlier, that was true not just in this administration, but it has happened in previous administrations.

But to be sure, I was confident that at some point the White House would consult with the Department of Justice. And based on the earlier conversations I had had throughout the course of a year, I believed that the deputy attorney general would not necessarily endorse a pardon, but I believed that he would at least confirmed that we had reached an unresolvable stalemate with the Southern District.

Now, it has been stated here by several of the members the Constitution grants the pardon authority only to the president, not to the pardon attorney, not to the deputy attorney general and not to the White House counsel. Indeed, the pardon attorney reports to the deputy attorney general. And one of the major functions of the deputy attorney general is to serve as the departmental liaison with the White House staff and the executive office of the president, including specifically with respect to pardons.

I informed that official of my petition. I encouraged the White House counsel to seek the views of that official. I did this over a period of two months, having briefed him about the case for more than a year before that.

President Clinton properly gave serious consideration to Mr. Rich's pardon application. In my discussion with him about this application, we talked about the case and the law and nothing else. President Clinton, in that conversation, demanded that Mr. Rich waive all procedural defenses related to the transactions in question, so that he could be potentially subject to civil penalties such as those faced by others who were involved in similar transactions and went through civil enforcement proceedings with the Department of Energy. This case should have been handled that way years ago.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, while you may disagree with the president's decision, I believe the facts establish that I represented my client's interest fairly, vigorously and ethically. I carried out this representation, keeping both the Department of Justice and the White House informed. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. DAN BURTON (R), INDIANA: Thank you, Mr. Quinn.

Mr. Weinberg?

KAGAN: We've been listening to Jack Quinn. He is the attorney representing Marc Rich, the billionaire financier who received that last-minute pardon from President Clinton on the final day in office. Mr. Quinn saying that he would have a hard time convincing this panel of the House Government Reform Committee that he acted ethically and acted the proper way, but insist that indeed he did.

Let's go ahead and bring in our Bob Franken who's been watching this along with us -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, Jack Quinn is a former White House counsel. And the main point of his message is to say that he did not bypass the Justice Department procedures; he did not act inappropriately by using his White House connection as a former White House counsel. That, in fact, the Justice Department was kept very closely informed. That is one of the fundamental questions before this hearing.

Now, the man who has just been asked to testify is Morris Weinberg. He was one of the two prosecutors who, back in 1982, was going after investigating Mark Fischer (ph). And for the claims that Jack Quinn makes that it was really a bogus investigation, that Fisher (ph) should never have been pursued or indicted. He vehemently disagrees. And he's going to be telling the committee that he is one of the two prosecutors who is now testifying before the committee to say that the claims by Jack Quinn, that the pardon was justified, are in fact vehemently disagreed with -- by these two.

KAGAN: All right, Bob Franken, on Capitol Hill.



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