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Government Reform Committee Continues Investigation Into Marc Rich Pardon

Aired February 8, 2001 - 11:46 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Want to go back to that congressional hearing and to the controversial pardon granted to financier Marc Rich by President Clinton on his last day in office. We're listening now to Jack Quinn, who's the attorney who represented Marc Rich. He's being questioned by Congressman Chris Shays.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

REP. DAN BURTON (R-CT), GOVERNMENT REFORM CHAIRMAN: ... a pardon is looked at in addition to the charges brought against people like these gentlemen, they ought to look at what they've done since then to see if there's any contrition. And they did deal with those countries just mentioned during the embargoes, so there was no contrition whatsoever, they went on with the same modus operandi that they had before. So there was no contrition, and I can't understand why that wasn't taken into consideration.

I have one question.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Mr. Chairman, may I just have you yield for one second...

BURTON: Real briefly, because...

SHAYS: ... to point out that in the process they made a fortune...

BURTON: A fortune.

SHAYS: ... and in the process they didn't declare those taxes.

BURTON: That's right.

I just have one question, then I'll yield to my colleague, Mr. LaTourette. If these gentlemen, Mr. Rich and Mr. Green, had a good case, why did they flee the country? And why did they try to smuggle subpoenaed documents out in steamer trunks that were only caught because there was a tip? I mean, if there was no case, if this was a house of cards, why did they flee the country and why did they try to smuggle subpoenaed documents out of the country?

JACK QUINN, COUNSEL TO MARC RICH, FORMER COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: Let me answer you in several parts. First of all, it is my understanding that when they were indicted they were outside the country.

Secondly, what they did was fail to return to the country after the indictment. That is my understanding. Secondly, it is also my understanding that the United States government has never alleged that their absence is in and of itself unlawful.

Thirdly, with regard to the documents, what I have been told is that those documents were going to Switzerland for the purpose of being reviewed for privilege by the lawyers. That is their answer, sir.

BURTON: I'm sure the counsel that was involved in the prosecution would like to respond real briefly.

MARTIN AUERBACH, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: A couple of things, Mr. Chairman.

First, I would note that when you look at the pardon application, point one is not a discussion of the legal merits of this case but of who these men are and why they're entitled to come back. It is not until you get to page 20 of the pardon application that you begin to reach a discussion of the merits of this case.

With respect to the documents that were being slipped out of the country, the suggestion was never that those were being reviewed for attorney-client privilege. It was simply that it would be more convenient for counsel to review them in Switzerland than to review them in New York.

Now, we had tons and tons of documents delivered to us. These two steamer trunks were slipping out. We didn't get a call from them saying, "You know, we've got some people over in Zug with nothing better to do than look at documents. Would you mind if we took some over there, outside the jurisdiction at a time when we are in contempt for refusing to producing documents from Switzerland?"

So when we get down to the merits of this case, I'm afraid Mr. Rich and Mr. Green do not win.

MORRIS WEINBERG, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: As far as fugitivity is concerned, very briefly, I think it's a distinction without a difference. They were well-aware of the investigation. There were negotiation on with Mr. Williams that had been reported before the indictment, the $100 million offer. They chose not to come home. There were arrest warrants outstanding. They renounced their citizenship to avoid extradition. They became citizens of Bolivia at the time.

These are fugitives, and I still believe that a fugitive that has renounced his citizenship should not be at the top of the list of people that are considered for the ultimate act of mercy that the Constitution reserves to the president, which is the pardon power.

BURTON: Thank you, Mr. Weinberg -- Mr. LaTourette. REP. STEVEN C. LATOURETTE (R), OHIO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Could I ask the counsel how much time remains on our 30 minutes?

BURTON: Well, because I kind of interrupted there, I think you have about seven and a half minutes.

LATOURETTE: Could I ask the counsel to notify me when we have 10 left, because I want my friend Mr. Barr to have a full 10 minutes to explain what's on his mind.

BURTON: And I will yield my five minutes to you in the second round, because I did take your time.

LATOURETTE: I think you very much.

Mr. Quinn, I want to begin where Mr. Weinberg just left off, because there's a couple things about this that concern me, and it has to do with definitions.

I mentioned in my opening remarks, when we get to the second panel and you're jointed by Mr. Holder, I want to talk to you about some definitions that have been used in interpreting Executive Order 12834. But for this round, I want to talk about the issue of fugitivity.

Apparently, as I understand the media accounts and other things -- and maybe if you could refer to exhibit number 15 in the committee hearing exhibits -- apparently there was a conversation between you and Bruce Lindsey in Belfast, Ireland. And one of the things that was of concern to the Clinton administration was the fact that somebody was telling them, at least, that Marc Rich and Pincus Green were fugitives from justice.

And in response to that conversation, you apparently felt compelled to send Mr. Lindsey, at the White House, a letter...

HARRIS: We have been listening, off and on this morning, to this hearing being held by Dan Burton, Congressman Dan Burton's Government Oversight Committee into the pardon being granted to Marc Rich, the financier that aroused a lot of controversy in President Clinton's last few days of office.

Let's check in now with our Bob Franken, who has been listening even though we've popping in and out to other news this morning.

Bob, bring us up to date on what we've been hearing.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we've been hearing is the criticism -- you just heard from the two prosecutors who, in fact, have been the investigators in the Marc Rich case. And, by the way, when you hear the word "they," we're talking about Pincus Green, his partner who was also pardoned by President Clinton.

The two prosecutors saying that, in fact, the two were guilty of very serious crimes; that there was a very, very strong case against them; that, in fact, the case was amplified by the fact that they slipped out of the United States. They've been fugitives; they have renounced their U.S. citizenship, all of which, they said, mitigated against what one of them just called the ultimate act of mercy, which is to say, a pardon.

Now, Jack Quinn was the attorney who represented the two, particularly Marc Rich, when he applied for a pardon. Jack Quinn, the former U.S. -- excuse me, White House counsel with close personal collections -- connections to President Clinton. He said that, in fact, these were men who were prosecuted inappropriately. They never should have been prosecuted, and that has been the argument that has been going back and forth. Of course, the other issue is whether Quinn used his connection with the president to bypass the normal procedures for a pardon.

Interestingly, as this hearing has gone on, there is no support for the pardon among either Republicans, as you might expect, or Democrats. The Democrats are saying that President Clinton, at the very least, made a very bad mistake. Of course, they take the position that the president is allowed to under the Constitution, since he has an absolute right to a pardon.

But the president is not coming out all that well; but the argument is mainly, now, about the merits of whether Marc Rich should, in fact, have been indicted in the first place, whether he was a criminal. And they've been going back and forth on that -- Leon.

HARRIS: Well, Bob, what is the bottom line for this hearing, though? What is the objective here? What happens after this hearing is over with?

FRANKEN: Well, there are going to be other hearings. They're picking up where they left off in the last administration, still. Going very, very hard on the merits of whether, in fact, President Clinton acted appropriately -- a familiar theme for the Republicans during his entire administration.

One other thing, by the way, Denise Rich, who is the ex-wife of Marc Rich was asked to answer a bunch of questions by the committee and her lawyer sent a letter saying that there might be Fifth Amendment problems, therefore she was not going to answer the questions. Of course, the Fifth Amendment protects somebody against self-incrimination, so the Republicans have made something of that. Denise Rich, as the ex-wife of Marc Rich wrote a letter to the president saying that she wanted a pardon for her ex-husband. She's also a large contributor to the Democratic Party.

HARRIS: All right, thanks much; Bob Franken on Capitol Hill keeping an ear open for us on that hearing as it goes on throughout the afternoon.

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