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Special Event

Republicans Grill Marc Rich's Attorney

Aired February 8, 2001 - 1:11 p.m. ET

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

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Following up on a controversy that followed the Clintons out of the White House and Clinton administration away from Washington -- that is the continuing dispute over the appropriateness of various pardons made in Mr. Clinton's final hours in office. On Capitol Hill today, the House Government Reform Committee is looking into one particular pardon, that of Marc Rich, the fugitive financier.

Speaking at the podium now for the House Government Reform Committee is Christopher Shays of Connecticut.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: You were hired specifically because you had his ear.

JACK QUINN, COUNSEL TO MARC RICH, FORMER COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: I was hired initially to deal with the Department of Justice, not with the president.

That's my understanding of why I was brought into this matter.

And I operated there to try to bring about a resolution of this. You and I see this very differently.

I accept that.

But I think the job I did was professional, it addressed the indictment, it didn't address the other matters you've raised, which were not the subject of the indictment.

SHAYS: But you also served the president of the United States. Don't you have some loyalty to the president?

And if not to this president, to the office of president. I mean, you were advocating that basically someone be given a pardon who was a fugitive who traded with the enemy, and you said that wasn't of concern to you.

And then I asked you to be of concern to the president, and you said, "Probably." Didn't you have some obligation to at least inform him that there were these accusations?

QUINN: Mr. Shays, when I got into this case I came to believe, as I believe today, that the indictment was flawed.

I came to believe much later that that was a reasonable basis upon which to request a pardon.

You don't see it that way.

SHAYS: I think legally...

QUINN: I accept that.

SHAYS: No.

Legally, as a lawyer, you could justify it.

But you weren't just a lawyer, you were the president's former counsel, who, I think, he held you in some trust. For instance, more misleading things in your application.

I have a university president in my district who has contacted us to say his letter thanking Mr. Rich for a $25,000 contribution was in no way related to a pardon.

He was doing the pro forma thing.

And we know others did the same thing. That was misleading.

You were trying to present this man as a man of character.

But in response to my questions about his character -- in fact, your entire application is about character.

All four corners deal with character.

And yet, when it comes to trading with the enemy, you don't want to talk about character.

QUINN: Mr. Shays, I presented the facts as I saw them, the legal arguments that I thought justified his pardon.

I encouraged the White House to seek the views of the Department of Justice.

I started doing that long before the 19th of January.

I did not try to keep the White House or the president from obtaining information...

SHAYS: But you tried to mislead.

QUINN: ... from any -- I did not.

SHAYS: No, because you...

QUINN: No, sir.

I did not. SHAYS: The way you tried to mislead is you suggested he wasn't a fugitive, when he was.

You suggested that it wasn't illegal trade, but it was illegal trade.

You were just trying to say that somehow he wasn't an American, but he was.

And so, as an American, he traded illegally with these countries.

That's misleading.

It's misleading to...

QUINN: It might be misleading if you were correct about the underlying legal argument.

But I see it a different way.

And I don't, frankly, think it's fair to attack my character when what I did was act as an advocate on the basis of a good faith belief I had.

You may not agree with me.

I understand you agree with me about none of that.

But I acted professionally and honorably and ethically.

SHAYS: The president of our university in our district doesn't think you acted professionally, because he thinks you misused his letter to give the impression that you were supporting his character.

REP. DAN BURTON, (R-IL), COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The gentleman's time has expired.

Mr. Cummings?

REP. ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

CHEN: All right, you have been hearing some of the sharp questioning taking place on Capitol Hill today at the House Government Reform Committee. The attorney, Jack Quinn answering questions about his help for the fugitive financier Marc Rich, who received a pardon from President Clinton in his final off -- hours in office.

Jack Quinn answering questions before the committee today. You just heard him being questioned by Republican Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, taking some pretty sharp barbs there, but defending his position and saying that he simply regarded the indictment against Rich as being quite different, as many of the representatives on the hill seem to today.

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