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CNN Today

Will Criminal Investigation of Marc Rich Pardon Uncover Anything New?

Aired February 15, 2001 - 1:06 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: There's more legal intrigue today surrounding the problematic pardon granted expatriate fraud suspect Marc Rich by outgoing President Clinton. The U.S. attorney in New York, Mary Jo White, has opened a criminal investigation into whether the pardon was, in effect, bought. As you've probably heard, Rich's ex-wife has made large contributions to the Democratic Party and to Clinton's presidential library. By way of response, the 42nd president issued a written statement saying, and we quote: "I made the decision to pardon Marc Rich based on what I thought was the right thing to do. I look forward to cooperating with any appropriate inquiry."

This latest inquiry is the third so far; two are being done by Congress. And joining us now with insights on all of them is "TIME" magazine writer Tamala Edwards.

Hi, there, Tamala.

TAMALA EDWARDS, "TIME" MAGAZINE": Hi, how are you?

ALLEN: Fine, thank you. How big is this going to get? As we just said, there are several different pockets of investigations proceeding at this point.

EDWARDS: Yes, that's a great question; and at the moment my sense is, not that much bigger. It's interesting that Mary Jo White said, hey, I want a shot at this; I'm furious; I want to find out what's going on here.

But as has been pointed out, unless they're able to get someone to point out wrongdoing -- yes Marc Rich was sending Denise Rich money. Yes, the understanding was, as she gave that money, a pardon would be forthcoming for him. Unless they get someone to finger that, it's going to be very hard to do something with this. We know it's unseemly, unsightly; but at the end of the day it still is a presidential power to grant these pardons.

ALLEN: So, do you give it a very minimal chance that we'll see Denise Rich before Congress members on Capitol Hill?

EDWARDS: It may well happen. I would say you're much more likely to see something come out of Mary Jo White if she's able to find some information and force this woman to give her some information in return, essentially, to save herself -- then you might get some new information.

But is Denise Rich necessarily going to be afraid of Dan Burton and the congressional hearings? No; they know that those will end and will move on, and it says something to us -- that President Bush and John Ashcroft are saying, we're ready to move on. So unless you have prosecutors able to hold something over Denise Rich, I don't see how this moves on.

ALLEN: Yes, how does that work out, when you have the Bush administration wants saying, we want to put this behind us and members of Congress continuing on? You expect, perhaps, the Bush administration might not be so passive in their expression of that, hey, let's move on.

EDWARDS: Well, I mean, to a degree there's little they can do. This president certainly does inflame passions; they've got the right to hold hearings. I think they also know, as with every story, you know, this time six, seven weeks ago we were all talking about Florida and recount, and can the nation survive; and we've all moved on from that story. And I think they know, give this about another week and we'll move on from this one, too, unless journalists or prosecutors turn over some really interesting information.

ALLEN: How does former President Clinton move on? He's already, isn't he not, suffering a little bit from the money -- he was expected to make lots of money in speeches.

EDWARDS: That's a great question because it's a question of the short-term and the long-term. Is this just a momentary thing? You saw that outpouring for him in Harlem. He'll move on; three months from now either we'll be focusing on Hillary and her speeches, other things in the party, he'll quietly begin to give speeches.

Or does this signal something different? The fact that Democrats who stood beside him during impeachment are saying, this Marc Rich thing looks horrible.

(AUDIO GAP)

EDWARDS: ... does it mean that, you know, groups and other people who would have solicited his help, his ability to be a king- maker in the party is undercut. And that we'll figure out in the next few months.

ALLEN: Tamala Edwards of "TIME" magazine; thanks, Tamala.

EDWARDS: Thank you.

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