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CNN Today

Hillary Clinton Embedded In Clinton Pardon Controversy

Aired February 22, 2001 - 1:00 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Bill Clinton is furious, Hillary Rodham Clinton is disturbed, Dan Burton is troubled. Those descriptions, provided by sources or the people themselves, follow the latest revelations in the clemency pardon controversy.

Revelations including: six-figure payments to Bill Clinton's brother-in-law; a sentence commutation over Justice Department objections; and just this morning, word that Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign treasurer handled two successful pardon applications.

The story gets bigger by the hour. And CNN's Eileen O'Connor is keeping tabs on it all in our Washington newsroom.

Eileen, bring us up to speed here.

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the word we're hearing at the latest is basically that Mrs. Clinton -- there's a little flap brewing right now about her and the treasurer of her campaign. And what we understand from her spokesman is that she said she knew nothing about the fact that the treasurer for her campaign, who is an attorney, had actually filed for applications for pardons for two men. And they were granted those pardons.

Now, we're trying to reach the attorney involved, Edward Cunningham. He was treasurer for the campaign.

But according to Mrs. Clinton, (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES) and Mr. Cunningham, he says did not contact the White House directly, concerning those pardon application. He's -- Jim Kennedy, her (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES) he in fact went through these proper Justice Department channels in applying those pardon applications -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Eileen O'Connor in Washington.

We continue with more on this story. Of course, here's Natalie with more.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The Rodham revelations aren't sitting too well among Congressional Republicans, who, as you know, have two separate pardon investigations already under way.

(TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES)

... told CNN's Jeanne Meserve (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES) in Washington -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES) chairman of the Democratic National Committee (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES) doing -- admitted doing, I should say, of taking $400,000 to participate in clemency petitions for two individuals.

His lawyers say that he did nothing (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES) in propriety and he (TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES)

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: ... and on who gets pardons. And he had the ability -- or someday maybe she will have the ability to give those pardons and commutations. And that person doesn't have to ask anybody else, and doesn't have to explain why they did it.

However, there is laws against bribery. And I am in no way suggesting that there is any evidence yet, that is what Congress is looking into: the probe. Did someone get something for something?

We see time and time again where it's clear if you had access -- that certain people had access to the president that others clearly didn't, those people were retained by clients. Look, for one reason: because they had access to the president. There's nothing wrong in that. That's the way things go.

The question is: Was the next step ever taken? And that's what Congress is looking into it.

WATERS: There may or may not be a legal risk as you pointed out. But there certainly is a political risk for Hillary Rodham Clinton, especially we are expecting to hear from her in a matter of minutes here to make a statement about these pardons involving her brother.

What is the political risk for Hillary Rodham Clinton? She can't -- she can't get away from her involvement with Bill Clinton.

COSSACK: I'm sorry, Lou. I was unable to hear that last question. Could you give me a repeat again?

WATERS: Hillary Rodham Clinton is unable to divorce herself politically from Bill Clinton's pardons while he was president. She's going to step out here shortly and make some comment because her brother is now involved in one of these pardons. There's a high political risk for her.

COSSACK: Well, you know, you can only imagine the conversation these two must be having at night. When it was -- when it the Marc Rich one, there must have been an argument about, Look what you did for Marc Rich. And now, President Clinton must be saying, But look what your brother got me involved with. You know, who knows? Who knows how the political -- the politics in this will eventually shake out.

WATERS: All right, Roger Clinton, we'll be calling upon you many...

COSSACK: Roger Cossack, Lou. WATERS: Oh, boy, boy. I said "Jeannie Meserve" yesterday, "Roger Clinton" today. I'm sorry.

ALLEN: That's all right.

WATERS: I'm having...

ALLEN: We pardon you.

WATERS: My synapses are not clicking properly.

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