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CNN Today

H. Clinton To Comment On Pardons Controversy

Aired February 22, 2001 - 1:17 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: We are awaiting a live news conference. The microphones have been set up in the Rotunda of the Capitol.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign treasurer helped to obtain last-minute pardons for two convicted felons from former President Clinton. Add that to the other pardon information that you've been subjected to by media for the past several days. And you know the political threat to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the junior senator from New York.

We will take that live when it happens.

While we wait, let's bring in CNN's Jeanne Meserve up in Washington.

This is quite a day, Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, this whole matter getting more complex, more curious and more controversial, if that's possible.

Joining me here, Bill Schneider, our political analyst.

Bill, let me ask you a variant of the question that Lou just asked Roger Cossack. What does Hillary Rodham Clinton have to do in her remarks this afternoon?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: She has to make clear that she indeed was not aware of her brother's involvement, if that is the case.

Obviously, the most important thing she has to do is to tell the truth. But if she was not aware of it, had no knowledge that her brother at all was involved with it. She's already said that she knows -- she does not -- she did not know he was getting money. But she's got to make it clear, if it's the truth, that she didn't have any awareness of her brother's involvement in this case. And if that's the case, there would better be no evidence of that.

MESERVE: What is at stake for her?

SCHNEIDER: Well, what's at stake is the name, Clinton, really. And what that means politically because she bares that name. When people think of the name Clinton, they're going to think of the Clinton achievements, the economy, deficit reduction, welfare reform, what he did in office, bringing the Democrats back to the center, making them more competitive. Or are they going to think of what the polls show that they think of right now: ethical lapses, improprieties, and most of all, scandal.

MESERVE: What about the Republicans? How should they be handling this?

SCHNEIDER: Very, very cautiously because they know from impeachment controversy that this was -- that it is a very great risk for Republicans to turn the Clintons into victims. And when they turn them into victims, they become sympathetic. This is a question of law, and it's a question of ethics and impropriety, that the Republicans can't be seeing as turning this into a vendetta -- a partisan vendetta.

MESERVE: What do you think about the way the Bush White House has been handling it so far? They've said, We're looking ahead; we don't want to look back.

SCHNEIDER: They're keeping a distance, and I think that's very wise. So far, it's been making President Bush look pretty good because of the contrast with President Clinton.

On the other hand, he's trying to get a message out there about his agenda. And so far, most of the news attention has been to the Clintons, not to Bushes. And that's got to be very irritating.

MESERVE: What are the central issues, in your opinion, in this whole pardon controversy?

SCHNEIDER: I would say there're really three issues of controversy.

One is money. Clearly, that's at the heart of the whole thing, in the case of Marc Rich pardon and in the case of these new affairs. Where the money was given? Who gave it? And what the White House knew about that money?

Second of all, there's the question of connections. The first lady's brother, the former president's brother-in-law, that's a big connection. People, fund-raisers who are well connected with the Clintons. If you had connections, it's clear you've got special treatment.

And third of all, these were all controversial cases. There's the merits of the case. Marc Rich, what did he do? A guy who dealt with 800 pounds of cocaine was convicted. Is this a guy who deserves a pardon? And all of this -- and the third guy, Braswell, was involved in an ongoing Justice Department investigation.

There's the controversy over these cases themselves, without respect to the money or to the connections.

MESERVE: Bill Schneider, thanks so much.

And we do have some videotape of a limousine which I believe is carrying Hillary Rodham Clinton, taking her up to Capitol Hill. There, we see it is leaving their new residence in northwestern D.C., and taking her on up to Capitol Hill, where we expect her to speak in just a matter of minutes.

Right now, we'll toss back to Lou in Atlanta.

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