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CNN Today

Clinton Pardon Probe Widens

Aired February 23, 2001 - 2:30 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: The cast of characters in the Clinton pardon investigation continues to grow. It now includes four Hasidic Jewish men from New York, a couple of men from Arkansas, and Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign treasurer.

Joining us from Washington to sort it all out, CNN's Jeanne Meserve.

Be gentle with us, Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Lou, I'll try and sort it out.

Actually, I've got another assistant here who's going to help.

The treasurer of Hillary Clinton's U.S. Senate campaign today held a press conference and said he'd done nothing wrong when he worked on the paperwork for the pardons of two Arkansas men. He was paid $4,000 for that effort. He said it was thoroughly appropriate, and that the pardons were proved on their merits.

Right now, Eileen O'Connor is joining us. She's been probing into this.

There's another actor in that particular part of the drama...

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is.

MESERVE: ... who's spoken out. Tell us about that.

O'CONNOR: All right. It's a Harry Thomason, and he is a friend of the Clintons, a very old friend. And he, in fact, was the man who recommended to Harold Ickes, Mr. Cunningham's law partner, that -- these two men to him, because he's not a lawyer and he said that some friends of him recommended that these two people be looked at in terms of their clemency application.

So he says he just passed it on and he wasn't doing anything wrong. He also issued a statement through his attorney that said Mr. Thomason did not receive a single penny for his limited actions, which were responsible, ethical, honorable and legal.

MESERVE: OK, and today, not one, but two Clinton relatives involved in all of this, Roger Clinton and Hugh Rodham. Bring us up to speed. O'CONNOR: OK, well, basically, Roger Clinton is saying that yes, in fact -- according to former aides of the former president -- that, in fact, he did give a list of about five or six names to the president for consideration for pardons.

One of those people we've been able to contact, one of those people on the list. And he basically says that no money changed hands, he never promised any money to Roger Clinton. And that is also what aides to the former president say.

And, in addition, though, the Burton committee is still wanting to know, both from Roger Clinton and from Hugh Rodham Clinton, their involvement in a few of these pardons. And they say they're still investigating this, although they do not say that there is anything illegal. But they do believe that there could be ethical questions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM WILSON, COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM: There is an appearance problem, in the eyes of many, when you have relatives advocating pardons and the process being ignored. And that's -- you know, there's nothing necessarily wrong with somebody advocating a pardon. But the real issue is, why not go through the normal process? Why not submit the papers to the pardon attorney, consult with prosecutors, do all the things that make sure you have a comfort level with that you're doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'CONNOR: Now, what the committee says they're going to do is have some more hearings on all this, Jeanne, look into these things, bring a few of these people involved in front of the committee and basically air the facts, as they say, before the public. But in terms of finding anything illegal, they may end up just stopping there.

MESERVE: OK, another probe, and give us the Cliffs Notes version here. Hillary Clinton met with some Hasidic Jews. Four of them are members of a community.

O'CONNOR: Right, this is what...

MESERVE: Four of them then got a pardon. She's issued a statement, or her office has, saying "Sen. Clinton has spoken about these pardons on several occasions and we do not have anything to add at this time."

Do you have something to add?

O'CONNOR: No, basically just to recap what she's already said, that, yes, she went to the New Square community; and, yes, she met with them while she was campaigning, but that she did not at that time hear anything about their clemency applications, and the clemency applications had nothing to do with her -- the votes for her.

Back to you in Atlanta.

MESERVE: Eileen, thanks.

WATERS: OK, get those scorecards printed up for us, would you?

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