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Special Event

House Government Reform Committee Holds Hearings on Marc Rich Pardon

Aired March 1, 2001 - 1:28 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 House Government Reform Committee looking into the possibility that deals were made in exchange for presidential pardons in the last week of the Clinton presidency, the president's former aides John Podesta, who was Clinton's White House chief of staff; Bruce Lindsey, his top adviser; and Beth Nolan, a former White House counsel, are appearing before Dan Burton's committee.

And Christopher Shays, the Republican from Connecticut, is asking the questions.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

BETH NOLAN, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: ... as being in the White House handling pardon activities. She did participate in advising the president. The president had continued to depend on her. She was the person who he had asked to be counsel to the president and she would have been counsel to the president had she accepted. He continued to depend on her throughout that time for advice.

REP. DAN BURTON (R), GOVERNMENT REFORM CHAIRMAN: Would the gentleman yield just a moment?

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Yes.

BURTON: When the pardon attorney called the White House, he said that Ms. Mills answered the phone and started giving him answers regarding the pardons. She was not an employee of the White House, and we were wondering by what authority she was entitled to answer questions to the pardon attorney about some of the pardons.

NOLAN: Mr. Chairman, I'm just not familiar with that phone call. As I mentioned, she not only is a long-time employee of the White House who is very familiar with the office, she is also a friend of mine. And when she was in Washington, she would sometimes come and sit in my office. She might have picked up the phone, I don't know. She wasn't working on pardon matters for the last several weeks, but she was familiar with pardons and she was present the last day and she participated in discussions.

BURTON: Well, there may be some misunderstanding, but when we talked to the pardon attorney, it was our impression, I think, pretty clearly, that she was discussing pardons with him on the phone with a great deal of authority and giving him, you know, answers.

Any how, I yield back to the gentleman.

SHAYS: Thank you.

Ms. Nolan, I'm having a little difficulty with this. I mean, we knew it really bordered on the very questionable lines that Mr. Quinn, who was a former White House employee, was back in the White House lobby. And we can have our disagreements on whether it was a criminal matter or not, there was a dialogue between the two in which he said you acquiesced. I have a problem with that, but I have a question about how someone who is in the private sector under private employment is back working in the White House.

And I'd like to know who invited her to be in the White House? Who authorized her to be involved in the Marc Rich issue? And then I want to ask you, isn't it true that she works for a trustee of the Clinton Library?

First, let me ask you this: Isn't it true that she is a trustee of the Clinton Library?

NOLAN: I believe I heard that a couple of weeks ago, yes.

SHAYS: So the answer is yes?

NOLAN: I believe that's correct. I've only heard it...

SHAYS: So then, now I want to know why this trustee of the Clinton Library was back in the White House, discussing Marc Rich's pardon?

NOLAN: Mr. Shays, I don't know that I'm going to be able to give you an answer that satisfies you more than the one I've given you. She was a long-time trusted adviser of president. She continued to be somebody that we looked to for advice.

SHAYS: So it's your point that the president authorized her to be there or that you authorized her to be there?

NOLAN: I don't know that I can give you answer about who authorized it.

SHAYS: Who invited her to come?

NOLAN: She was invited when she was in Washington to come by.

SHAYS: By whom?

NOLAN: Certainly by me, but many people in the White House. She had many friends.

SHAYS: Why would you have invited her to come and work on the Rich pardon in your office?

NOLAN: I did not invite her specifically to do that. She was present. I don't know whether the president had discussed pardons with her already. He talked with her frequently.

BURTON: Would the gentleman yield?

Was she in any of the meetings when they discussed any of the pardons?

NOLAN: She was in the meeting on January 19, the evening of January 19 with the president.

BURTON: And that was when they discussed the Rich pardon.

NOLAN: Yes.

BURTON: Did she take a position on the Rich pardon?

NOLAN: I don't remember her having a position on yes or no. I thought that she was pushing everyone in the room to think hard about the issues.

BURTON: There's a significance to this. She's on the library board. We want to find out if she participated in the decision-making process on the Rich pardon. She was in the room with you, and you don't recall. Do any of you recall what Ms. Mills' position was and what she said regarding the Rich pardon?

JOHN PODESTA, FORMER CLINTON CHIEF OF STAFF: If you want me to start, I've already said I wasn't in the discussion. She was present in a room when we discussed several matters involving prosecutions by the independent counsel. The president wanted her views about those things. She was quite familiar with the cases. And I think that...

BURTON: But you don't recall on the Rich pardon?

PODESTA: The president did want to know what she thought about individual cases that had been prosecuted by independent counsels. And I think probably amongst all of those in the room, she may have been the most, maybe with deference to Mr. Lindsey, she had been the most familiar with those independent counsel cases, and that's why he was seeking her advice about them. But I was not present during the discussion of the Rich pardon.

BURTON: We're talking not about other cases that were before the independent counsels, but Mr. Rich.

PODESTA: That was, in some extent, in response to Mr. Shays' question.

BRUCE LINDSEY, FORMER CLINTON ADVISER: In order to understand the context, though, it is important to understand that the purpose of the meeting with the president, on the night of the 19th, was to discuss the independent counsel issues. That was why we were meeting with him. We had deferred those issues until the end.

In that meeting, the president indicated that he had received a call that day from Prime Minister Barak, and re-raised the Rich issue. LINDSEY: But until that time, as Mr. Podesta and Ms. Nolan have indicated, at least they were under the clear impression that the Rich issue was dead.

BURTON: OK, well, let me ask this. I mean, she was in there when they discussed the Rich pardon issue. Do any of you recall what her position was?

LINDSEY: Yes, sir, I don't believe she took a position on the merits of it. She asked whether or not we were discussing several of the assertions that Mr. Quinn made with respect to whether or not these people had been singled out. And she asked several questions as to, do we know whether they were singled out? Do we know if there were other cases similar to this? But beyond asking those questions, I don't believe she took a position.

BURTON: Were there any other things discussed, any financial things, like the library or anything like that?

LINDSEY: No, sir, there were no discussions in that meeting or in any meeting that I attended with the president in which contributions or the library was discussed, at which the DNC contributions were discussed, where contributions to Mrs. Clinton's campaign were discussed...

BURTON: Or the library?

LINDSEY: Or the library, not in that meeting, not in any meeting.

BURTON: And Ms. Mills, at that time, was she on the library board?

LINDSEY: She was a trustee of the board, yes, sir.

BURTON: But it was not mentioned? Nothing was mentioned in relation to that during...

LINDSEY: Nothing was mentioned in relation to the library, period.

BURTON: OK.

Mr. Shays?

SHAYS: Thank you. I'd love to refer to exhibit 152. While that's coming up, I just want to be very clear, Mr. Podesta, did you ask Ms. Mills to come to the White House, in any way, to discuss the Rich issues or any other pardon issues?

PODESTA: Did I ask her to come to the White House? No, I did not.

SHAYS: Ms. Nolan, did you?

QUINN: Can we look at the exhibit that you're referring to before we answer...

SHAYS: No, I was referring to something else and I'll give you...

QUINN: ... before we answer the question?

SHAYS: No, this question is not related to the exhibit directly.

QUINN: Oh, excuse me.

SHAYS: I just want to know -- I just want to cover up the past territory. I'm unclear. Did you, in any way, request that Ms. Mills be there? Did you authorize her to be there?

NOLAN: I certainly knew she was coming to town and expected she would come to my office and see me, yes.

SHAYS: OK, did you make an assumption that the president had asked her to be there?

NOLAN: I don't know that I made that assumption, no, but I...

SHAYS: Well, what are we to assume? I mean, this person comes and starts talking about the Rich pardons, sits in on your meetings and she's not even an employee.

NOLAN: Well, I've explained the context in which that wasn't so surprising. I know you don't accept it, but I don't know what else to say.

SHAYS: Well, what I'm still unclear on is who asked her to be there.

Let me just have you make reference to the exhibit. It says, "Here is the letter Jack sent to the White House. As you may notice, it's from Robert Fink, sent to Mike Green." And it says, "Here's the letter Jack sent to the White House. As you may notice, his secretary said that Jack sent copies to Beth Nolan, Bruce Lindsey and Cheryl Mills. April said they have clearance to deliver it to the White House so it will get there this evening, presumably before POTUS leaves for Camp David. To whom Avner, with whom I am not be speaking this afternoon and evening. If you call me at home tomorrow, I can give you an update."

And I just want to know, Mr. Quinn, did you send it to her at the White House?

QUINN: I think not, sir.

SHAYS: OK. Why did you send Ms. Mills a copy? Was it your understanding that she was doing some type of work with the counsel's office in January 2001?

QUINN: I sent it to her, Mr. Shays, because knowing, as Ms. Nolan has testified, that she is a person who after some seven years at the White House was enormously well-regarded and trusted, well might at some point be consulted on this.

I had raised with her the fact that I was pursuing the pardon, as I did with others from time to time, to just bounce ideas off.

But also, I was hopeful, knowing of her relationship with Ms. Nolan and Mr. Lindsey and the president, that, as any good lawyer would, that as this thing progressed, if it were progressing, that I would get some sense of how people were reacting to different arguments in order that I might be in a position to know better what concerns the folks advising the president might have, so that I might address those concerns.

SHAYS: What is very surprising...

WATERS: Jack Quinn, attorney for Marc Rich, at the table, testifying in the pardons investigation of the House Government Reform Committee, along with former Clinton administration aides former chief of staff John Podesta; Bruce Lindsey, former top aide; and Beth Nolan, former White House counsel -- early questions concerning a former White House counsel named Cheryl Mills, who now sits on the Clinton Foundation library board and whether there's any connection between her sitting on the board and any donations to the library and if they had anything to do with the Marc Rich pardon.

Continue on with the House Government Committee hearings after a short break.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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