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Special Event

Questioning Into the Marc Rich Pardon Continues on Capitol Hill

Aired March 1, 2001 - 1:42 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: We continue coverage, now, our coverage of the pardon hearings on Capitol Hill. Beth Nolan, former Clinton White House counsel is responding to a question by Republican Christopher Shays.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

BETH NOLAN, FORMER CLINTON WHIE HOUSE COUNSEL: ... and she did, I know, on occasion -- if she heard somebody was on the phone she knew, she might pick it up. I don't recall her ever picking up and doing a business conversation other than -- I think she did have conversations on the night of the 19th, regarding the Marc Rich pardon.

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: One last one?

REP. DAN BURTON (R-IN), CHAIRMAN: Sure.

SHAYS: The bottom line is, Mr. Quinn, you thought she had influence and the ability to persuade the president. And you sent her a letter advocating that Marc Rich be pardoned. Isn't it true that you sent that letter to her?

JACK QUINN, COUNSEL TO MARC RICH: I did send that letter to her. My primary motivation in discussing this matter with Ms. Mills was, as I said, to have a source of information about how people might be reacting.

But, again, as several of us here have said, I knew that she was terrifically well-regarded by the people here on this panel, myself included, and by the president, and I certainly didn't rule out the possibility that they would seek her judgment on this and other matters.

SHAYS: Would you tell me her view on the pardon?

QUINN: I don't actually know her view.

SHAYS: You don't know if she was sympathetic or not to your request that Marc Rich be pardoned?

QUINN: The one substantive, the one meaningful conversation that I think I can point to was one in which she didn't express a point of view but said to me that her view was that, in order for anyone to find the argument compelling, we would have to demonstrate that the prosecution had been unfair.

But she never said to me...

SHAYS: Did she think the prosecutor had been unfair?

QUINN: I'm trying to answer your question, Congressman. She did not adopt that point of view. She did not ever tell me that she agreed with me. She did not ever tell me that she would do what she could to help secure the pardon. You know, I think she was open- minded...

SHAYS: I get your point.

I yield back.

BURTON: We'll be giving you some time in just a minute.

You wrote the letter, I think, around the 5th or 6th of January to Ms. Mills?

QUINN: Yes, sir.

BURTON: When did she first start being involved in the discussions of the Marc Rich pardon? Does anybody recall that?

BRUCE LINDSEY, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: Mr. Chairman, let me try. Ms. Mills was invited on the afternoon of January 19 to come to a reception in the White House.

BURTON: I know, but I'm talking...

LINDSEY: Hold on, if I can finish? I'm going to get to your question. I'm trying to put it in context. I don't know if she -- I'm sorry, but your question was, was before that?

BURTON: Yes. The question is, the letter was sent on the 5th or 6th by Mr. Quinn to Ms. Mills. When did she first start talking to anyone at the White House, including the president, about the Marc Rich pardon? I know that she was there on the 19th and I know she participated in the meeting. But when was the first time, to any of your knowledge, that she started talking about this?

LINDSEY: The first time I ever had a conversation about Marc Rich with Ms. Mills was on the 19th.

NOLAN: I had one conversation earlier, I don't remember the exact date, but we were doing a staff farewell video for President Clinton. And I had invited Mr. Quinn and Lloyd Cutler and Judge Mikva and Mr. Nussbaum and Cheryl Mills to come back and be part of our video. And she said something to me, I think in Mr. Quinn's presence, that she had told him to stop pestering me about the Marc Rich pardon.

LINDSEY: But If I can go back to Mr. Shays' question, which is the context for the meeting on the 19th. BURTON: I'll let you answer that question, Mr. Lindsey, in just one moment, but I'm running out of time here, and I want to yield to the minority.

At the meeting on the 19th, was anything of a classified nature discussed, national security or classified nature, in relation to any of the pardons or things that were confidential?

NOLAN: I don't think there was any classified or national security information.

LINDSEY: No, sir.

BURTON: No grand jury information was discussed?

NOLAN: I don't think, other than that there had been indictments was discussed, but, no, we didn't have any, you know, grand jury information or 6(e) material.

BURTON: OK. Go ahead, Mr. Lindsey, we'll let you conclude.

LINDSEY: Ms. Mills had been invited to the White House on the 19th for a reception for Kelly Craighead, an employee of Mrs. Clinton. She had also been invited by the president to fly back to New York on the 20th. She was also scheduled to have dinner with Mrs. Nolan and I on the evening of the 19th.

We were in Ms. Nolan's office, waiting to discuss with the president the independent counsel issues. As several people have indicated, there was no indication at that point that Marc Rich would be discussed. We got a call to come to the Oval Office to discuss the independent counsel matters. I invited Ms. Mills to join that conversation, because Ms. Mills had been in the White House at the time of the Espy investigation, at the time of the Cisneros investigation and at the time of the Whitewater investigation. The purpose of the meeting that night was on the independent counsel pardon.

The president did, in the meeting, raise the conversation he had had earlier in the day about Marc Rich, and I began revisiting it. In those conversations, Ms. Mills asked a question or two, but took no position. But there was no way for Ms. Mills to know when she went down to the meeting that the Marc Rich pardon was going to come up, since that was not the purpose of the meeting, and, therefore, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the independent counsel pardons.

BURTON: Mr. Waxman, you're recognized for 30 minutes.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

The president has come in for a lot of criticism on these pardon decisions, and I think, those that have heard my opening statement, much of that criticism is justified, but I don't believe all the criticism he's received is justified, because some people have said he's trying to stonewall and cover up this investigation. Yet all of you are here testifying because he's waived the executive privilege.

Ms. Nolan, let me just ask you this question, so we have it on the record. As I understand it, the president could prohibit any of you from speaking today to Congress or to anyone else if he exercised his rights under the executive privilege. Isn't that correct?

NOLAN: President Clinton certainly has a strong voice in whether executive privilege can be asserted even after he's left office, and he did not do that.

WAXMAN: Well, I commend him for allowing...

ALLEN: The Democrats, now, asking questions. We'll take a quick break; we'll rejoin the coverage in just a moment.

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