|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
Larry King Live
Was Bill Clinton's Pardon of Marc Rich Unpardonable?Aired February 8, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: Critics call it Bill Clinton's unpardonable pardon. Congress wants to know why the outgoing president gave notorious billionaire Marc Rich a last-minute legal pass.
Joining us in Washington: the chairman of today's House hearings on the pardon, Republican Congressman Dan Burton; and a key committee witness, Jack Quinn, attorney for Marc Rich and former Clinton White House counsel; in New York, Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who brought the case against Rich as a U.S. attorney 18 years ago; also in New York, the Empire State's former Democratic governor, Mario Cuomo. Back in the nation's capital: GOP Congressman Christopher Shays, a member of the Government Reform Committee; in Jacksonville, Florida, a man who pursued Marc Rich as part of his job with the U.S. Marshals Service, the former New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir.
Plus, we'll get perspective from Bill Plante, White House correspondent for CBS News, and Hugh Sidey of "Time" magazine. And they are all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. We begin with Jack Quinn, attorney for Marc Rich, who testified for 9 1/2 hours today.
What was that like?
JACK QUINN, ATTORNEY FOR MARC RICH: It was a long day. It was a long day.
KING: Tough day?
QUINN: It was a tough day, but it was a fair day.
KING: Did anything surprise you?
QUINN: No. You know, the committee I think had the right and the obligation to ask the questions they did. I had made a commitment that I would cooperate fully and promptly. And so I was pleased to be there to do that. It was a long, long day.
And as Chairman Burton will tell you, you know, from time to time, I needed to take a five-minute break and go down the hall.
KING: Have you spoken to the president -- President Clinton -- since this? QUINN: Just once. I spoke to him early -- the week following the pardon. And we had a relatively brief conversation in which he affirmed to me that he had made this decision on the merits and expressed a concern that we make sure that people understood the basis for the application and the merits that were before him.
KING: Do you think he should go on somewhere and explain his pardon?
QUINN: You may know from my past appearances and experiences about this that I feel very, very strongly about the prerogatives of the presidency, not this president, but of the office of the presidency. I respect the right of the committee to call all the witnesses it wants to, to try to determine what the basis of this pardon was. But I do think that it is inappropriate in this system of government to call a president and question him about a decision he makes on war and peace, on foreign policy or pardons.
KING: Should he do a different venue: go on a program?
QUINN: It is not my call to make.
QUINN: What I can tell you about this is that, to the bottom of my heart, I know certainly that this case was presented to him by me on the merits, not -- not on the basis of relationships...
KING: Favor. Relationship, OK.
QUINN: Favors, gifts, contributions. And I know, based on the dealings that I had with him, that he had devoured this pardon petition, that he had really thought carefully about the arguments I made. And I believe that he made the decision based on the arguments before him.
KING: Did he listen to arguments on the other side, to your knowledge?
QUINN: Well, to my knowledge, there was a significant debate within the White House. There were people on the other side. I believe he heard from people who opposed granting the pardon. And I believe he heard from people who were in favor of it -- certainly me.
But I also believe -- and I think this very important -- that he believes he had the advice and recommendation that he needed from the United States Department of Justice. And I believe that what he understood that advice to be played an important role in the decision he made.
KING: You, then, did not circumvent?
QUINN: I certainly don't believe I circumvented. I -- in point of fact, on at least one occasion -- and I believe more -- I encouraged the White House Counsel's Office to seek the views of the Department of Justice. I did so because I believed that, because of a course of dealings I had had with the department over a period of about 14 months, that the department was sympathetic not to the notion of a pardon, but sympathetic to the notion that we had presented to them legal arguments about the flaws in this case and that the Southern District of New York ought to reconsider it.
KING: Couple of other things, and we -- it is hard to get into the myriad of all of it. In essence, though, you are saying that this should have been a civil matter.
QUINN: Yes, sir.
KING: That the matters he is being accused with, other people were accused of in similar fashion civilly.
QUINN: That is correct.
KING: And they went after him criminally.
QUINN: That is correct.
KING: Don't decision likes this made a lot in Justice and at Internal Revenue: This guy is criminal; this guy is civil? Isn't that made every day in prosecuting offices?
QUINN: Well -- sure. But in this case -- and you are right, it is complicated. And I'm not going to begin to try to explain it in this show, although if you give me the opportunity, I would be glad to.
KING: Would you come back one night? And I will do a whole -- a whole explanation of the case.
QUINN: I certainly will. I would love to do that.
This case arose out of a complicated series of oil transactions that occurred during the time when we had price controls on oil. And, in essence, what happened was that Marc Rich and major United States oil companies, including Arco, had linked domestic transactions to foreign transactions in an effort, admittedly, to circumvent those price controls. I think they were trying to do so lawfully. But what they tried to do was to find a way to get the real value out of a price of oil.
KING: And they were charged with racketeering.
QUINN: Well, they...
QUINN: That was the straw that broke the camel's back. This case could not have been brought today as a RICO case, because the United States Department of Justice in 1989 and 1990 adopted as a matter of policy that cases like this couldn't be brought as racketeering cases. And that, by the way, was the subject of repeated criticism in the editorial pages, particularly of "The Wall Street Journal." KING: At the time?
QUINN: At the time.
KING: All right, a couple of other quick things: Is Marc Rich coming back to America?
QUINN: Larry, I would not have embarked on this project if I did not believe that he would come back.
KING: So he is -- now, that is the whole purpose: to come back, right?
QUINN: That was certainly my understanding.
KING: And what do you make of Denise Rich taking the Fifth?
QUINN: I don't know what to say about that. You know, I -- this is my surmise, my speculation: that her lawyers want her, if she is going to provide testimony, to do so under some grant of immunity. But what I can tell you is that I -- for myself, I made the decision to cooperate promptly and fully. I have made that commitment as recently as this evening before this show to the chairman to continue to do so.
KING: We will meet the chairman now. Thanks, Jack.
QUINN: You bet. KING: Thanks for coming over.
QUINN: Oh, thank you.
KING: I appreciate it. It was a long day.
QUINN: You bet.
KING: We will meet that chairman, Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana, right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did what I thought was right. And I still think that, on balance, it was probably the right decision. I wish we had more time to work it. But you should -- nobody else needs to be called about this. I am responsible for it. And I take responsibility for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: As we appreciated Jack Quinn coming over, we appreciate Congressman Dan Burton as well, the Republican of Indiana, chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform. Any comment on what Jack Quinn just said? REP. DAN BURTON (R-IN), CHAIRMAN, GOVERNMENT REFORM AND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Well, he was a pretty good witness. I don't agree with what he did or some of the methods that I believe were employed in trying to get this pardon for Mr. Rich. But I don't have anything personally against Mr. Quinn.
KING: But he was being a lawyer, wasn't he?
BURTON: He was being a lawyer. Oh, boy, was he ever.
KING: That's what lawyers are supposed to do.
BURTON: Right. He presented his side of the case to the people that he thought were necessary to get this pardon for Mr. Rich, and he was successful.
KING: Congressman, where does it all go, since last night on this program Attorney General Ashcroft said a pardon is constitutional, you can pardon -- a president can pardon whoever he wishes?
BURTON: Well, we want to find out..
BURTON: Well, that's right, and we're not going to contest that. That's a constitutional right that the president has. All presidents do, and we hope they'll exercise it in a judicious way in the future.
But let me just say about Mr. Rich, we want to find out if there was any kind of a quid pro quo. One of the troubling things that we found yesterday and today was that Mrs. Rich, the former Mrs. Rich, has taken the Fifth Amendment. And her attorney said she gave a very, very large amount of money to the Clinton library, and she was also a big contributor to the Democratic Party.
We want to find out if that was all her money, whether or not Mr. Rich may have given money to her to be given to Mr. Clinton.
KING: Even -- let's take worst-case scenario, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Mr. Rich gave her money and she gave the money to the Democratic Party for the library. He can still pardon him. Right?
BURTON: Oh, sure.
KING: So where do you go with this? Let's say that did happen.
BURTON: Well, what we're trying to find out is, first of all, was there anything done that shouldn't have been. If it was, then we need to make sure those who did it were held -- are held accountable. But...
KING: So charges could still be brought?
BURTON: Right. But secondly, I think the American people have a right to know. You know, when we had the 14 Puerto Rican terrorists who were pardoned, who killed policemen in New York, who blew up innocent civilians in restaurants and had the largest armored car robbery in history, we held hearings to let the people know why they were pardoned. And the same thing is true of Mr. Rich.
And it's done for a purpose. First of all, we have the responsibility to find out when there's wrongdoing or what looks to be wrongdoing in government. And second, we need to let future administrations know that there's a procedure to be followed before they pardon somebody.
Obviously, the president can pardon anyone he chooses, but there's a procedure that would have probably negated the possibility of Mr. Rich getting this pardon if they had just followed it.
KING: In retrospect, should you have investigated Caspar Weinberger's pardon? He was going to be forced to a trial where tapes would have been played.
BURTON: Well, you and I talked about this before, and Caspar Weinberger never fled the country, never tried to hide any documents as...
KING: Tapes would have been produced at his trial that might have linked higher-ups.
BURTON: Well, I suppose that's a possibility, but...
KING: He got a pardon, but he was never investigated.
BURTON: He was prepared to go to trial and that was a decision made by the president at that time. I was not chairman, so I can't really comment. But...
KING: In retrospect?
BURTON: In retrospect, would I have investigated that, I'd have to look at all the facts, but I wouldn't have ruled it out. But I don't -- I really don't believe Caspar Weinberger tried to avoid prosecution. He was prepared to go to trial if necessary, and I think he would have been acquitted.
KING: Does it trouble you, congressman, if Mr. Quinn is correct that people doing what they did in 1983, in 1989 would not have been charged?
BURTON: Well, I'm not so sure that that's the case. The two attorneys for the U.S. attorneys office in New York said there have been some changes, but they said that the RICO statute that they talked about and some of the other things may not have been applicable today that were then. But the tax fraud case would have been applicable. I mean, this man ran off by hiding $100 million and had a $48 million tax liability, the largest tax case in history.
KING: Do you -- are you going to give immunity to Mrs. Rich?
BURTON: Well, we want her to testify, and she may have been a victim of all this, dragged in, and we want to find out, because I've heard she's a pretty nice lady. But what we want to do is we want to have her testify. So what I'm prepared to do if she will not -- if she's going to continue to exercise her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination is to immunize her, and then, of course, she'll have to testify.
KING: So, that's the plan.
BURTON: I think that will be the plan. We hope she'll reconsider. But if not, we'll talk to the Justice Department about immunizing her and...
KING: Still think it would be wrong to call President Clinton?
BURTON: I don't think we should call President Clinton or question him publicly about what he did. He should explain it, I think, thoroughly to the American people. But unless we find something that looks like wrongdoing on his part, quid pro quo if you will, then I don't think there's a necessity to call him.
KING: When do you reconvene?
BURTON: Well, it's going to be a couple of weeks. We -- I just once again got my subpoena authority today. So we'll try to get documents voluntarily. If we don't get them, we'll subpoena them. And that'll probably take two or three weeks, and then we'll take a look at the evidence.
KING: We'll see you back here.
BURTON: OK, buddy.
KING: Congressman Dan Burton, chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform. We'll meet the man who brought the case, Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He was then U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. He's next. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Although I always acted consistent with my duties and responsibilities as deputy attorney general, in hindsight, I wish that I had done some things differently with regard to the Marc Rich matter. Specifically, I wish that I had ensured that the Department of Justice was more fully informed and involved in this pardon process.
KING: We now welcome Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York to LARRY KING LIVE. He brought the original case against Marc Rich.
Were you shocked at this pardon, Rudy? MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: Flabbergasted. I heard about when I was in Washington a couple of weeks ago, and I think a reporter came up to me and said, "Do you know President Clinton has pardoned Marc Rich?" And my first reaction was, cannot be, must be a mistake. Presidents don't pardon fugitives, certainly not someone who's been on the No. 1 list for the FBI on and off for about 17 years.
KING: Were you impressed...
GIULIANI: So it took -- it took me about a day to actually absorb the fact that the president of the United States actually pardoned one of our most notorious fugitives.
KING: Were you impressed with anything Jack Quinn said tonight in regard to the way...
GIULIANI: No. I -- I actually...
KING: ... there were flaws in the prosecution and the like?
GIULIANI: No, I actually think the more that the Clinton people discuss this, the more questions they raise about how unusual and strange this whole process is.
You have to know, Larry, that I've worked in the Justice Department for more of my life than I have been mayor of New York City. I've probably recommended or seen 2,000 pardon recommendations, passed them along to President Ford and President Reagan. This pardon for all the kind of rhetoric that goes on, there's no explanation for this pardon. You don't pardon a fugitive. And...
KING: I know you -- you -- you brought the case against Michael Milken and tried to get him pardoned.
GIULIANI: Yes, Michael Milken pleaded guilty, Michael Milken went to jail, Michael Milken paid a huge fine. And then he allegedly, you know, you can make an argument that he straightened his life out. And I've supported many pardons like that. I think the pardon process is important. I think the questions the former president has created here put in doubt the pardon process. And it's not just your focusing on the Marc Rich pardon. He did about 50 that he didn't run through the Justice Department. And some significant number of these -- or not significant number -- some number involved campaign contributions. So there were some very serious questions raised here.
But getting back to Marc Rich, some of the things left out earlier is Marc Rich was accused of trading with Iran during the hostage crisis in violation of the Trading With the Enemy Act. Remember the hostage crisis?
GIULIANI: American lives were at stake. This man was doing business with Iran, allegedly, during that period of time. He ran away for 17 years, renounced his American citizenship, and evaded the FBI, the United States Marshals Service, and flouted American law.
So I don't understand how a president can give -- there is no argument that can be made for a pardon. A pardon happens when a person has done their time, paid their dues to society and allegedly straightened themselves out. This man just ran away.
KING: Do you have any read -- and Denise Rich, his former wife, she sued him, got a lot of money.
KING: .. adultery.
GIULIANI: On other side of this, you have a pardon that has no explanation. There is no -- you can make them up, but there is no honest, straight explanation for this pardon. On the other side, you have over $1 million in campaign contributions to the president, to the first lady's Senate campaign and to the Democratic Party, and now the possibility of contributions to the president -- former president's library fund.
Somebody has got to look into this and figure out what the heck happened here.
GIULIANI: This is not something that just should be brushed under the rug.
KING: And what, Mr. Mayor, do you with it when you do find out, since you can't change the pardon and you don't want to change presidential pardons?
GIULIANI: Well, I don't -- you know, there are a lot of things you can't change. It doesn't mean you don't figure out why they happened. President Ford was called before the Congress to explain his pardon of President Nixon. You couldn't have done anything about that. But the Congress and the American people had a right to know the reasons that President Ford had for pardoning him.
So, you know, you have here a pardon without explanation. And you have very large multimillion dollar campaign contributions. That is worth taking a look at. I mean, I don't -- I don't think anybody can say it is unreasonable for the Senate and the House to want to figure out what happened here, if for no other reason than to vindicate in the future the president's awesome power and important power to pardon.
I should emphasize: I agree with pardons. I think pardons are a good thing. I think they do indicate when people have paid their price to society, straightened themselves out. And some of the pardons that the president gave were justifiable. But you have this one. You have the one in California with the guy who was pardoned and is now still under investigation. So the Justice Department is involved in the situation that maybe he has been pardoned for future crimes, which is creating a real legal problem, because the president bypassed the Justice Department process on numerous occasions in those last couple of days.
GIULIANI: And somebody has got to figure out what happened here.
KING: Thank you, Mayor. Always good seeing you.
GIULIANI: Thank you, Larry. How you doing?
KING: You, too. How you feeling?
GIULIANI: I'm feeling good. And I want to know where you bought that shirt.
KING: I got it from -- I got it in New York! OK?
GIULIANI: I bet you got it in New York. It looks like a New York shirt.
KING: Where else?
KING: See you in spring training.
GIULIANI: All right. I'm looking forward to it.
KING: Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York.
Next: Governor Mario Cuomo and Congressman Christopher Shays will go at it. Still to come: Howard Safir, the former police commissioner of New York, and then journalist Bill Plante and Hugh Sidey -- Linda Tripp tomorrow night.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: The Rich pardon is a bad precedent. It appears to set a double standard for the wealthy and the powerful. And it is an end run around the judicial process. Think about it for a minute. One week, Marc Rich is on the Justice Department's list of the 10 most wanted. And the next week, he is given a presidential pardon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We now welcome Congressman Christopher Shays, Republican of Connecticut -- he is a member of the House Committee on Government Reform -- and Mario Cuomo in New York, the former Democratic governor of New York.
Congressman Shays, what can happen with your investigation? I mean, you are not going to unchange the pardon. Nor do you want to, right?
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R-CT), GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: A number of things can happen. One, we can examine the process of how this pardon was given and make recommendations to any future president: what they should do and how they should follow it, and why Bill Clinton got himself in such trouble.
We can also look at how there was a breakdown in what I call the revolving door. I mean, Mr. Quinn shouldn't have been asking the president for a pardon. There was an executive order that was signed when President Clinton took office that said: Don't lobby the government -- the executive branch -- for five years if you have been in the executive branch.
KING: And that is lobbying.
SHAYS: In my judgment, it was clearly lobbying.
KING: Congressman -- Governor Cuomo, do you agree that the committee has a right to look into this and should look into it?
MARIO CUOMO (D), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Well, there is no question the committee has a right to look into it. And they probably can't do a whole lot of harm looking into it. I'm not sure they are going to do any good. I think we ought to get some basics clear here.
I must be very confused about what the pardon power is. A long time ago, in 1787, when we put the Constitution together through the founding fathers, the whole question came up as to whether or not the kinds of questions that are being asked now should be asked with respect to pardons. Should the people have the right to know whether or not the individual was contrite, whether or not the process was followed?
And the founding fathers decided against that. And they said: No, we are going to resist what was done by seven of the 10 states then that had pardon power. We're going to give an absolute political prerogative to the president. He will never have to explain it. And he will use it for his own political purposes. And so Washington, Adams gave pardons -- guess what? -- to traitors. Jefferson gave pardon to seditionists. Jimmy Carter gave pardons to fugitives. Who were all those people who ran away to Canada instead of serving?
KING: OK, Congressman Shays...
CUOMO: And, you know, that was...
KING: All right, hold it.
CUOMO: That was the pardon power. And it always has been.
KING: OK. Congressman Shays, how do you respond?
SHAYS: Well, the governor is making a number of assumptions. He's making an assumption because they didn't write it in the Constitution, Congress doesn't have the obligation to look at abuses when they take place. And this was a clear abuse.
KING: But if they clear power of pardon...
KING: Even if you said, "Don't abuse it," a president can do anything he wants.
SHAYS: The governor needs to let me finish. The bottom line to this is that we have a constitutional responsibility to look at this process. And we are an investigative committee. We are not a legislative committee. We are not an appropriating committee. This was a felon who fled and spent over 17 years in Switzerland. He traded with our enemies. He cheated the government of $48 million. He attempted to hide income of $100 million. And we need to look at it. We need to understand how it could happen.
CUOMO: May I ask...
KING: But so what, if the next president can pardon anyone he wants?
SHAYS: But, see, my judgment is, if we put focus in on this, the next president is going to be a little more careful.
KING: Fair enough, Mario?
CUOMO: No, no, not fair at all. First of all...
SHAYS: What's not fair?
CUOMO: Well, let me tell you what's not fair here, Congressman. First of all, you forgot about the presumption of innocence. You have very glibly said all day long that this man committed crimes. He was never convicted of anything, unless you believe that an indictment is equivalent to a conviction. I mean, how dare we sit around saying he did this, he did that because he was accused of doing those things?
CUOMO: Let me finish, please.
SHAYS: Sure. Sure.
CUOMO: You know, of course you have a right to look. But the Constitution made it very clear that the Congress has no role here. If you want to pass a constitutional amendment -- and I understand another Republican, Arlen Specter, says: Let's have a constitutional amendment.
Well, that was rejected by the founding fathers. Maybe the country will feel differently now. Maybe the legislature, the Congress should have a voice. But you were specifically ruled out. Now -- and all this nonsense about there are no grounds here. You had two professors who said that this wasn't a proper accusation, that there was no tax violation, the RICO statute has been abandoned. Now, I'm not saying I would have given a pardon.
And the accusation that the president was doing business with Jack Quinn, the best and smartest politician we've ever had, who surely...
SHAYS: I think you're getting carried away here.
CUOMO: ... who surely must have known...
KING: All right. I've got to get a break.
CUOMO: .. how vulnerable he was.
KING: I've got to get a break guys. Governor, I hate to interrupt, but I've got to get a break. We'll be right back with Congressman Shays and Governor Cuomo. Don't go away.
KING: We're back. Congressman Shays, Governor Cuomo says change the Constitution.
SHAYS: No, he didn't say that. He said...
KING: He said, if you want to, change it.
SHAYS: Right. He said we didn't have a responsibility to look at this. We have a constitutional responsibility to look at waste, fraud and abuse, and this was a gigantic abuse of the power of a pardon. And I happen to think that if it was all right for a previous Congress in the Government Reform Committee to look at Marc Rich in '91 and '92, demanding to know why President Bush hadn't brought him back from Switzerland, and they were so outraged with that. And it was bipartisan; we were all outraged. This is even more outrageous.
He did commit a crime. He fled. He was a fugitive. As soon as he fled, he became a fugitive, which was a crime.
KING: You would have to admit, Governor Cuomo, it don't look good?
CUOMO: Of course not. It doesn't smell good, and that's a very relevant point.
When you accuse the president of having done business with Jack Quinn, what you're saying is he didn't understand how vulnerable he would be. He did a favor for Jack Quinn. It wasn't a good legal argument that Jack Quinn gave him. Bill Clinton was dumb enough to do a favor thinking he might not get caught at it. That's absurd.
Now, look, and the congressman says...
SHAYS: Nobody's making that claim.
KING: He didn't say that.
CUOMO: Of course, but congressman -- look, Mr. Congressman, you say...
SHAYS: My name is Chris.
CUOMO: ... that there was an abuse. OK. No, you're a congressman and I respect you, and you're a terrific congressman incidentally. And you say there is an abuse. How do you define "abuse"? There are no criteria. There are no -- was it an abuse for Jimmy Carter to...
SHAYS: Let me ask you a question.
SHAYS: ... to pardon all the fugitives? Was that an abuse?
Let me just tell you what an abuse is. For President Clinton to be elected and his first act on January 20th, '93 was to say that people who work for the White House will not lobby the White House when they leave. And that's revolving door. And Jack...
CUOMO: Oh, so it's not the pardon. Oh, I see what you mean. OK.
SHAYS: No, I didn't say that.
CUOMO: The ethical question you mean.
SHAYS: No. You always like to put words in people's mouths.
CUOMO: Oh, no. I'm sorry.
SHAYS: This is one part of a very terrible situation. He shouldn't have been lobbying the president. He shouldn't have been hired to give this man a pardon, and that was an abuse. And I almost think the president gave Jack Quinn a pardon. And what he did was he basically said the rules no longer apply, and he ripped up the regulation and now allows...
KING: I think what Governor Cuomo is saying he may not have done it, but under the Constitution, the president can pardon anyone.
SHAYS: He can, but if he pardoned Timothy McVeigh, are you saying we shouldn't look at it? Of course, we should look at it. We want to know why.
CUOMO: No, you...
KING: All right. He's got a point, doesn't he, Governor Cuomo? Pardons Timothy McVeigh, would you look at it?
CUOMO: I have no objection to looking at it, and I have no objection to your proposing a constitutional amendment. But let's make it...
SHAYS: I'm not proposing a constitutional amendment. CUOMO: Well, another Republican did. I wouldn't have any objection to you're being consistent now as Republicans and saying, let's go back and take President Bush's pardon of Caspar Weinberger and let's look at that, too, because this was a man -- you know, what contrition was involved? Why did you do it a month before a trial? And if you wanted to inquire, but you're wasting time...
SHAYS: You know what...
CUOMO: ... because you can't change it unless you ask for a constitutional amendment. And you -- it's like the electoral college. We can talk about it forever. It's not going to change.
Now one other thing, John McCain said something today that was very interesting. He said, yes, maybe it's a bit of a vendetta by the Republicans. Another Republican appeared tonight on this program, or earlier today, and said, look, it's nice to beat them up a little bit, because we weren't able to get him when he was president. And that's -- that's sad that we're spending all this time...
KING: But Congressman Shays hasn't said that...
CUOMO: ... just beating -- no, not Congressman Shays.
SHAYS: You know why Bill Clinton has got himself in so much trouble, people are constantly defending him, and they're saying we shouldn't look at him because we should have looked at someone previous. And I think if people had stood up on the Democratic side of the aisle and said, Bill Clinton, what you're doing is wrong, he might not have done this stupid pardon.
KING: All right...
CUOMO: Are you really saying you didn't look at Bill Clinton for his eight years? Are we kidding or what? How much did you spend looking at him?
SHAYS: What we needed were some Democrats to look at him as well and hold him accountable.
CUOMO: Why? Why? Republicans are pretty good at looking at people.
KING: OK, guys. We're going to do a lot more on this. Governor Mario Cuomo, thank you. Congressman Christopher Shays, thank you. We'll get the thoughts of Howard Safir, the former New York City Police commissioner. He was chief of operations for the U.S. Marshall Service from '78 to '90, and he headed the pursuit of then fugitive Marc Rich. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BOB BARR (R), GEORGIA: It's like -- it's like Keystone Kops. But I don't think it is. I think the president knew exactly what he was doing. You didn't request information, so you could probably say, I don't know. In other words, ever heard of the concept of deliberate ignorance? Well, maybe not. Most prosecutors have.
ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I will stand here and have people say that I have made a mistake, and I'll debate that.
BARR: You don't think...
HOLDER: But you are now implying that I have done something that's essentially corrupt.
HOLDER: And I will not accept that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: In a couple minutes, we'll get journalistic point of view from Bill Plante of CBS and Hugh Sidey of "TIME" magazine. We're going to spend those minutes with Howard Safir, good friend and former New York City Police commissioner, looking relaxed in Jacksonville, Florida.
He was chief of operations for the U.S. Marshall Service, headed the pursuit of fugitive Marc Rich. Why was he so hard to get?
HOWARD SAFIR, FORMER NEW YORK CITY COMMISSIONER: He was hard to get because he had a great deal of influence in a lot of countries, and we were pretty much restricted to just a few countries where we could apprehend him. He had Bolivian passport, he had a Spanish passport. The Israelis were very clear they weren't going to help us apprehend him. So it was very difficult to get him, plus he had a lot of money.
KING: Mayor Giuliani said he was shocked at the pardon. Were you?
SAFIR: I was outraged. I was outraged because this sends a message to the criminals around the world that if you have influence, if you have money, if you have access, that you can put out a sign that says "Justice for sale."
KING: But what do you do, Howard, with the -- as Governor Cuomo said, the president can pardon who he wants to pardon. Period.
SAFIR: But how can he pardon a fugitive, and then you look at the money that's been contributed to the Democratic Party. And the message that this sends that if you have a lot of money, you get a get-out-of-jail-free card. And that is exactly what happened with Marc Rich. You know, Marc Rich is one of those people who considers himself a citizen of the world, inconvenienced by the petty laws of nations. And the message that this sends is outrageous.
KING: But nothing be done about it, right?
SAFIR: Oh, nothing can be done about it now. You know, one of the things that I find frustrating is, when you are a fugitive hunter, you can make a thousand mistakes. You can wait forever for the fugitive to make one. And then you got him. But there is an endgame now because he is no longer a fugitive.
KING: Jack Quinn said he would not have taken this case if he did not fully believe that Marc Rich was coming back to the United States. He thinks he is going to come back. And President Clinton said the attorney general -- the new attorney general, Mr. Ashcroft -- who was here last night -- can prosecute him civilly.
SAFIR: I absolutely believe that he will never come back to the United States. He has said often that he doesn't really consider himself an American citizen. He has no ties to the United States. The reason he wanted this pardon is so that he could travel around the world without looking over his shoulder.
KING: Howard, are you hinting at or saying bribe here? Are you saying quid pro quo? What are your feelings? We don't have facts yet.
SAFIR: We don't have facts. What I'm saying is the appearance: the appearance of fugitive's ex-wife contributing over $1 million to the Democratic Party. You are talking about an individual, when I did a spy exchange in 1986, he had a lawyer from East Germany offer $225 million for him and Pinky Green if the prosecutions were wiped out. Well, we told them at the time: Justice is not for sale.
The appearance is very different now.
KING: Now, you have called him a bad guy. Will you tell us how bad? What -- because Jack Quinn said what he did, what he was charged with doing in '83, in '89 would not be a crime.
SAFIR: Well, I have heard a lot of attorneys -- including my former boss, Rudy Giuliani -- disagree with that. But he is a bad guy from the perspective, he committed the greatest tax fraud in the history of this country. And while our hostages were being abused and being tortured in Iran, he was trading with them.
KING: Did you ever come close, Howard, to, as they say, nabbing him -- for want of better term, kidnapping him?
SAFIR: Well, we call them extraordinary renditions. But we...
KING: That is a great term.
SAFIR: Well, and we have been very successful at it. But, unfortunately, when I went to Switzerland, and we had a plan set up, the Swiss police found out about it. And, as a result of that, they told me that if we did anything, they would arrest us.
KING: Because would you have been committing a crime on Swiss soil, right?
SAFIR: Exactly, because the Swiss did not recognize these as crimes under their law. I tried to get the Israelis to help us, as they have helped us often. But a general who is a very good friend of mine in the Israeli police told me: "Officially, we are going to help you all we can. As your friend, don't waste your time."
KING: He was not extraditable from any of these countries?
SAFIR: He was not extraditable from Switzerland. If we could have got him in Germany or in France or in England, we could have got some help. But we missed him by a couple hours in England.
KING: And, finally, Howard, everyone is saying how smart President Clinton is, and certainly how politically adept he is. Why do you think he did this?
SAFIR: Well, that is what is perplexing. Here is a very intelligent man, who is very worldly, knows a great deal about the criminal justice system. He's a lawyer. That is the question. And I think that is what the Congress has to find out.
KING: Howard, always good seeing you. Are you feeling well?
SAFIR: I'm feeling great. Thanks, Larry.
KING: Thanks -- Howard Safir, the former New York City police commissioner. He was chief of operations for the U.S. Marshals Service.
We are going to take a break and come back and meet two of the best journalists around: Bill Plante of CBS and Hugh Sidey of "Time" magazine. "Chris Rock" will be here Monday night.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUINN: While you may disagree with the president's decision, I believe the facts establish that I represented my client's interests fairly, vigorously and ethically. I carried out this representation keeping both the Department of Justice and the White House informed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We now welcome Bill Plante, CBS News White House correspondent, and Hugh Sidey of "Time" magazine, Washington contributing editor, author of "The Presidency" column, covered the presidency for more than three decades.
So the first question to both of you, since you know this president and covered him so well: Why does the Bill Clinton saga, Bill, continue? BILL PLANTE, CBS NEWS: Because he is always in there. He had an interest in this. I don't believe for a minute that he was persuaded somehow by Jack Quinn to grant this pardon. There is evidence that was brought out today in the hearing that he was doing his best to facilitate it. Obviously, there were people that he wanted to please with this: maybe not Mr. Rich, maybe somebody else. Who knows?
KING: Hugh, what's your read?
HUGH SIDEY, "TIME": Well, Larry, my first reason, I suspect there is a big wad of money out there that we haven't uncovered, that...
KING: Follow the money.
SIDEY: Follow the money, yes.
SIDEY: Let's see where that goes. But also, you know, in America, we like rascals. I mean, this is a bad boy. And he does all these outrageous things.
KING: You're talking about the president.
SIDEY: The president! And goes out and smiles and he can away with it. Somebody said he is still an adolescent. He's a teenager. He can violate -- he can break all the rules and then they forgive him. And there is some truth to that.
KING: Is this a time where he is not getting away with it, Bill?
PLANTE: Well, I have got to think that this is a public- relations disaster which he and the people around him did not anticipate. Look, here you take a guy who is one of the most unsympathetic characters you can imagine: an international fugitive who is full of money and who represents the concern that everybody has about money being able to buy justice, money influencing the criminal justice system.
You heard it today in those hearings from African-American members of Congress, saying: Some of my constituents, relatives are sitting in jail wishing that they could get out.
KING: The congressman from Maryland.
SIDEY: Well, I disagree with some of that, by the way. My only disagreement is with these people who say: Look, got money, you can buy your way in.
You couldn't have done it with Ike. You couldn't have done it with Reagan or Bush or Carter. You couldn't have done it with any of those. I'm absolutely convinced it has to come from the top down. Bill Clinton, in some ways, is a lawless human being. He has done it in his personal ways. He has this elegant facility to talk about major social issues. And it is good. Let me tell you, he is right. And then in his personal life, he violates all the rules. Now, you -- as somebody said, we need a psychiatrist for this.
KING: But he doesn't pardon Michael Milken, who served his time, pled guilty and has done so much good since he has been out. It doesn't seem -- he doesn't pardon Webster Hubbell.
SIDEY: Follow the money, Larry! Follow the money. There's more dough in here.
KING: Michael hired the wrong lawyer.
PLANTE: Yes, Webb Hubbell may be facing some more problems. And maybe that is the reason he didn't pardon him. Who knows? But he looked into this at great length.
KING: Should Bill Clinton explain it in some venue, Hugh?
SIDEY: Yes, yes -- if he can. You know, the problem...
KING: He may not be able to.
SIDEY: He may not be able to. I -- you know, I have been through this with Nixon. I have been through it with Teddy Kennedy. There are thresholds over which people cannot pass in explaining things that are embarrassing. I don't know whether he can say: Look, I did this.
PLANTE: I would disagree with you. I don't think he has to.
KING: Governor Cuomo says he doesn't have to.
PLANTE: The pardon power is absolute.
KING: You mean it will just go away?
PLANTE: It's a -- oh, it won't go away. But I'm saying he doesn't have to explain. There is no reason that he has to explain.
KING: But for public relations, should he? If you were his PR director, he came to you for PR advice, what would you say?
PLANTE: Well, leave the country for a while.
SIDEY: No, no, no. (LAUGHTER)
Bill, it's not illegal. But it's wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Did I say "wrong"?
It is wrong, immoral, unfair, unjust. He's not going to run away from that this time.
You know, you can have all the personal problems -- we saw that with Kennedy. It was all background, and we knew what was going on, and it would have come out ultimately. And I guess we're kind of forgiving of that, with Gennifer Flowers and Monica and all this.
He's tampering with the Constitution now. I -- and...
PLANTE: How can he be tampering with the Constitution, Hugh? It's an absolute right, the power that he has.
SIDEY: We are talking about what is ethical. We are talking about not what is illegal. We are talking about what is right. And this is a constitutional provision which is...
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they made that pardon law.
SIDEY: I understand that.
KING: It's pretty clear. He can pardon who he wants to.
SIDEY: I understand that, but you -- you -- nobody that I heard today, Democrat or Republican, said it was right. Everyone disagrees. Mario Cuomo was about the only fellow that seemed to think it was...
KING: No, he said he wouldn't pardon him.
SIDEY: Well, yes, but see, this is...
PLANTE: This is the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of the divine right of kings...
SIDEY: Sure, OK.
PLANTE: ... which is written into the Constitution by the founding fathers.
SIDEY: Bill, does that make it right?
PLANTE: I don't -- I don't think that's the point.
SIDEY: Yes, it is.
PLANTE: You and I can believe what we want about what he did, but he had the right to do it.
SIDEY: I don't argue. I don't argue.
PLANTE: And there's no reason, I don't think... SIDEY: But we're talking public relations, are we? We're talking about what's out in the country.
KING: Yes, I asked a PR -- we'll take a break and come back with Bill Plante and Hugh Sidey. We'll try to draw them out a little in the remaining moments. Don't go away.
KING: Before I asked what happened to Eric Holder today, Bill wanted to add something in the PR vein.
PLANTE: Bill Clinton is a young man. He's 54 years old. He's got probably a long life ahead of him in which he can shape how he is remembered by history. He'll write about his time in office. He'll probably right about this. And in 10 or 20 or 30 years, there will probably be a very different view of him, just as there is of President Eisenhower, of President Nixon, of President Truman.
SIDEY: I'm beginning to think this idea of having a young president is a bad one, because he gets a second term and he's going to be with us forever. I'm sick of it.
KING: Hugh, what do you make of the beating Eric Holder took today?
SIDEY: Well, he's too much involved and it's too vague, and there he is, he's trapped.
KING: Do you have questions about him or do you think he's trapped?
SIDEY: Yes, I do have questions about him. I think he was Clinton's man, and I think he smelled this idea that he might be attorney general, or at least be mentioned for it. And I think he got trapped in this and probably it's over his head.
KING: Now, Bill, you said earlier you don't think it was Quinn convincing Clinton. You think Clinton convinced Clinton?
PLANTE: Oh, I'm sure that Jack Quinn had a part in it, but I think that based on the testimony that we heard today and we've heard about before, which was that Mr. Clinton was involved in pursuing this, he got memos and letters from his friends, from Denise Rich, from Beth Dozoritz (ph) asking that he do this -- this went back several months -- he seemed inclined to pursue it, according to some of the memos we heard today.
KING: Jack Quinn said tonight on this program he would not have taken this case if he thought Marc Rich wasn't coming back to this country, and he thinks he is coming back. Howard Safir thinks he isn't coming back.
SIDEY: I don't think so either.
KING: Not coming back. SIDEY: No, I just think it's too difficult. He says he wants to walk down Fifth Avenue and see his friends. Listen, he's going to see a lot more enemies, I suspect, than people that are outraged by this. I don't know what the polls show, Larry. Maybe you know better than I do...
KING: I don't know...
SIDEY: ... but I can't imagine that very many people support this.
PLANTE: How much more unsympathetic a public figure could you make?
KING: Well, could he make a case for himself? Could he do a like -- do a massive interview?
SIDEY: I suppose he could.
KING: Maybe we can go over to Geneva and talk to him.
SIDEY: Well, yes, sure, do it. See what he says.
KING: I mean, this is the message
SIDEY: But he can't answer it, Larry. He can't answer it.
KING: Why did he run?
SIDEY: Why did he -- why did he (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? Why did he leave this country? It's just not -- and they've been raising all day, as you know. All week, months, for heavens sakes.
PLANTE: You can answer it. You can say anything you want. But will anybody believe it? Will anybody care?
KING: What's -- where's the committee going to lead to, do you think, Bill?
PLANTE: Oh, the committee is using this to -- to put this all out in the open.
KING: Get him some more.
PLANTE: Get him some more. I mean, I understand -- I'm not questioning the motives of anybody who was on tonight, but there are a lot of people on that committee who just hate Bill Clinton. This is another opportunity to stick it in and turn it.
I'm not suggesting that he's right. But this is not all -- this is not all about good government.
SIDEY: Yes, but Bill, Bill, Bill, there's something out there. You know that. We've been following these things, and when you don't have the big piece, you kind of sense it. And I'm telling you, there's something out there we don't know, and I think it's money. Big money. Where...
And that's the committee. That's the committee. Did he -- was there money sent to the library? Was it withdrawn? What's the maneuver here?
PLANTE: But how do you think they're going to find out? I mean...
SIDEY: Well, let's give them a try.
KING: Clinton has trumped them all these years and they just won't let go of it, and he's given them -- he's given them ammunition.
PLANTE: Well, yes, I think there's something to that.
SIDEY: It's kind of sad, Larry, in some ways. You know there's a good guy inside Clinton that's struggling to get out, and just about the time he makes some decent public gestures, then one of these things comes up and he ruins it. I don't understand it.
KING: Do you dislike him, Hugh?
SIDEY: No, no, he's pleasant when you're around. He's distant. I don't know that anybody really knows him that well. But the fact of the matter is that some of his speeches, some of the things before Congress have been wonderful: his ideas and that. And then it's this personal kind of arrogance in which the rules don't apply to him that just drives everybody nuts.
KING: We will not see his like soon. Thank you, Bill.
PLANTE: I think a lot of people are hoping that's the case.
SIDEY: OK, Larry.
KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, Linda Tripp. It never stops. Monday is Chris Rock, and next one day -- next Wednesday, rather, the secret longtime companion of the late Charles Kuralt, Pat Shannon. And don't forget, we want to hear from you. Check out my Web site, cnn.com/larryking. Hope to hear from you.
Stay tuned for my man, Bill Hemmer, and "CNN TONIGHT." See you tomorrow night with Linda Tripp.
For all of our guests in Washington, good night.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
|Back to the top|