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Inside Politics

Bill Clinton Tours Office in Harlem; Senate to Begin Investigation of Rich Pardon; Bush Stresses Missile Defense

Aired February 13, 2001 - 5:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I called Hillary and I asked, my senator first, how she would feel about me coming to Harlem. And she loved it!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Bill Clinton plans a move to friendly turf, which may help him ease one headache, even as his pardon problem gets worse.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Pressing on with his military theme of the week, President Bush goes nuclear.

WOODRUFF: Plus: we'll ask Senator Joe Lieberman if he has his sights on Mr. Bush's job in 2004.

ANNOUNCER: From Washington, this is INSIDE POLITICS with Bernard Shaw and Judy Woodruff.

SHAW: Thanks for joining us.

Subpoenas are being issued, and now, there is even a call for Bill Clinton to voluntarily testify about his pardon of financier Marc Rich. So on the eve of Senate hearings into the pardon, it seems easy to understand why the former president would take comfort among adoring crowds in Harlem and why he now hopes to open an office there instead of a pricier area of New York. We begin our coverage of the Clinton controversies with the former president, on the move. Here is CNN's Maria Hinojosa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A president no longer, Mr. Clinton was still greeted in Harlem as if he was one. There was no campaign speech to deliver, but still he was almost smothered by supporters. Harlem's rebirth was fueled, Mr. Clinton said, by more money.

CLINTON: This is what my presidency was about. And it's a lot of what I want to do in my post-presidential years -- bringing economic opportunity to people and places who don't have it here at home and around the world. And bringing people of different races and religions and backgrounds together. This is what this means to me.

HINOJOSA: What it also means is that the controversy over his original pick for office space on West 57th Street, costing $700,000 a year, goes away. This space in Harlem rents just over $200,000 a year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This community is buzzing like I've never seen before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels like he is actually coming back to the people who's been supporting him, and he feels comfortable around.

HINOJOSA: In fact, Harlemites were ready to start calling this office building, with an abandoned town house to the left, a new landmark. No former president has ever set up an office in a predominantly African-American, predominantly working-class community.

CLINTON: Well, I called Hillary and I asked my senator, first, how she would feel about me coming to Harlem. And she loved it!

HINOJOSA: Over the past few years, Harlem has been transformed with specialty chain stores and a massive cineplex. Amenities this community lived without for so long.

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: The irony is, that some of the neighborhoods that didn't enjoy the Clinton years of prosperity will now be exposed because of his presence.

HINOJOSA: But Mr. Clinton's proposed new office space exposes another side of Harlem. This fully renovated building comes with a new marble lobby and private elevators.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HINOJOSA: Now, Mr. Clinton says he would like to use the office space in Harlem if he can work out the details. Those details may include satisfying New York's Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who leased the same office space in December for the Administration for Children's Services -- Bernie.

SHAW: Maria, could the former president be hoping that this move to Harlem will take the sting out of some of his troubles?

HINOJOSA: Well, yesterday, when I spoke to Congressman Charles Rangel who had everything to do with getting the former president into Harlem. And I asked, do you think that this might ease some of the troubles regarding the pardon, and Charles Rangel said, we certainly hope so. So, I think that that is clearly on the agenda.

SHAW: Maria Hinojosa in Harlem. Thank you -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Clinton's office flap may, indeed, go away. But the stir over his pardon of Marc Rich seems unlikely to abate anytime soon. CNN's Bob Franken has an update, now, on that story, as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to hold its hearing on the pardon tomorrow. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first witness, Roger Adams, U.S. Justice Department pardon attorney. Republican Arlen Specter is questioning whether the Marc Rich pardon is valid.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We will be taking a look at the pardons which were granted, the documents where President Clinton signed apparently on January 20th at noon, but the papers were not filled out until much later.

FRANKEN: Adams will be asked whether the fact he completed the paperwork after Clinton left office affected whether the pardon was valid. A Justice Department source tells CNN "it's not unusual" to finish the process later. In fact, an attorney who worked on pardons in the Reagan administration doubted it would matter.

JEFF HARRIS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSOCIATION ATTORNEY GENERAL: The law generally comes down to that -- if the president has the authority to do it, the fact that someone had to sign a piece of paper and that didn't get done 'til the next day, I don't think that will ultimately cancel the pardons.

FRANKEN: The House committee in hot pursuit of the pardons matter, issued subpoenas, seeking: bank records of Richard's ex-wife Denise, records from the Democratic National Committee detailing her contributions to the party, and records from the Clinton presidential library, where she made large donations.

The committee is trying to determine whether Denise Rich was used to funnel money from her ex-husband. The House Government Reform Committee has also sent letters to the National Archives and Secret Service seeking logs and e-mails related to Jack Quinn, the former White House counsel who successfully lobbied for the Rich pardon.

Rich fled the United States 17 years ago to avoid charges of massive tax evasion and illegally dealing with Iran. The House committee is consulting with the State Department over whether Rich continues to be a U.S. citizen. Despite his renunciation in 1982, an appeals court has ruled he remains one.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: No, we don't dispute the court's decision.

FRANKEN: The citizenship question could determine whether he owes back taxes and whether he would be forbidden from making campaign contributions as a noncitizen. Meanwhile, the chairman of the judiciary committee says that before all is said and done, it may take the ex-president himself to put this controversy to rest.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: If I were President Clinton, I would want to testify. I would think so, and clear the air, and you're right, it would be very good if he cleared the air and just said, look, this is the reason why I did it.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FRANKEN: Mr. Clinton has taken steps to try and dampen the controversies over the office buildings and the gifts matter. This one shows no signs of going away.

WOODRUFF: So, Bob, do you believe that the Senate hearings are going to advance this story beyond where the House hearings left it?

FRANKEN: Well, Arlen Specter, who's going to be running these hearings says that what he wants to do is provide knowledge of exactly how the pardons process works. So in addition to having the pardons attorney, in addition to having Jack Quinn, and Eric Holder, the former deputy attorney general as the House hearings did, he's going to have experts on talking about how the pardons process works, and how it could be changed.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bob Franken at the Capitol. We know you will be there tomorrow. Thanks.

President Bush was asked today about the Congressional probes of Mr. Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich. His response: "Congress is going to do what they're going to do." but, Mr. Bush said he thinks it is, "time to move on." The president spoke to reporters aboard Air Force One. He also commented on allegations that Air Force One was stripped by people traveling with the Clintons on the day they left the White House. Mr. Bush said the allegations are simply not true.

SHAW: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a challenge today to President Bush. In her first Senate speech, Mrs. Clinton urged the president to embrace new bipartisan legislation to create a patients' bill of rights. And, she noted the lesson she learned from her failed push for health care reform when she was first lady.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: We were not successful then, but I learned some valuable lessons about the legislative process, the importance of bipartisan cooperation, and the wisdom of taking small steps to get a big job done. Across this aisle, and across our country, Democrats and Republicans are joined together in support of this patients' bill of rights. Say the word, President Bush, and we can make this bill a law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: As she walked off the Senate floor, Mrs. Clinton told reporters she is excited about her husband's plan to move his New York office to Harlem. Let's talk more about the Clintons and the controversy that still surrounds them. We're joined by Robert George of the "New York Post" and Joe Conason of the "New York Observer."

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