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Larry King Live
Are Investigations Into the Marc Rich Pardon Justified?Aired February 15, 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, how does one ex-president create so much controversy? Bill Clinton's drawing fire again and again and again, all over the headlines.
Joining us in Washington, Republican Senator Arlen Specter. He is leading the Judiciary Committee's investigation of the pardon of notorious billionaire Marc Rich.
Then, in San Francisco, former Clinton White House press secretary Joe Lockhart.
For a perspective on presidential character, the host of "Janet Parshall's America," Janet Parshall. She, by the way, is the chief spokesperson for the Family Research Council, as well as Bill Clinton's pastor, the reverend Bill Wogaman of the Foundry United Methodist Church.
Then, a no-holds-barred discussion: the former federal prosecutor Barbara Olson, author of the best-seller about Hillary Clinton, "Hell to Pay"; the chief Democratic counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, Julian Epstein; with them in Washington is Daniel Schorr, senior news analyst, National Public Radio and in New York, the editor of "The Nation," Katrina Vanden Heuvel. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We begin with Senator Specter. He's with us at our studios in Washington. Senator, the most recent statement made by the former president is -- Bill Clinton said: "As I have said repeatedly, I made the decision to pardon Marc Rich based on what I thought was the right thing to do. Any suggestion that improper factors, including fund raising for the DNC or my library had anything to do with the decision are absolutely false. I look forward to cooperation with an appropriate inquiry."
Do you think that appropriate inquiry, Senator Specter, is yours?
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: It may well be, Larry. We are moving ahead with our oversight hearings, laying the foundation for what may possibly be an invitation to the president. We're going to be talking to the official at Democratic National Committee, with whom he talked about the pardon, highly unusual for that kind of a contact, and we've made efforts to get Mrs. Denise Rich in.
She, at this moment, is taking the privilege against self- incrimination which raises a suggestion that there may be something incriminating and if we lay the proper foundation, we may well ask the president to come in.
KING: There are reports tonight that Miss Rich has agreed to testify if given immunity. Would you expect she would testify before both committees, both Burton's committee and yours.
SPECTER: Well, I would expect so. She would really have no choice if she's given immunity, but with reports that the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, southern district of New York, is starting a grand jury investigation, I think it may be unlikely that immunity will be granted. I know in the days when I was Philadelphia's D.A. and had grand juries, you wouldn't expect an immunity grant until that investigation was quite along.
KING: Since there is a criminal investigation going on, started by the U.S. attorney in New York, is your investigation redundant?
SPECTER: Well, no, not at all. There are quite different purposes. Our Senate investigation is oversight. We want to find out what the facts are. We had the pardon attorney in, for example.
He was not told about Marc Rich until after midnight on January 20th, and then when he contacted the White House, he was told that Marc Rich was, quote, "traveling abroad," closed quote. When that statement was made in the Judiciary Committee hearing room, there was quite an outburst of laughter.
The president did not follow any of the regulations of the Department of Justice because he didn't have to, but when you have a man like Marc Rich, who is a fugitive, and you have Miss Denise Rich, purportedly, I don't know what the facts are, Larry, until we hear her and find out, with the campaign contributions and the donations to the presidential library, there's a lot of smoke. Whether there's fire, we'll have to find out.
KING: Are you saying, senator, that you don't believe the president's statement?
SPECTER: Well, I would not accept on face value President Clinton's statement that he decide this case on the merits. I would not accept that...
SPECTER: ... when there are so many circumstances to the contrary.
KING: President George W. Bush said he thinks it is time to move on, and that the administration apparently is quite concerned about Burton committee, your committee, all these investigations which keeps the former president on page one. How do you react to that?
SPECTER: Well, I believe that we ought to look to the future, and that's why the Senate inquiry has done just that. We're looking at the question as to whether we ought to have legislation which would require public disclosure of contributions of $5,000 or more to a presidential library.
We had three constitutional scholars in yesterday looking over the question as to whether a constitutional amendment ought to be considered. when Walter Mondale was in the Senate, after the Ford pardon of Nixon, then-Senator Mondale proposed a constitutional amendment which would allow both Houses of Congress, on a two-thirds vote in each House, to overturn a pardon.
So, we're looking to the future as to what ought to be done to make sure something like this never happens again.
KING: So you don't think you're going against President Bush's wishes?
SPECTER: Well, I don't think we are, but the Senate has an independent responsibility. We're coordinate branches of government and we have a responsibility to have oversight and that includes oversight over the president.
KING: Do you then expect to call the president? You're going to meet again on March 7th. You're calling a lot of people then. Would, based on the president's statement, might you expect to ask him to come to you?
SPECTER: Well, I think that it is a possibility which is growing. I'm talking to quite a few of my colleagues in the Senate, and I would say -- I would say that there is a pretty good chance, but we won't make a final decision until we lay more of a foundation.
KING: Senator Specter, was it a stretch when you thought about possible impeaching him again?
SPECTER: Well, Larry, I said on Fox TV, and the transcript is abundantly plain, that I was not advocating it. But the question was what are all the things that could happen, and I thought that is something the public had a right to know about that technical possibility. But I made it explicit I was not suggesting it. I was against the last impeachment.
KING: Would you change the pardon rule in the Constitution?
KING: Would you go with Mondale? You would?
SPECTER: I would, because that's the only power a president has in the Constitution which does not have a check and balance, and when the pardon power was given, it was designed after the right of the king, who could do no wrong. And it was done at the time when there was a need to grant amnesty, to have a new nation forgive people who committed treason, for example. Those reasons don't apply any more.
KING: Senator, I thank you very much. I want to remind everybody that your new book is out, "Passion for Truth: From Finding JFK's Single Bullet to Questioning Anita Hill to Impeaching Clinton."
SPECTER: May I hold it up, Larry?
KING: You sure may.
SPECTER: It has the reasons why I came up with the single bullet theory in the Warren Commission. I have been taking it on the chin for more than three decades and I thought the guy who came up with it ought to write a book and lay it all out.
KING: I'm anxious to read it. Thank you, senator.
SPECTER: Thank you very much, Larry.
KING: Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, of Judiciary. When we come back, Joe Lockhart, the former Clinton White House press secretary. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK QUINN, MARC RICH'S ATTORNEY: You may disagree with him and with me. You may believe he made a terrible mistake, but I tell you today that nothing, absolutely nothing, in my conversations with him remotely suggested to me that he was thinking about or motivated by his friendships, his politics or his library.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us now from San Francisco is Joe Lockhart, the former White House press secretary in the Clinton administration. Any comments on what Senator Specter had to say, Joe?
JOE LOCKHART, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, you know, I think that he forget to mention that there's a lot of politics involved here. He, you know, he seemed to switch seamlessly between on one hand saying this was a constitutional question, and on the other hand, it's an oversight question.
We really should look at this as a political question. If he just wanted to change the law in order to change the Constitution, he'd spend time talking to constitutional experts. But what he brought in was Jack Quinn and Eric Holder as a way of trying to inflict political damage on the former president and on the Democrats as a whole, and that's what this is about.
KING: Joe, do you have any problem with the pardon law?
LOCKHART: Well, you know, I think we've had this for, you know, as long as I can remember. It is part of our Constitution. There have been controversial pardons, President Ford, Caspar Weinberger with President Bush, and I think, you know, there's a difference in how the parties have reacted.
Democrats were very upset in the aftermath of President Bush's term, when he pardoned Weinberger. But you didn't have anybody saying, well, let's have hearings. Let's have a criminal investigation. Let's take away his pension. Let's make sure he can't have office space. There's a real difference, and I think the public is sick and tired of this sort of attack attitude that we've seen from the Republicans.
KING: You know Bill Clinton as well as anyone. You served under him, saw him every day. Obviously, this was not the politically smart thing to do. What do you make of it?
LOCKHART: No, in fact, pardons are never politically smart because you're going in and saying that, you know, there was something wrong with the justice system. There is some reason go in. But I think he found there were compelling reasons based on how the case was brought, how the U.S. attorney brought the case, and the subsequent changes, and that there was, as he said recently, there were calls from the prime minister of Israel, from the king of Spain -- there were compelling reasons.
The one thing that had nothing to do with this, though, and he made it quite clear in his statement last night, was any sort of donations. And I think, you know, there is too much running around after smoke in Washington, hoping there is fire and we ought to stop having these sort of show hearings, and if people want to get the facts, they can go get the facts. But, you know, they sort of belie the nonpolitical aspect when they do it on TV and they do it in a way that brings so much attention to it.
KING: There are some suggesting that he should, one, appear before one of these committees or do an interview; sit down and just explain why he did what he did.
LOCKHART: Well, you know, I think that's going to be up to the former president to decide, but I'll tell you...
KING: Would you advise it?
LOCKHART: You know, I think -- you know, there are positives and negatives to doing that sort thing. But, you know, I think Senator Specter going on television talking about, you know, we may invite him, we're talking about that, I think undermines the legitimacy of the process.
If he wants to invite the president, they should get together and issue an invitation. They shouldn't be going on TV talk shows to be raising the specter. It was just as bad as when last week he talked about we want to re-impeach the president.
I think the important thing here is, I think in the long-term this hurts the Republicans. I think President bush had a real obligation to go forward after the circumstances of the election and say, you know. we're going to do things differently. We're going to change the culture.
He talked about that a little, but the entire Republican Party has now turned on focusing not the future, but focusing on the past and President Clinton I think in the long-term, this will be a big mistake.
KING: What do you make of the office business? Was that a mistake to choose such an expensive office and then go the idea of Harlem?
LOCKHART: Listen, I don't think so. I think that this is more politics. I think anyone would expect that the president would go and try to find a midtown location. They found an office at a below- market rate. I think we now know that the office has been rented at higher rate.
But it's not worth the hassle. It's not worth having to get down into the mud and do that fight, and I think the move to Harlem is great. But I think it says something about the Republican members of Congress that, you know, they don't want him to have an office space. They don't want him to have a pension. They've talked about taking his pension away.
It says something about the mean-spiritedness of the party, and I think the public has rejected that. I think if you look back over the last six years, you'll find that the public has responded to people who think about them, who want to do the people's business, but they've really responded negatively to people who want to play politics. And all messages out of Washington in the last two weeks is they want to play politics.
KING: Now this may be a chicken-or-the-egg question. Is Clinton the one who caused all these people to apparently hate him so much or do they hate him so much?
LOCKHART: Well, I think if you go way back, you'll find that anybody who tries to make fundamental change in Washington, as President Clinton did when he first came in, is going to generate a lot of heat. This has -- I think you couple that with the -- with the new technology that means Internet all the time, talk radio, TV talk shows 24 hours a day, and it's given that sort of hate an outlet to -- you know, a place to go and yell and scream.
So I think it's a combination of those two things, but I think if you look at the results, you'll find that the fundamental change we made, made a lot of people very happy over the last years: made us a very prosperous, successful country.
KING: And do you think his public image will rebound?
LOCKHART: Well, I think -- I think you'll find that people chasing smoke, like Senator Specter was talking about, are always confounded. He is going to go on and do wonderful things as an ex- president, just as he did as the president. And as long -- as far as the people are concerned, I think they will think very highly of the great works that he's about to do.
KING: Thank you, Joe. Always good seeing you.
LOCKHART: Thanks, Larry.
KING: Joe Lockhart, the former White House press secretary to Bill Clinton.
When we come back, we'll talk about character as an issue with Janet Parshall and Reverend Philip Wogaman. Reverend Wogaman is Bill Clinton's minister. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have decided to locate my office in this building if we can work it out. We are looking at it. We're working through it and we'll work it out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE, now welcoming Janet Parshall, radio talk show host of "Janet Parshall's America," chief spokesperson for the Family Research Council. Also in Washington with her is Reverend Philip Wogaman, senior minister of the Foundry United Methodist Church. He's Bill Clinton's pastor and one of the three spiritual advisers that Clinton turned to following the 1998 admission that he'd sinned in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Janet, what do you make -- I know you've been a fervent critic of the president's. What do you make of all of this?
JANET PARSHALL, HOST, "JANET PARSHALL'S AMERICA": Well, I think it really does call into account again whether or not character matters, and remember character is defined by what you do when nobody is looking.
Look, I feel sorry for Bill Clinton. I know that might surprise you. But I really think that this is a man who has a hard time figuring out what his set of morals and what his set of beliefs are.
When he made the decision to pardon Marc Rich, he completely sidestepped the Department of Justice. He didn't follow the rules again. And I thought that crucible into which we stepped as a country was really about the rule of law and whether or not it applies to everybody, whether you're a prince or a pauper.
KING: In all fairness, Janet, have you criticized Republican presidential pardons in the past that had question marks?
PARSHALL: You know, we've had pardons in the past. I believe strongly that presidential pardons should be left in place. But you know, we've never had one like this. I wouldn't necessarily agree with all of them. But when you have a president who says to the pardon attorney himself the morning of the day of the inauguration, these are people I'm going to pardon, and you don't play by the rules again, then I think his methodology has to be questioned as well as the person in question.
KING: All right, Reverend Wogaman, in your opinion, does character come into play here?
REV. PHILIP WOGAMAN, BILL CLINTON'S PASTOR: Well, I think character is terribly important, but I don't see it coming into play in quite the way that my colleague here does. I think the presidential pardon provision in law is something to be exercised by the president, and I don't believe his -- he's bound to make use of the pardon attorney in the Justice Department. The purpose of that is to get advice. It's not to -- not to lay down any requirements.
I don't have any specific information about the Rich case other than what I read in the media, so I can't comment knowledgeably about that.
KING: Do you have, though, a layman's question about it? He is on the FBI's Most Wanted list. He is a fugitive. I mean, did you say to yourself, why?
WOGAMAN: Well, I suppose what little I know about all of these pardons would want me to ask why, and sometimes why not. I mean, there are people that maybe ought to have been pardoned and who weren't , I do know that in the last days of the Clinton presidency as he was dealing with these issues, it was under a huge amount of pressure. And whether he made right decision in every case, I simply don't know. I don't really question his integrity in this, though.
KING: You don't?
WOGAMAN: Unless I can be shown otherwise.
KING: Janet, you do; right?
PARSHALL: I do. I do, indeed. And again, the reason I do, Larry is because, look, the law's a great leveler. It is equally applied to each and every one of us. And when you start bending the rules, when you really live by a world view that says look, I believe in situational ethics rather than absolute truth, when I'll justify any means whatsoever, as long as it gets me to the end to which I desire to obtain, then you have a problem. I don't want our kids to be raised that way and I don't think our president should behave that way.
KING: What rule did he bend? The law says that he can pardon anybody.
PARSHALL: You are absolutely right. He...
KING: The procedures may be required, but a president could pardon someone tomorrow morning. George Bush could pardon someone tomorrow morning.
KING: So what did he bend?
PARSHALL: There's a higher law that says that we're supposed to avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing and the appearance of wrongdoing here is that he didn't check in with his own Department of Justice, and as you heard Senator Specter say before, the guffaws that took place in that Senate hearing room when they talked about Marc Rich being away from the country. He was a fugitive on the lam, running away from the law, and then you begin to see more than an appearance of wrongdoing. You see some real wrongdoing.
KING: Reverend, I know, it's obvious that a lot of this is nobody's business because you are his pastor as well and have been his pastor, but we do have some flaws evident here; right? Certainly in the Lewinsky case we have flaws.
WOGAMAN: Oh, yes and I, you know, we were all clear about that. There was no question about that. The president himself, it took him a while, but he acknowledged that. One of the things that I will have to say, in all charity, about this, it is such an invitation to demagoguery to take appearances. Guffaws in the Senate chamber, that proves nothing.
Frankly, if it's important to get at the facts, then get at the facts, but the right of pardon is one that's enjoyed by presidents, and, indeed, usually will be controversial.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with some more moments with Janet Parshall and Reverend Philip Wogaman and then our panel will join us of Barbara Olson, Julian Epstein, Daniel Schorr, and Katrina vanden Heuvel and we'll discuss all of this and take your calls as well. Guests coming next week on LARRY KING LIVE include Bette Midler, Judge Judy, the I-Man, Don Imus, and Tiger Woods. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Sir, have you worked out a plan for the victims of the earthquake?
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FRM. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope so. We're working on it. We're going to put out a press release tonight or tomorrow.
QUESTION: Sir, what about Mary Jo White?
KING: Janet, President Bush is saying move on already. Should you move on already?
PARSHALL: You know, I tell you, my respect for George W. Bush continues to increase day by day. That is very credible on his part, and he is absolutely right to make that statement, but equally right is the right of oversights by the Congress, as Senator Specter alluded to earlier.
And I believe that the time has come to go back and say, look if there was a wrongdoing here, and certainly the Justice Department and the FBI certainly think that there is more examination that's needed. So that's the of joy our system, the checks and balance holding one another accountable.
KING: Reverend Wogaman, the perception of something -- perception is reality in this society, isn't it? And the perception of something being wrong; if it looks like a duck, it swims like a duck, it acts like a duck, it's a duck.
WOGAMAN: Well, analogies are no way to get at the truth in this case either. Frankly, perception can appear to be reality without being reality. It's real as a perception, of course, but, if we're serious about this kind of thing, we get beneath perception.
Frankly, my perception is that there's a whole lot of vindictiveness and malice in the midst of all of this, and in a country that is so deeply divided, with vast numbers of people who are still strong supporters of President Clinton, to talk about impeachment as Senator Specter did or to raise some of these other questions is an invitation to deepen the divisiveness, and I applaud President Bush's effort to draw the country together and move ahead.
KING: Janet, a pardon is a pardon, is it not? A president doesn't have to explain it. George Bush didn't have to explain Caspar Weinberger's pardon. That trial would have began in a week. Tapes would have been played in that trial. He never was called before anyone to explain it. And you have asked him to explain it; right?
KING: Shouldn't you.
PARSHALL: Well, it's more...
KING: In all honesty, shouldn't you?
PARSHALL: You know, that is an interesting question, and it will give a lot of conversation there on Capitol Hill, but, you know, it's more than demagoguery...
KING: I mean, do you agree that were you around then doing a show you would have said tell us?
PARSHALL: Absolutely, and that's the joy...
KING: What's fair is fair.
PARSHALL: Absolutely, but let say that this is more than demagoguery, Larry. When you get the senior senator from New York saying that this takes the justice system and turns it on its head, then it's not just ideologues who are saying this.
There are people, remember, on both sides of the aisle who have a problem and as far as his popularity is concerned, we have new polls coming out today that say they are beginning to dip farther and farther and farther and sadly, it's having a backlash on his wife as well, her favorability ratings are going down.
So, the American public is tired. We have cultural fatigue on the idea that you bend the rules to get what you want and that's what we've seen again and again and again.
KING: Reverend Wogaman, why won't they -- Bill Clinton will never go away, will he? WOGAMAN: Well...
KING: Much to frustration of some, the joy of others, but he will never go away.
WOGAMAN: I well, I'm sure he would be the happiest person on the planet not have this issue bursting forth as it is, and I know, as a matter of fact, that his intention was to be in a period of eclipse. That is, to let the center of the stage be held by President Bush and himself to quietly rest up, gain strength and to plan new things for future.
But, this is being imposed upon him now. This not of his not of his making.
KING: Thank you all -- thank you both very much, Janet Parshall and Reverend Phillip Wogaman. We'll take a break and come back with our panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll look back at all of our interviews of Tom Hanks, collectively putting him together Saturday night. Got another Oscar nomination. We'll be right back. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: So I called Hillary, and I asked my senator, first, how she would feel about me coming to Harlem. And she loved it. So, then I called Charlie Rangel, and my friend Vernon Jordan, and I asked them what they thought about it. Charlie said it would be great and I said well, Congressman, I want to do it, but we've got to find a place before we tell anybody. So within 24 hours, we found this building, these fine men and I'm very excited about it.
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Are we on? We're here. Let's welcome our panel to program. Barbara Olson is with us. She's in Washington, former federal prosecutor, author of "The New York Times" best-seller "Hell To Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton." By the way, her husband, Ted, who you saw prominently during the Florida fracas, has just been appointed solicitor general of the United States. That needs Senate approval, and we congratulate Barbara, you and Ted on this wonderful appointment.
BARBARA OLSON, AUTHOR, "HELL TO PAY": Thank you, Larry.
KING: Julian Epstein is chief Democratic counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst for National Public Radio. And Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor of "The Nation" and Katrina joining us from New York.
All right, Barbara, I would imagine -- we'll start with you, that you hold no ground here for the president and the Marc Rich actions. Am I correct?
OLSON: Hold no ground? Well...
KING: He is not going to get your blessing in this.
OLSON: Well, I mean Bill Clinton -- you know, we've heard a lot of talk about he's got absolute power and why did he do this. Clearly, the Senate has decided that a little sunshine on this may be a good thing for future presidents. Let's let the American people look at the process, see what happened, and maybe future presidents will decide to go through the procedure. They won't be compelled to have a twelfth hour.
But beyond that, we've now got the Democrat U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York opening a criminal investigation. Tough case to prove, but she's going to look send if the pardons were paid for. And that's where we sit and we'll wait and see what her investigation says. But I would love to move on.
KING: Julian, that's basically what it is; right? Were the pardons paid for or not? If they were paid for, you can't change the pardon, but there could be criminal intent here; correct?
JULIAN EPSTEIN, CHIEF MINORITY COUNSEL, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Yes, and I think there's almost no chance that you'll find any evidence of that. I think most Democrats will tell you, Larry, that they think the pardon was a mistake, that what happened in final days of the White House is that it was in overdrive.
President Clinton was trying to get a Mid-East peace agreement. He was trying to work out the deal with Robert Ray, and that all the bases weren't touched and they should have been touched.
But I think when the conversation begins to careen into what I think is the extreme, the excessive accusations, there was bribery, without any evidence of that, I think what the president's political accusers do is they begin to steal defeat from the jaws of victory because, look, I mean the notion that you simply have a political contribution and then an act by an official to whom that contribution is made, the notion that that gives you a prima facie case of bribery is frankly absurd.
That is like saying tobacco industry, when they gave an $8 million contribution to the Republican National Committee, and hours later got a $50 billion tax break, there is a prima facie case for bribery in that case. There wasn't. The notion that you simply have these two things out there and therefore that there's some kind of legal case, I think, is a little bit excessive and I think that's when you begin to see the tide turn in people saying the accusers have yet again gone too far.
KING: Daniel Schorr, who is right? Barbara or Julian?
DANIEL SCHORR, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I will not take either side. I want to have my own side here.
KING: What is yours?
SCHORR: We must go back here and start with a very simple statement, that you don't pardon a fugitive. Whatever you do with a pardon, it's after he's here, after he's served time or for whatever reason.
KING: How about all the Vietnam protesters who were pardoned by Jimmy Carter when they went to Canada? They were fugitives.
SCHORR: They were fugitives, a very special case and I'm glad you've done your homework. But you don't pardon a criminal fugitive. And having done that, I at last reached the conclusion, finally, that I simply had it, with this guy who is a brilliant guy, has the ability to do what I thought only Nixon could do, and that is to destroy himself.
Step by step by step, he destroys what could have been great reputation and it makes me very sad. And let me just add to that, it makes me sadder still that there is a Jewish angle to this, the fact that he's given to charities in Israel, the fact that he claims to have performed missions for the Mossad, Israeli intelligence and all of that, and the fact that Rabbi Irvin Greenberg, who is the chairman of the board of the Holocaust Museum, was one of those who wrote a letter, shameful.
KING: Katrina, we obviously have Mr. Schorr with a surprising turn of events here, turning against the president I think. Katrina -- the ex-president, sorry.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, "THE NATION": The pardon of Marc Rich is outrageous. This is a man who Democrats should abhor, a corporate criminal fleecing working people as he did in the past.
And what is at the heart of this, though, it seems to me is the rot that corroded our political system and led to such cynicism, which is the money, the money that is awash in our system and all the grandstanding in Congress by Arlen "Spectacle" Specter, and all of these people. It will go nowhere until there is systemic campaign finance reform and tightening government ethics.
And the Congress, if it was serious, wouldn't have these grandstanding show trials, but would hold all congressional activity until they passed a serious campaign finance reform bill because that, in large measure, goes to the unequal access that goes on in this country every day.
Ordinary people in the presidential election, vote every four years, if they can get their vote counted. But money counts every day in Washington, and George Bush came to power saying he was going to change the culture of Washington. It is not just Bill Clinton. It is the culture of Washington.
KING: Barbara, isn't that correct, and didn't Julian have a good point when he said if the tobacco industry gives you a millions of dollars and then they get a tax cut, that's quid pro quo? Isn't that a case of a payoff?
OLSON: Oh, Larry, you know it's interesting. I'm sitting here listening to the indignation from the media and all I can think is this is really eight years a little too late. I mean, everyone is sort of outraged that this pardon happened when this is a same Bill Clinton that me and a lot of others have been talking about for eight years.
But suddenly, there is this indignation by media and I wonder why now? Why? Is it because Bill Clinton, perhaps, is no longer useful to their causes? Is it because he served his purpose? And I think it is.
KING: You think there is a media plot here, Barbara?
SCHORR: Oh, there's a massive left-wing conspiracy.
OLSON: No, I just think all of a sudden -- no, it's not a conspiracy. But all of a sudden, we have got people outraged at what he did, the same people who were defending him for years, and you know, Julian is going to bring up tobacco industry, and money to RNC, and I can bring up tobacco money that go to Democrats. That's not the point. Money went to Bill Clinton's foundation which he's using, money went to his wife's campaign, and people...
KING: The question was, isn't Katrina -- hold it. Hold it. Barbara, isn't Katrina correct? Is money the root of this problem? You brought it up. You mentioned tobacco, You mentioned Bill Clinton, It's money, isn't it? If money wasn't involved, we ain't talking tonight.
OLSON: No, actually, it's not money that's the root of the problem, Larry. What's the root of the problem is integrity and respect for the office, and that hasn't been in that White House for eight years. That wasn't there. Bill Clinton treated the White House like his own personal piggy bank.
So, I don't think it's necessarily money. Sure, it was a means to an end, but it was really sort of an atmosphere that you had here in Washington, and I'm thankful to say that that atmosphere has gone. It may be in New York now, but it really has changed here in Washington, and you can see it in people's faces. You can see it in the new administration. There are people respecting the White House and their jobs.
EPSTEIN: Larry, I just want to get a word in. I agree with Barbara that tobacco industry contributions to RNC is not the issue, but what is the issue to me is the double standard because if you were to simply have a standard that a political contribution followed by an official act should be grounds for some type of criminal inquiry, then most of Washington, frankly, would be under criminal investigation.
VANDEN HEUVEL: That's right.
EPSTEIN: You know, I think that the notion here is that, you know, you asked the question about why this continues to get coverage. Certainly, the president to some extent shot himself in the foot.
But look, let's face it. The media certainly believes that Bill Clinton is better copy than the new president. No disrespect to the new president, but President Clinton gets better ratings. Secondly, still believe, as Joe Lockhart said, that there are some politics going on here and I do believe that some of President Clinton's political opponents continue to be confounded by his popularity. You saw him walking through Harlem yesterday. It was almost like Moses parting the seas.
VANDEN HEUVEL: After he played golf.
EPSTEIN: He has a magnetism and a political appeal that is very confounding to Republicans and you have to admit, Barbara, that in the eight years when he was president, the Republicans, the political opponents did not take him on the issues, they took him on on scandal. This is a little bit more of same...
KING: Let me get a break here, guys. I've got to get a break. We'll come back and Daniel and Katrina will chime in. We'll include phone calls as well. Don't go away.
KING: This was Bill Clinton's speaking tonight at the Radisson Hotel in New York. This was at a special dinner to raise money for earthquake relief for India. Daniel Schorr, has all this reflected on his wife?
SCHORR: I think it will probably hurt his wife, yes. I think that everything that he does that's bad tends to rub off, and I think she will begin to feel that. I think, also, that she is going to have, as he will have, some problems raising money. I think that all the hundred thousand dollar lectures may begin to dry up after a while.
Could I add something to that in this? I have tried to stay out of the fight of my colleagues here about what's legal, what's not legal because I tend to look at this not whether or not it is legal, but whether it's moral and whether it's ethical, and there I have no trouble making up my mind.
But this business of the pardon and what you get for a pardon has a History. In August 1974, Vice President Jerry Ford was met with Al Haig who said to him that Nixon is in trouble. He might fight it out, be bad for country. He might pardon himself, but he also might simply resign and be pardoned by his successor. And what did Jerry Ford say? Do I have the power to do that. So that the quid pro quo is -- did not start here. It has started a long way back.
KING: And Katrina, do you think, as a reporter and especially based in New York, is there a fall off for Hillary?
VANDEN HEUVEL: Oh, I think that the last couple weeks have hurt her. She came out of a campaign where she ran a good, strong campaign, and, of course, it hurts her. But I think to go back to what Barbara Olson said, there are many including, "The Nation" magazine, which have criticized the excesses of both parties in this money raising that has gone on to such excess, and until we have a clean money system in this country, we are going to have a downsized and diminished politics.
And for you to suggest that there is a cleaner culture in Washington today is farcical. I mean, the Bush transition team raised $40 million in about two weeks with companies that will have legislation facing this administration, and there is a reason we don't have health care for millions or we have children in poverty because there is money pouring into the system that blocks legislation majorities of Americans care about.
KING: Barbara, do you think that's not true?
OLSON: Well, I mean, yes, companies gave money to help with the inauguration. We aren't making the taxpayers fund the bill. You know, there is a certain amount of, I don't want to sound Pollyannish, but there is a certain amount of public service of companies.
I mean, a lot of airlines provided, but I don't think the fact that Delta and American gave means that they're going to get all the business. I mean, there's a certain amount of pride in public service is what I meant that's coming back to Washington.
But Larry, I was thinking when we were talking about the pardons, every time I saw Denise Rich, I saw Larry King. I think maybe there's a connection there.
KING: That was a -- happy to tell you. That was cancer dinner, her Angel Dinner. She raises money. her daughter died of cancer. She holds this dinner every year. I was asked to emcee it. Michael Jackson was there. They had a great group of entertainment. It was Marc Anthony entertained. The president was there. So was Queen Norr. There was an outstanding array of celebrities and all I was I was happy to be emcee for cancer relief. I would do it again tomorrow.
OLSON: So, I guess we're not going to get any back room...
KING: No, I didn't learn anything that night. I wish I learned something. I didn't learn anything.
EPSTEIN: I hope you're not subpoenaed, Larry. If you are, I'll come on the show defend you. But you know, coming back from this trip down memory lane just to current issue again, I mean, look, you know, the thing again that really bothers I think a lot of us who have supported the president for so long, we even didn't like this pardon, is this pretense by the president's political that they are purer than Caesar's wife.
I mean, you didn't you hear when, you know, when the insurance industry was able to kill HMO reform and had a fund raiser that night for the Republican House party leaders, you didn't hear Democrats coming on this program and going everywhere else and calling for independent counsels and investigations.
When the AP reported that Republicans took twice as much foreign money than did Democrats in 1996 campaign, you didn't hear Democrats coming on and making all kinds of allegations about criminality. None of those investigation...
KING: You think this is purely political?
EPSTEIN: I don't think it's purely political. I think that the president made a mistake here. I think if he had the opportunity to do it again, he would take it back, but again -- you know, my father used to say if you eat all the candy in a candy store, you get an upset stomach and tooth decay, and I think the analogy is good for the Republicans here. They see a Clinton misstep as an opportunity to self-indulge with excessive allegations about bribery and I just think it is...
VANDEN HEUVEL: Not only for the Republicans, there...
OLSON: If Julian's going to run in there with allegations he really needs to have facts behind him. You know, he is representing the House Judiciary Committee and he is if going to make these allegations about Republicans taking more foreign money, I would love facts.
EPSTEIN: I said AP. It was according to the Associated Press.
OLSON: This something, that, you know, we come...
KING: Let me get a call in.
Waco, Texas, hello.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Waco, Texas. Wow
KING: Waco, go ahead.
CALLER: How can a sitting U.S. president pardon a non-U.S. citizen?
OLSON: I can take
EPSTEIN: We all agree that he shouldn't have done it.
KING: OK. Barbara, you're a lawyer. He can?
OLSON: Well, he's pardoning...
SCHORR: He is still a U.S. citizen.
OLSON: As Daniel Schorr is saying, he is still a U.S. citizen.
SCHORR: He is still a U.S. citizen. He attempted to renounce it. The renunciation was not official. The guy is still a U.S. citizen.
KING: Julian, do you agree?
OLSON: And is charged with U.S. crimes.
EPSTEIN: Yes, I agree with that. And I think that Barbara, Dan, Katrina and myself would all agree that the pardon shouldn't have occurred and the bureaucracy did break down and I think, different from what some of the Clinton defenders have been saying, I think there is some value to oversight here because I do think the oversight can help bring out how the system should be conducted in the future and I think it is it is a little bit typical of the Clinton White House to be in overdrive, particularly in last hours of the administration. I think this was a bureaucratic breakdown.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Can I just speak...
KING: We'll take a break and come back with more. Hold it. We'll take a break and come back with more with this very lively panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: Fountain Valley, California. Hello.
CALLER: Good evening, Larry.
CALLER: For Miss vanden Heuvel and Mr. Epstein, I'm wondering given the severe appearances if impropriety, not in just Mr. Rich's case but others, too, instead of misdirecting us toward campaign finance reform, why not just call for a full investigation and let the chips fall where they may?
VANDEN HEUVEL: Because I think an investigation could go ahead, but I think it will be grandstanding, vindictive politics.
KING: How about a criminal investigation as conducted by the U.S. attorney in New York, who's a Democrat?
VANDEN HEUVEL: You know, the question of legality of this pardon may not be at issue. It's propriety. It's appearance. It's judgment, and all of that looks pretty bad, and it's an outrageous pardon. In Congress, though, you're going to get such grandstanding that we will ignore the root of the problem, which goes to the money in our system and that is what I'm saying.
KING: Dan, do you favor this oversight look? Do you favor the Specter and Burton committees?
SCHORR: No, I am for campaign reform. But if anything good comes out of this very sorry mess, it'll be a little more impetus for McCain-Feingold or some version thereof. I really think if you follow money you end up where the money is, you can say -- it is difficult to prove quid pro quo in the case of money either with lobbyists or in this case. It's difficult to prove because you cannot prove that because it happened after it happened because. That's a tough...
KING: By the way, is it a crime -- Barbara, is it a crime if someone takes money to give a pardon since can give a pardon -- you don't have to announce the reason. You can give a pardon for any reason. You give a pardon to your brother.
OLSON: If you perform...
KING: Is it a crime?
OLSON: If you perform the government act, the pardon or whatever it is, in response to payment of the money, yes that's against the law. That's bribery.
KING: But as you said earlier, that's awful hard to prove, isn't it?
OLSON: Daniel Schorr is absolutely right. You have to look at the link. Now, if it's very close in time, which is why, of course, they were looking at right within the 10 days of giving the pardon, if it's directed or if it's asked for, that's why talking to Beth Dozoretz, who is that DNC finance chair about this pardon, that she was talking with the president becomes relevant because it's the link between the money and the government action.
KING: Julian, do you agree with that?
EPSTEIN: Yes, very much. I think that's well put. I think you've essentially got to show an official act was done with understanding on both parties that there's an exchange. I would bet the family ranch that that is not the case here.
I do think, to respond to your caller, that oversight is good. It does show us how the system did break down, how it shouldn't occur again, but I think you can walk and chew gum at the same time. The problem with the campaign finance laws are that it makes it legal for people who have an interest in outcome of official acts to before the fact, contribute in money and to the political parties. It happens on the Democratic side. It happened on the Republican side. Let's say this sewer pipe affects both parties.
KING: Let me get a break. Come back with our remaining moments. Get another call in, too. Don't go away.
KING: Dan Schorr, before we take our next call, quickly, does your anger go to Hillary, too, because there's no evidence she was involved in the Marc Rich thing, is this?
SCHORR: I am not angry at Hillary. I'm not even angry at the former president. I'm just disgusted.
KING: To Minneapolis, Minnesota. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, good evening.
CALLER: I'm wondering if someone on the panel could explain to me what is lesser two of two evils here. You're seeing President Clinton pardoning a slimy private citizen businessman or you look at former President Bush.
EPSTEIN: You're referring to Caspar Weinberger?
KING: In the pardon of Caspar Weinberger. Julian, is this...
EPSTEIN: I think it is bad to make comparisons. To tell you the truth, I supported the Caspar Weinberger pardon only because I think it was a good bring that to the end. One can make the argument that there was a conflict of interest there because he could have implicated Bush. One can make the argument that he should have consulted with the prosecutor, Lawrence Walsh.
I think that's in the past now. I think it was good to put that to the end. I disagree with this pardon, as well. So, I think -- I would this arguably is worse of the two, being a Clinton supporter. But I still object to what I think are the double standards to which Mr. Clinton is being held, and I object to the excessive rhetoric about bribery for which there is absolutely no evidence. This stuff was chump change for a president who can raise $20 million from a book and $100,000 in a speech. I mean, this stuff is chump change. The president really is not fundamentally a venal person.
VANDEN HEUVEL: But that's what goes on every day. There is too much.
OLSON: Furniture and China.
VANDEN HEUVEL: But wait, there is too much of -- our Congress, our political system, is being sold very cheaply almost every day, Julian. I mean, as you know, that's part of the problem.
VANDEN HEUVEL: And it downsizes our politics, I think -- by the way, I think the Bush pardon, I mean, extraordinarily self-serving. He was protecting himself. But this pardon and the pardons we see more of under Clinton go to the growing corporate power in our country, and the lack of a check on corporate power and the money in our system much more than what Bush and...
KING: Barbara, do you want to get a word in here.
OLSON: Well, just about campaign finance, I mean the whole discussion has been that that's the solution. Let's pass campaign finance laws, and I've got to say, you know, that is a canard. We've got campaign finance laws, They haven't been enforced. We've got a new Justice Department. I have a feeling that Attorney General Ashcroft is going to enforce those laws. Yes, the Democrats love to say campaign finance because you know what it does, it shuts down a lot of the advocacy groups that support conservative causes and you know what, it gives labor and unions a free rein. It's free speech on both sides and I don't like the campaign finance laws, but everybody's got that as a solution and it's not.
OLSON: Very quick point on that. Just clearly on the law, and I know Barbara knows this being the lead counsel of the Burton Committee at one point, the campaign...
OLSON: I was not. I never worked for Dan Burton.
EPSTEIN: I'm sorry, beg your pardon. The Klinger committee, who was the government reform.
OLSON: Another fact.
KING: Quickly, quickly.
EPSTEIN: But, you know, the campaign finance laws don't regulate soft money coming in from abroad so somebody overseas can contribute in soft money and that appears to be what may have happened with the Rich case. So, it is very relevant to what we are talking about, campaign finance reform.
KING: We thank you all very much. We'll have to have each of you come back. Barbara Olson, our former federal prosecutor, her husband was just named solicitor general; Julian Epstein, chief Democratic counsel of House Judiciary; Dan Schorr, senior news analyst, National Public Radio; and Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor of "The Nation."
Take a look at my new book corner on my Web site where every month we'll share my favorite book picks. So, log on to cnn.com/larryking and check it out.
And later on on "SPORTS TONIGHT" at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, an exclusive interview with professional football player Rae Carruth, who speaks for the first time since being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder.
Stay tuned for "CNN TONIGHT." My man Bill Hemmer is back. See you tomorrow night. Thanks for joining us and good night.
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