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Larry King Live
U.S. Representatives and Former Clinton Aides Exchange Heated Words Over Clinton PardonsAired March 1, 2001 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETH DOZORETZ, FRIEND OF BILL CLINTON: Upon the advice of my counsel, I respectfully decline to answer that question based on the protection afforded me under the United States Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: high drama on Capitol Hill, as the key witness in the Clinton pardons takes the Fifth. And a parade of Clinton White House officials are grilled before the House Committee on Government Reform.
Joining us later: the man who chaired that hearing, Republican Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana; and the ranking member on the Democratic side, Congressman Henry Waxman of California. Coming later, Bob Schieffer, the "Face of the Nation" man from CBS. And in Miami tonight: David Gergen, editor-at-large "U.S. News and World Report." Then back in D.C.: with author and journalist Sally Quinn, and Margaret Carlson, columnist for "Time" magazine -- that and a lot more next on LARRY KING LIVE.
But first we begin with our opening panel. And they are in Miami: Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Republican of Florida; in Washington, Eleanor Holmes Norton, delegate from the District of Columbia, a Democrat sits on the House Government Reform Committee; also in Washington, Congresswoman Connie Morella, Republican of Maryland, member of the House Government Reform Committee; and Julian Epstein, chief minority counsel of the House Judiciary Committee.
We will start with Congresswoman Lehtinen in Florida.
What are you -- you are not on this committee. What do you make of all this?
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: Well, I am on the committee, Larry. And it certainly very troubling what we have been hearing. We are talking about potential White House pardons for sale. We are talking about over half of the pardons that were given out on the last hours of the presidency were drug-related crimes. We are talking about fugitives from justice, people who were still under investigation, ongoing investigations. And we are talking about a lot of money that was being given to the Democratic Party, a lot of being money given to Clinton library. Was this in exchange for pardons? And this is really what these hearings are about. We want to know: Why is it a coincidence that these pardons were given to people who had given substantially to the Clinton library? And they are not forthcoming with evidence. We have asked for the evidence. And they are not giving it.
KING: Congressman Lehtinen, if you are on the committee, why aren't you in Washington?
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, as you can see, my face is a little black and blue. And I've got a lot of stitches. I had a pretty bad slip- and-fall accident at home. And I got some stitches taken care of today. So I hope to be there for round three. And there certainly are a lot of questions that we want asked.
KING: You look -- you look...
ROS-LEHTINEN: And when we have witnesses that give the Fifth Amendment, we will never get those answers
KING: You look like you -- but they have right to give it. You look like you went eight rounds with Tyson.
KING: You're OK, though, right?
ROS-LEHTINEN: Yes, I'm OK.
KING: All right.
ROS-LEHTINEN: I hope to be better tomorrow. But, Larry, it is very disturbing.
KING: Congresswoman Norton, does she -- she Congresswoman Lehtinen make a point?
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), HOUSE GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: She doesn't make much of a point. I'm sorry she wasn't at the hearings today, because I think the hearings clarified issues that could not have been clarified without today's witnesses.
I think the president did himself some good by waiving executive privilege, allowing his three top aides to come and testify, by turning over to the committee the names of people who have contributed to the library. This hearing, as I left the House, was still going on. It was very frank and forthright.
And I think the hearing, far from what Ileana said, showing that anybody exchanged money for pardons, has not even come close to showing a corrupt motive. It doesn't -- what we have seen in these hearings is very bad judgment. And we have all called a spade a spade. But beyond that...
KING: Congressman Morella -- Congresswoman Morella, one of the arguments made here was in an article -- the op-ed page in "The New York Times" today is: You can give a pardon for anything. You can give a pardon for a contribution to the Democratic -- to a library. You don't need a reason. Correct?
REP. CONSTANCE MORELLA (R), MARYLAND: Maybe you don't need a reason, but the American public demand to know why this happened. Because of it, because of the bad judgment -- or whatever you want to call it -- that the committee is looking at, there is an erosion of confidence in government.
And now more than ever, it is important we maintain it. I think our committee has the responsibility for oversight of the executive and the judicial branch. And that is we are doing. We are bringing transparency into a situation in the hopes that, in the future, that presidents will look to the Department of Justice for each case, as well as the attorney general. So we are looking at a process. And I think it is absolutely appropriate. And we are learning a lot.
KING: Julian, while the Fifth Amendment is certainly a basic right of the Constitution -- the right against self-incrimination is paramount to our system -- you will admit that it does look strange if a woman fund-raiser takes it in -- no? -- in investigation of fund raising and pardons.
JULIAN EPSTEIN, CHIEF MINORITY COUNSEL, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: No, I wouldn't admit at all.
I think that any -- Larry, in this situation, where you have a congressional hearing going on of this nature -- particularly with the background of this committee -- I think a lawyer would not be doing his or her job if he -- he or she advised anything else.
I think -- you know, look, I have been involved in lots of investigations, seen lots of investigation. In my opinion, what we learned today, Larry, is that this is an investigation going nowhere fast. Why is that? Well, we were titillated earlier in the week about this so-called Clinton library donors list. So the Clinton library provided the donor list earlier this week. If there was anything there, I'm sure we would have known about it. That seems to now have fizzled -- same with the Secret Service logs.
What we were left with, today, essentially, were regurgitated questions about campaign donations that now seem to be not anything spectacular, exceptionally out of the ordinary, or, by any stretch of imagination illegal, and then the careening again into the trivia -- I mean, half-an-hour, an hour of questions about what Cheryl Mills is doing in the White House, and all these other very secondary or tertiary matters.
So I think what we saw today is the evidence that this -- this investigation is pretty much going nowhere fast.
KING: All right, we have established the panel. We'll get going with them. And they can cross-exchange ideas as well. We'll try to include some phone calls as well.
Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE: a tribute for an hour with Bernie Shaw. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Do any of you have any evidence to suggest that the Rich pardon was part of a quid pro quo for contributions to the campaigns, to the library, to Mrs. Clinton's efforts, to the Democratic National Committee?
BRUCE LINDSEY, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, sir.
JOHN PODESTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: No.
BETH NOLAN, FORMER COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: As you can see, this is a live shot of the House Government Reform Committee, still in action tonight on Capitol Hill. We have been going back and forth there all day long here on CNN.
Back to our panel: Congresswoman Lehtinen, did you have any problem with calling Ms. Dozoretz, who they knew was going take the Fifth?
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I think that it is very important for the American people to understand what was going on at the time. Were -- was there money exchanged for pardons? And I think for to take the Fifth time and time again...
KING: But they knew she wasn't going to answer.
ROS-LEHTINEN: But I think it is important for the American people to see that she is not going to answer, that we are giving her the opportunity to come forth with the facts. And I think that is what our committee is all about. It is the Government Reform Committee. It is the investigative arm of the United States Congress.
We issue subpoenas. We expect people to comply with them. We expect them to come fully prepared to testify. We are talking about an exchange of dollars, perhaps, for official favors. We are talking about a total circumvention of the system. No one is saying that the president does not have the ability, does not have, in the Constitution, the powers to grant pardons.
But what we are talking about is a system that is set in place that was not used to grant any of these pardons. No law enforcement agencies were asked their opinions, the pardon officer was not asked his opinion, and in fact when they were asked their opinion, everyone said do not give these individuals a pardon.
KING: Yes. So did the witnesses today -- recommended -- all three recommended against the pardon.
ROS-LEHTINEN: So then it begs the question: was there any money exchanged for the pardons? Is it -- that they gave so much money and then got what they wanted?
KING: All right. I don't want to get repetitious, but we are repeating. Eleanor Norton, is this a case of something that looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, acts like duck, might be a duck?
NORTON: Larry, this is a colossal appearance, this case, and, I still have a law professor at Georgetown Law Center. I teach one course every year, and one of the things you teach young lawyers is, a thing is as it appears. Now, of course, the problem...
KING: This is what?
NORTON: The reason you teach them that is because lawyers and politicians are held to the standard of appearances. It is my judgment that no matter what the president says, he will never be able to get beyond the appearances. We don't have any evidence of a corrupt motive; we are not going to get any evidence of a corrupt motive.
KING: Isn't Mrs. Lehtinen correct in, based on appearances, suspecting it?
NORTON: Well, that is the problem, and that is why you say don't -- don't -- don't depend on not having done it. Make sure you don't look like you haven't done it, and that is where the president made his mistake and I'm convinced that's the only place he made his mistake; but it was a bad place to make a mistake.
KING: Congressman Morella, are you convinced that this is just a grievous error? Some bring up, for example, someone who made a lot more --gave a lot more contributions, fought for Milken and didn't get a pardon, and he gave much more money than Denise Rich.
MORELLA: You know, Larry, this is a situation which really is bipartisan in nature in our committee because I know of no member of the Government Reform Committee on either side of the aisle that isn't embarrassed, isn't ashamed at what took place, where you have Marc Rich, who is a fugitive, who disowned his country, his company has admitted guilt.
We are talking about a process, we are hoping this will not be replicated in the future, because we know -- and including those who testified today -- they were all against it. They didn't know some of the facts that we have found out subsequent to that about Marc Rich's company. Of course, I don't know why they didn't check it out. But they didn't know. And yet the president unilaterally made the decision. I think we should say this shouldn't happen in the future.
KING: Julian, isn't it fair to ask, Julian, what do you make of this? I mean, if his top aides are against it, he doesn't ask the Justice Department, the guy is a fugitive. Why? EPSTEIN: Well, I think why is -- we have talked about this before -- I think what happened if you listen to the testimony today was that the calls that came from the Israeli prime minister and Shimon Peres were very persuasive to Mr. Clinton who, again, was running on very little sleep in the final days of the White House.
But to go back to what Connie Morella says, we already know that mistakes were made, that the basis weren't touched, that the bureaucracy broke down; we don't need the theater we had with Beth Dozoretz today to tell us that and that is exactly what it was. It was only theater; they knew she was going to invoke the Fifth Amendment.
If the Government Reform Committee really believed some of the allegations that its members have made, that there is venality here, that Clinton was on the take, they wouldn't even be engaged in these public hearings, because we all know public hearings, when you've really got something wrong, will actually interfere with the investigation, so I think the mere fact that these hearings are going on, are almost an admission by the committee that they...
KING: Hold it, hold it. Julian, you are saying this affects a criminal investigation?
EPSTEIN: Absolutely. We know that from Iran-Contra. Eleanor Holmes Norton, being the superb professor of law that she is will tell you that the history of Congressional investigations has always been, if there's a serious -- a really serious criminal investigation ongoing, that the rule -- the rule is that the Congressional committees step back and that is so it won't interfere with the investigation. The fact that this committee is not recognizing that should tell you a lot.
ROS-LEHTINEN: If we know beforehand that the witness is going to plead the Fifth Amendment, then we should not call the witness to testify. I mean that is absurd...
EPSTEIN: That's not what I said.
ROS-LEHTINEN: I mean, that is what the premise is...
EPSTEIN: No, it's not the premise, with all due respect.
KING: One at a time.
ROS-LEHTINEN: We knew, yes, he had given reports to the press, indicating that she was going to plead the Fifth but I think it is important for the American people to know the truth. We asked her to come and if she wanted to give the Fifth, then let her do it.
KING: You are not denying her right to the Fifth, are you, Congresswoman? ROS-LEHTINEN: I'm not denying it, but I think it is important for us to investigate.
KING: ...it implies guilt, are you?
ROS-LEHTINEN: That is right, nor should we say that because a witness is going to take the Fifth then it is just pure theater if we ask the witness to come and testify. We want to get at the truth, we can't ask the questions if we can't get at the truth, we must ask the questions, and it is her right to take the Fifth, but we must ask those questions.
KING: We will take a break; I've got to get a break; we'll be right back, including some phone calls. Our panel returns right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETH DOZORETZ, CLINTON FRIEND: Upon the advice of my counsel, I respectfully decline to answer that question based on the protection afforded me under the United States Constitution.
SHAYS: Let me ask you this: would that be your response to all our questions or are those -- there specific subjects or persons you will not discuss and others you are willing to discuss with us?
DOZORETZ: Sir, that will be my response to all questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Did you get a chance to form an opinion as to whether this pardon should have been granted?
BETH NOLAN, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I formed an opinion very quickly that the pardon not be granted.
When I said that the president did it because he was the president, I don't mean to suggest in any way that I think he did it just because he could. I agree with Mr. Podesta that the president believed there were valid reasons to do it that to grant that pardon that I disagreed with, and his staff did. But he was entitled ultimately to make the judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: In a few minutes, Congressman Burton who heads that committee will join us. Let's take a call are two for our panel. Edmonton, Alberta Canada, hello.
CALLER: Good evening, Larry. My question is pretty simplistic, given the fact that there is a big time problem with the pardon system in the United States. I'm wondering if the panel has thought of entertaining the fact of revamping the Constitution, and take that power away from the president.
KING: Good question. Eleanor Norton, should we consider a Constitutional amendment?
NORTON: On that, I have very strong views. I must say, on amending the Constitution, especially on the basis of a single set of abuses, or mistakes, I'm a conservative. The framers considered everything I have heard about why might want to amend the Constitution here. We don't want to amend the Constitution.
The First Amendment that was proposed would have the Congress, by two thirds, overturn the pardon power. Now, if want to go from the frying pan into the fire, you go get really political, you go to the Congress.
KING: You would not.
NORTON: I think I would not.
KING: Congresswoman Morella?
MORELLA: I would not.
KING: You would not?
MORELLA: I would not. It is a power given to the president but he should use it with great thought and discretion.
EPSTEIN: I'm in agreement with the two members.
KING: You would not. Maybe we can get a complete agreement. Congresswoman Lehtinen, would you amend?
ROS-LEHTINEN: I don't know -- I think we need to hold hearings and see if statutorily we could do something about them...
NORTON: That's what we're doing now.
ROS-LEHTINEN: ... about making that -- making sure that the process is -- is really used, because there is a process in place and these pardons went all around it. And we've got to make sure that those kinds of abuses don't -- don't pass -- don't happen in the future. And I hope that a constitutional amendment is not needed, but we cannot have these kinds of abuses take place again.
KING: All right. Thank -- thank you, panel. We thank our panel, Congresswoman Lehtinen, Congresswoman Norton, Congresswoman Morella, and Julian Epstein.
When we come back, we'll talk to the man who heads all of this committee -- you've been watching a lot of him today -- Congressman Dan Burton, the chair of the House Committee on Government, Republican of Indiana. A frequent guest here. He's with us in a minute. Don't go away.
KING: Now from Capitol Hill, we're joined by Congressman Dan Burton, chair of the House Committee on Government, Republican of Indiana. A long day for you, congressman.
REP. DAN BURTON (R-IN), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE GOVERNMENT REFORM AND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: It's been a long day for all of us, yeah.
KING: What -- what surprised you most today?
BURTON: Well, we expected Beth Dozoretz to take the Fifth Amendment. I was disappointed that she did that.
I think the thing that was most surprising to me was finding out that Beth Nolan, the chief counsel for the president, was told on the 19th that there was possible arms transfers done by Mr. Rich, which was a violation of the law, and instead of calling the Justice Department to find out more about it, she called Jack Quinn, the attorney for Marc Rich, the former counsel to the president. And she called him and asked him what he thought about that. And then the called the president, and the president said, well, if Jack says it's OK, then we'll take his word for it.
Now, the fact of the matter is, if the president had known or should have known about Marc Rich's involvement -- breaking all the embargoes, dealing with Iran when we had our hostages over there in danger and dealing with Iraq and all the other things -- then I think, you know, the decision would have definitely been different and they wouldn't have pardoned him. And so I can't understand why they deliberately didn't call the Justice Department instead of contacting Jack Quinn, the defense lawyer for Marc Rich.
KING: Were you surprised that the three witnesses all afternoon all disagreed with the pardon?
BURTON: No, I wasn't surprised at that at all. I mean, they -- they thought that Marc Rich was a -- a person who had committed felonies, who was a fugitive from justice, and who had violated so many laws that there was no reason to pardon him.
KING: I mean why the president didn't listen to these three key people around him.
BURTON: Well, I think that's one of the things we're still looking at. We intend to get the figures from the library, the library foundation. We should get those tomorrow. We're going to try to see if there's any connection between the monies that were paid to different people and the pardons. So far, we don't have any evidence of that. So we wouldn't say the president was involved in a quid pro quo, but we're going to continue to look at it, because there's no rational explanation as to why the president pardoned him. KING: There are some who have complained about the calling of Ms. Dozoretz when you knew she was going to take the Fifth Amendment. I thought -- some say the protocol is, if the lawyer tells you she's going to take the Fifth, you don't go ahead with it.
BURTON: No. The fact of the matter is we've brought other people in who have taken the Fifth. The lawyer can tell us that they intend to take the Fifth, but the prerogative and the responsibility for taking the Fifth is the witness themselves.
We brought Mark Middleton in, other people -- we would have brought Denise Rich in except the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York said they were opening a criminal investigation and there was a grand jury being impaneled.
KING: Do you think any of these congressional investigations impair a criminal investigation?
BURTON: We try to make sure that they do not impair a criminal investigation. In the case of Denise Rich, we were going to grant her immunity. But first we contacted the Justice Department to make sure that they weren't going to have a criminal investigation. When we found out they were going to open a criminal investigation, we deferred action on giving her immunity so that the case would not be jeopardized -- because, if we granted immunity to her, then of course if there was any criminality, they probably wouldn't be able to get a conviction.
KING: I know you are very tired. We will spend a couple more minutes with you, Congressman Burton. Is an investigation something that we want to know what happened or we make a -- we have a premise as to what happened and try to prove that premise?
BURTON: I don't want to take a premise, come too a pre- conclusion, and then try to prove it. What we want to do is get the facts. The American people need to know why the president pardoned a fugitive, Marc Rich. He was a fugitive for 17 years. His company has paid a $200 million tax fine, a criminal fine. Some of the finest lawyers in the country were representing him.
He fled the country, tried to take documents with him out of the country. He gave up his citizenship. And we want to know why a man of that caliber would be pardoned by the president. And if there was -- if it was just bad judgment, then the American people need to know that. And if it was something else, they need to know that as well.
KING: Beth Nolan expressed the thought that it was the Barak call that was the key. How do you react to that?
BURTON: Oh, I don't believe that is the case at all, because he had his chief counsel and others there saying: You know, this a terrible mistake. You shouldn't do that. And we shouldn't let our foreign policy interfere with pardoning an internationally known fugitive.
So I don't understand the rationale for that. Besides, they said under testimony today Mr. Barak called probably more than all of the other leaders of the world combined. And this was just one of those calls.
KING: And what is next for the committee?
BURTON: Well, we are going go through all the information that we have that we are getting tomorrow. We will be subpoenaing, in all probability, some bank documents. And we will look at the information as we get it. And then we'll decide where to go from there. But, you know, we're not going make a decision or come to a conclusion until we look at all of the facts.
We are not going to condemn anybody or convict anybody or anything until we know what really happened.
KING: Are there are more witnesses tomorrow?
BURTON: No, there will be no more witnesses this week. We will just have to wait and see what we come up with. And then we'll take it from there.
KING: Thank you, as always, Congressman Burton. Always good seeing you.
BURTON: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Congressman Dan Burton, the chair of the House Committee on Government, Republican of Indiana.
When we come back: Bob Schieffer, the host of CBS' "Face The Nation"; David Gergen, editor-at-large "U.S. News and World Report"; author-journalist Sally Quinn; and Margaret Carlson.
What you are looking at now is the hearings. They are still going on! Congressman Burton just took some time off to come over and talk to us. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAXMAN: Issuing pardons is one of the most profound powers given to the president. At a minimum, the decision-making process must be careful and above reproach. It is clear that President Clinton's efforts weren't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That was Henry Waxman earlier today.
Let's meet our panel: Bob Schieffer, the host of CBS' "Face the Nation," one of the best journalists in the business; David Gergen, editor-at-large "U.S. News and World Report," professor of the Kennedy School at Harvard. He's in Miami tonight; Sally Quinn, the author and journalist, a veteran of the Washington scene; and Margaret Carlson of the "CAPITAL GANG," and a columnist, of course -- featured columnist at "TIME" magazine.
Let's get an overview of all of this. We haven't had any of these people on since this Rich thing started, so this is fresh for us.
Bob Schieffer, what do you make of it?
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS "FACE THE NATION": Well, I think this has really hurt Bill Clinton, I think this has hurt Hillary Clinton and her political chances. If indeed she was going to try run for president four years from now, I think she can kiss that goodbye.
And I think another thing, Larry, I think this is going to hurt the former president's marketability. Now, I keep hearing his speech booking agents saying that he has got more speeches that he can handle. But every time I read in paper about him making a speech, there is some complaint about it, or there is some corporate officer backing away from it from.
So, I think this is -- has done considerable damage to the former president.
KING: Sally Quinn, your overview.
SALLY QUINN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Well, you know, Clinton last week was at a party in New York City, and was telling guests there, I gave Marc Rich the pardon for the American people. And all I can think about is -- the -- when Edward Bennett Williams, who was his original lawyer and who told him that he would help him out, but that he had to stay in the country, and when Marc Rich left the country, Ed said, you have spit on the flag.
And it just seems very difficult for me to sort of put those two together. He spit on flag, but he did this for the American people.
KING: So, you were shocked?
KING: You weren't -- get back to that. That is another story. David Gergen, your overview.
DAVID GERGEN, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Well, I think -- I certainly agree with Bob Schieffer, Larry, any actor you know cares a lot about his first scene, but he cares even more about his last scene as he leaves the stage, and this for Bill Clinton is a terrible last scene leaving the presidency.
I think it has hurt him considerably. I do think it has destroyed any serious possibility that his wife would be the presidential nominee in 2004. I think they'll both come back.
I also believe that we probably have not heard the end of the tale yet. My bet is there are more shoes to drop.
KING: And Margaret Carlson. MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, we had another shoe today with Tony Rodham, and what today -- what we learned today was that Bill Clinton simply wanted to give the pardons he gave.
There didn't have to be a good reason. Smart people could be arguing against them, and they did. He gave pardons to people he wanted to reward for one reason or another, like Denise Rich, and he gave pardons to people loved, like his family.
Neither of those are good reasons to do it. Those are very bad reasons, and what Bill Clinton has never distinguished is the difference between something sacred and something ordinary. The Lincoln bedroom and a photo-op at a cocktail party were the same to him.
And a pardon is a sacred power -- it is not like, you know, signing off on building a highway somewhere. And he treated it as ordinary.
KING: Do you -- do you think, Bob, man this intelligent -- explain this.
SCHIEFFER: I can't explain it. Bill Clinton to me is the most disappointing politician that I have known about in the last 40 years. He had such great potential. I mean, when you look back at his presidency, he did some very good things. We did have a very good economy while he was here.
But this just has such an odor about it, it is just -- I don't know, just kind of icky. I don't think anybody would want to end it on this kind of note.
KING: I am going to ask my panel just to take a break a second. Henry Waxman will join us. We will take a break, come back, we'll spend a few moments with Congressman Waxman -- we just had Congressman Burton on, Congressman Waxman is the ranking Democrat on the committee.
And after we talk with Henry, we'll come back with our panel. We'll be back with all of this right after these words.
KING: We now welcome the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, the longtime California Congressman, Henry Waxman. Congressman Waxman, Congressman Burton a couple minutes ago said he didn't buy the thought that the key to this pardon was Barak. Do you?
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: After nine hours of testimony today, I think there is several things I would point out. The White House was so chaotic in those last couple of days, the president was putting out executive orders on environment, on medical privacy, and he was struggling with the Middle East situation.
And on the 19th, when he made the decision about Marc Rich, he had to deal with the independent counsel and admit his own wrongdoing in the testimony about the Monica Lewinsky case.
So, he had all of these things swirling around him, and each of the his major advisers, John Podesta, the chief of staff, Beth Nolan, the White House counsel, each of them -- and Bruce Lindsey -- all said that they told the president, don't grant this pardon to Marc Rich.
But the president bought the arguments that were given to him by Jack Quinn, on behalf of Jack Quinn's client Marc Rich. I think it was a terrible judgment on the president's part. It was -- it was embarrassing to see pardon authority exercised in such a slipshod way. He didn't have all information.
KING: So, you are saying -- you think it was just too much pressure, or are you concerned that it might be other possible criminal things?
WAXMAN: I think he was influenced by Prime Minister Barak, I think he was influenced by the fact that Denise Rich was a friend and a major contributor, but I don't see any evidence of bribery, of quid pro quo, of illegality. And I asked each of the people that work for him at the White House, and they were all there with him, and saw the process under which he reached his conclusion, whether any of them saw any criminal action on the part of the president, all of them said, absolutely not.
If there were criminal action, it will be discerned by the investigation by the U.S. attorney in New York. I didn't see any evidence of it. I saw a lot of evidence of really bad judgment on the president's part.
KING: Were you shocked at what you call that shameful lapse of judgment?
WAXMAN: Was I shocked at it? At his judgment? I can understand it more after today's hearing than I could before. Because he had all these things going on, it was just absolute chaos.
He wasn't well served by the people who should have given him all the information about the pros and the cons of each candidate for a pardon. He wanted to give more pardons, he said get me more pardon information. And at the same time, the Justice Department pardon authority was refusing to review the cases. They told the White House in October or September, they weren't going to make any more recommendations, and the president was saying, I want to do more, I want to exercise this pardon authority because I want to be more compassionate.
And so, he was driving the process, but he wasn't well-served by getting all the information, and he had gone -- and his staff -- for several nights without sleep, he was hearing from Prime Minister Barak, and I'm sure he knew that Prime Minister Barak was going to be facing defeat in election because of the failures in the Camp David accords.
All these things were weighing on him -- and then, let's realize this, that he had to admit to a wrongdoing with independent counsel, Mr. Ray, and if he then heard the argument from Jack Quinn that Marc Rich was being prosecuted because of a zealous prosecutor, and that was right button to push at that moment with President Clinton.
KING: You disagreed with the committee calling Ms. Dozoretz, right?
KING: Ms. Dozoretz. You disagreed with them calling her?
WAXMAN: Oh, oh! That was so uncalled for. She said she was going to take the Fifth Amendment. You know, Denise Rich said she was going to take the Fifth Amendment, they didn't drag her down here to put her in this press spectacle. It was just the wrong thing to do to Beth Dozoretz.
It's not the role of Congress to try to humiliate and make a press spectacle of a witness who is going take the Fifth Amendment. There was no purpose served in that whatsoever, and I just thought that -- she has a constitutional right to take Fifth Amendment.
I wish, I wish she would have testified. I believe people should testify before the Congress, but you can't argue if their lawyers tell them to cooperate with the prosecutors but, in sorting through all the legal thicket, not to come before the Congress and testify in all these redundant investigations.
KING: And congressman, where is it all going, do you think?
WAXMAN: I think that we'll get an investigation by law enforcement people in New York as to whether there was any illegal conduct. I don't think they are going to come up with illegal conduct.
I think the president stained his reputation by making this pardon, and its one that is going to haunt him. It's brought discredit to his judgment, and that's very unfortunate, but I don't think it'll detract when history writes about what he's done as president over the years, because he managed the economy so well, he made some very good decisions, and he tried very hard in foreign policy, even though he wasn't successful in the Middle East.
KING: Thanks, Henry. Always good having you with us.
WAXMAN: Thank you.
KING: Congressman Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee. You saw a lot of him today as well.
Schieffer, Gergen, Quinn, and Carlson return right after these words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BOB BARR (R), GEORGIA: In other words, your counsel has instructed you not to cooperate with any probe by the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York.
BETH DOZORETZ, DNC FUND-RAISER: I will rely on the advice of my counsel, sir.
BARR: And does that advice include telling you not to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney for the southern district of New York?
DOZORETZ: I will rely on the advice of my counsel, Mr. Barr.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We return to our panel. What do you make of Mr. Waxman's argument that this "shameful lapse of judgment" as he called it, was caused by all the things going on around him?
QUINN: Well, I'm sorry but I just can't agree. Bill Clinton is too smart for all of that, and this pardon thing was going on for almost a year, before that.
I mean he was having phone calls with Denise Rich and Beth Dozoretz in Aspen for weeks beforehand. And the whole idea that this, that Barak made him do it is just insane. I mean, if he cared at all about what Barak or any of these foreigners thought about it, he would have asked Sandy Berger, his national security adviser or Madeleine Albright the secretary of state.
He didn't ask them. He didn't ask the prosecutors. He didn't ask the Justice Department. And the reason he didn't is because he didn't want to know. He wanted to make that pardon and he did it.
KING: So, David, was it there not a lapse of judgment but a calculated move?
GERGEN: I don't think we know yet, Larry. I think the facts are still confusing. I do think the White House aides handled themselves very well today. I think that the president was wise to grant them -- to waive executive privilege and that was helpful. I think that they showed that they had unanimously argued against this.
I find -- the thing that came out was most curious today was that e-mail that was released by the committee, written by the man who's now head of the Rich Foundation to a Rich lawyer back in February. And he said they were running into roadblocks on trying to get clearances for Mr. Rich. And they said, "We are reverting to the idea that discussed with A, which is to send DR on a personal mission to No. 1 with a well-prepared script."
I think everybody reads into that to send Denise Rich on a personal mission to see Bill Clinton with a -- with a well-prepared script.
Now, I don't know what happened thereafter. I think that's one of the things the investigators will want to know.
We do know that in May she gave $100,000 more to the library and she pledged to raise a million dollars.
So from Bill Clinton's point of view, it may have all been conversations with Denise Rich, not much going on, but from Denise Rich's point of view there may have been something entirely different.
We don't know that. That's why I think -- I think there are more shoes -- I think there's more to learn about this case.
KING: Margaret, what did you make of the argument on the op-ed page by a lawyer in "The New York Times" today that you can give a pardon for a contribution to a library? You can give a pardon for anything.
CARLSON: I know it. Is that the one that was forgiving...
CARLSON: ... Mrs. Clinton for sifting in the meeting with the Hassidic...
KING: Yeah. You can seat in a meeting, and if you say, I'll try to get a pardon and the people vote for you, that's OK. That's what the article said.
CARLSON: That was one of the most strained op-ed pieces I've ever read. It makes no sense. No, that's exactly what you're not supposed to do with pardons.
I mean, it just so happens that this candidate is the wife of the president of the United States, who can give a pardon to somebody who can help her almost immediately. There is just no way out of that.
Now Mrs. Clinton has kind of gotten her way out of it by saying she never said anything, she just sat there...
CARLSON: ... like a potted palm. But nonetheless, that's all you needed to do.
KING: Bob Schieffer, is the problem in the law, that you can do a pardon for anything?
SCHIEFFER: Well, yes, but I think there was a reason that the founders decided to give the president the power to pardon. This was to right wrongs. This was to correct injustices that had been done. This was not to excuse someone who was on the FBI's 10 most wanted list, someone who now the government says they're going to try to collect $137 million in back taxes.
I'm not sure the fault is in the law here. I think it's in -- in the being of the person who used the law in this case. I mean, here you have the whole presidential family -- Hugh Rodham, now Tony Rodham, the president's brother -- all of these people we're now saying, you know, that in some way or the other they came and asked the president, hey, how about a pardon for this fellow or that fellow. It's who was rich, who was close to the Clintons. Those were the people that got the pardons, not people that perhaps had been wronged by the law.
KING: Let's include some phone calls for our outstanding panel. Denver, hello. Are you there?
Denver? OK. I'm sorry, they didn't respond.
To Brownwood, Texas, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: My question is how much longer will these hearings go on, and will more investigations be taken on afterward instead of taking care of business like they should be doing?
KING: Mr. Gergen.
GERGEN: I think the hearings will go on a bit longer, Larry. A lot depends on what still comes out. There's no question that one of the things -- I think a lot of people are bothered by the hearings. Coming into Miami today, people asked, you know, why in the world are they still pursuing Bill Clinton?
But the big thing, of course, is that we're here tonight talking about Bill Clinton instead of the Bush tax plan, and Democrats are not coming on to give their views about the tax plan. We're talking about Bill Clinton.
KING: And is there a sense, Sally, on those who favor the president that this looks like a gang-up on the part of people who hated him from the first movie?
QUINN: Well, I don't -- the polls show that most people think that there should be some sort of investigation. I think it's interesting, because during the impeachment hearings, it was the people in Washington who were much more interested in the investigations and the people out there who weren't. Now, it seems to be the other way around.
I really do think that there is not only Clinton fatigue in Washington, but Clinton exhaustion, and I don't think that there's a huge amount of excitement on the Hill, even from the Republicans, to keep this thing going. I think everybody would be a lot happier if the prosecutors in New York took it over and left people to go on about their business. The Republicans are not benefiting from this and neither are the Democrats.
KING: San Antonio, hello.
CALLER: Good evening, Larry, and to the distinguished panel. I have a question for you all. How is this going to affect people in the future that really deserve a pardon after all this stuff that has gone on and stuff now?
KING: Excellent question. Margaret, a president is looking at a pardon. He thinks it should go in, and then he's got to say, what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) going to happen, and what about the poor person who deserves a pardon and may not get one because of this.
CARLSON: Yeah. He's going to have to make sure now that he doesn't know the person, no one in his family knows the person, no money's exchanged hands. And you know, maybe this is going to shut down presidential libraries, because it looks a little like a slush fund.
You know, I wanted to add something to what Sally said, which is that the White House would love to shut these hearings down. And as you saw today, the -- no one looks good. The committee doesn't look good. Dan Burton had his theatrical moment, bringing up Beth Dozoretz.
But does Bob Barr come across as a statesman doing this? I don't think so.
Nonetheless, you should look into it, because we should never have this happen again. Pardons should go back to being the sacred thing that they are.
SCHIEFFER: Larry, let me just add one thing to that, because it is my understanding -- I mean, I think this has already affected the deserving people -- some people who may deserve a pardon.
It's my understanding that at the Justice Department right now there are 500 pardon applications that the paperwork has already been done on, another 500 pardon applications that they are doing the paperwork on. That's 1,000 people who were applying for pardons. And somehow, I'm told, maybe 100 of the 170 that President Clinton granted, they were just kind of moved in front of those 1,000 people. So, perhaps this has already affected those who should have had consideration for a pardon.
KING: We'll be back with more and we'll pick up with David Gergen when we return on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Bernie Shaw is the guest of the hour tomorrow night, the now- retired Bernie Shaw. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PODESTA: One could disagree with his reasoning, as many have. One can say that he did not adequately consult with the Justice Department officials before issuing the pardons, as the president himself acknowledged in his statement.
But I believe that President Clinton considered the legal merits of the argument for the pardons as he understood them, and he rendered his judgment, wise or unwise, on the merits of the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: Before we take another call, David Gergen, you wanted to say something?
GERGEN: Yes, Larry. There were some very good people who were pardoned in this process. There was one instance in which I personally supported somebody who was granted the pardon.
But I also believe that, in this kind of situation, after what we've just been through, the White House must adopt some ethics standards which are published in advance about how they're going to handle this, which will apply to relatives, apply to others, so that everyone has a clear -- a road map to follow.
This was -- John Podesta pointed out today, they were inundated with requests for pardons. They had more than 100 requests coming from members of Congress, so it's really complicated for the White House to deal with these. And one of them, clearly one of them fell, White House staff opposed it -- the Marc Rich pardon. I continue to think it's inexplicable. I continue to think we will know more facts soon.
KING: Salisbury, North Carolina. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: I'm wondering how much this is costing the taxpayers. Thank you.
KING: Do we know a cost here, Bob?
SCHIEFFER: Well, no, I don't know the costs. I mean, for a congressional investigation -- I don't know, it's within the -- investigation...
KING: It's in the budget.
SCHIEFFER: So I think at this point it probably hasn't cost a great deal.
KING: Sally, if you were advising President Clinton, should he go on this program or another show?
Should he talk? Should he do an interview? Should he appear before a committee? Should he just let it ride?
QUINN: Well, I don't think it would do much good to have him before a committee, because he's already an admitted perjurer, so I can't -- I can't see how that would help.
And I -- I really think that he ought to go underground. Just go in hiding. I can't understand why the two of them hadn't -- haven't taken a vacation. But, even more importantly, I think that both of them need to sort of keep a lower profile.
QUINN: And, you know -- yes.
QUINN: And, you know, she has got a new job now. She is a senator. And she can't seem to get away from all of this. I mean, now it is all about her brothers. And it is very hard to believe that she didn't know they were living in the White House, that she had no idea what was going on, that -- I mean this pardon that Margaret was talking about -- the Tony Rodham pardon -- happened almost a year ago.
You would think at that point, she would have said: Don't ever let that happen: these carnival people coming in and setting up a tent on the White House lawn. I don't want to see this again.
KING: Margaret, what do you think he should do?
CARLSON: The circus came to town.
QUINN: And won.
CARLSON: It was a press picnic, actually. I was at that carnival. And little did we know.
KING: Ah-hah! So you were there!
KING: Did you eat?
CARLSON: Hey, listen, I'm not tainted by the pardons.
You know, Larry, I have a huge stack of mail in the last week from parents upset about their children who are under mandatory sentences in prison. And you know what -- just with...
KING: For drug use.
CARLSON: Just for drug use, minor drug us, for -- what pardons are designed for. And so it is not a victimless crime, this just handing-out of pardons dependent on who you know and how much money you pay.
KING: Yes. What should -- we're running close on time -- what should Clinton do? Nothing?
CARLSON: Yes. As you said, Larry, chill, just for a while. Give us a break.
KING: Bob, what should -- what should he do, Bob?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I would be glad to have him on "Face the Nation," Larry.
KING: Me, too. We would accept him here. But should he?
CARLSON: "TIME" will interview him, yes.
SCHIEFFER: Yes. I think, in fact, that he, at some point, is going to have to give his side of the story. If he is going to rescue any part of his reputation, he has simply got to come forward. Perhaps he has some great answers to some of these questions, but...
KING: David, if you...
CARLSON: But "The New York Times" op-ed piece -- in "The New York Times" op-ed piece, he certainly didn't make the case.
David, if you were still his adviser, what would you ask him to do?
GERGEN: Get all the information out there, then hold a full- scale press conference, answer lots and lots of questions, then go away for six months.
KING: But make it a full-scale press conference with the media tent and fire away.
GERGEN: I believe he has -- I believe he has to have an exhaustive press conference in which he lets -- he answers every question, stands up there longer than anybody wants him to stand up there, and then goes underground for six months.
KING: Go away.
Bob Schieffer -- Bob Schieffer, David Gergen, Sally Quinn and Margaret Carlson.
Bernard Shaw tomorrow night. Check out my new Web site. Send us an e-mail with your questions and comments. It's a lot of fun: cnn.com/larryking.
My man Bill Hemmer is next. He's hosting an hour special -- very appropriate -- "What's happening to the economy?" That is next. Thanks for joining us.
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