|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
House Government Reform Committee Begins Marc Rich Pardon HearingAired March 1, 2001 - 11:58 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: It is Thursday, March 1, 12:00 noon in the East, 9:00 a.m. in the West.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And this is CNN live coverage of the Clinton pardon hearings before the House Government Reform Committee.
From CNN center in Atlanta, I'm Daryn Kagan.
HARRIS: And I'm Leon Harris; welcome, folks.
KAGAN: It is a familiar scene in Congress today: Bill Clinton's closest advisers lining up, getting ready this hour to answer questions about their boss' White House conduct.
HARRIS: This time Congressman Dan Burton's committee is looking for a dollars-for-pardons connection. Clinton insists that there is none -- live coverage of the hearing just ahead here on CNN.
First, let's check in with our national correspondent Bob Franken, who's our go-to guy on the pardon story.
Bob, what exactly is it this committee wants to get out of the witnesses we will see today?
Hang on just a second, Bob, we're having a problem with your microphone -- Bob, I don't know if you can hear me -- Bob, stand by just one second.
Can we get Bob's mike straight?
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do we have my mike straight?
KAGAN: There we go.
HARRIS: There we go.
KAGAN: Speak up, bob.
FRANKEN: Technology is wonderful, isn't it? Better now than later.
What we are hoping -- what the committee is exploring today is the question, as you just pointed out, was there the dollars-for-a- pardon -- quid pro quo, whatever you want to describe which, of course, could raise questions of criminality. By the way, that's being investigated -- a criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York.
But the committee is questioning, first, for a very brief period of time, Beth Dozoretz, a major Democratic contributor -- has pledged $1 million to the presidential library. Strong, active supporter of a pardon for Marc Rich. She has been told -- the committee has been told that she, in fact will not answer the questions. She will, in fact, take her Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination. Didn't want to appear before the committee because of any embarrassment associated with that.
The committee said, no, if you're not going to play ball, we're going to make you come here and actually in front of all the cameras take the Fifth. She's going to do that.
There's going to a couple of questions from one of the committee members, Chris Shays. Then she will be excused.
Then they get to what many people believe would be the substance of this committee hearing. And that is a long panel discussion with the top White House officials who were there at the close of President Clinton's administration. Including John Podesta, the White House chief of staff at the time. Beth Nolan, the White House counsel. Bruce Lindsey, who has been a close associate of Bill Clinton ever since their political careers began back in Arkansas. He was deputy White House counsel at the end. Also Jack Quinn, who as we know is a former White House counsel, but was also the attorney who is representing Marc Rich.
Now, privilege. It's a term we're going to hear a lot about today. The president would have had the right, most lawyers agree, to claim executive privilege and, from the fact, prevent these people from answering questions about what went on in the White House when they were discussing the pardons. But Bill Clinton earlier this week, through his lawyer, waived executive privilege. Meaning, that these officials can answer the questions.
Now, Jack Quinn is faced with another privilege. That's attorney-client privilege. His client, Marc Rich, has said he is not waiving that privilege. So there could be some questions. Quinn says he is just not allowed to answer. That's going to take several hours.
We're being told that most of these officials oppose the pardon of Marc Rich and were surprised by the fact that he was pardoned ultimately by Bill Clinton. We're going to get testimony to that effect from John Podesta, I understand.
Also, what we're told, however, is that he will claim that at the end, it was almost chaotic at the White House as this avalanche of pardon applications was being considered. Podesta will argue, as he has publicly, that Bill Clinton was not doing anything that was illegal, that at the very most, he might have made a mistake. This will go on for several hours. The committee hearing will conclude sometime this evening with Republican lawyers, including a man whose nickname is Scooter Libby. He is now chief of staff to Dick Cheney. At one time, he represented Marc Rich. And at one time, Bill Clinton argued that he was among those who advocated the pardon, something that Libby has denied. It probably will be a quick panel.
And then the committee, in effect, will regroup and decide where it goes from there, what information it needs.
Another person who is not testifying today is Skip Rutherford. Rutherford is the person who -- from Little rock, Arkansas, who, in effect, is the head of the presidential library effort. And there had been a real skirmish about whether the library would provide records of donors to the library.
As a matter of fact, the subpoenas were first rejected. A compromise was worked out. So Rutherford will not have to come and be skewered by the Republicans on the committee.
So we will get some drama at the start when Beth Dozoretz refuses to testify, unless she completely surprises us and changes her mind. And then hours of substance which could get very much to the heart of exactly what transactions were going on when the pardons were granted -- Leon.
HARRIS: Well, let's get some substance now from our Bill Schneider who's standing by in our bureau in Washington. Bill, our senior political analyst.
Bill, moments ago, you were talking about the White House and its influence here in this matter. We've heard constantly -- we've heard so many times George W. Bush saying it's time to move on. And yet, that may be the public message that the White House is sending on. But is the White House actually exerting any influence over this panel or over Congress to move on?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we don't know the facts involved in that. The president says he wants to move on.
My view is that if he really wanted to move on and wanted to kind of short-circuit these hearings or even shut them down, the White House ought to have the influence to do that. This is a Republican committee, chaired by Republicans. And they ought to be able to exercise the influence to stop this.
There's no question that as Clinton has looked worse in the polls, it's elevated Bush's standing. His ratings have gone up while Clinton's have gone down. That's gotten a lot of friendly reception on the part of the American people. But in the end, he needs the American people to listen to what he has to say about the budget and the tax cuts.
KAGAN: Question now for Bob Franken. Bob, while this is happening on the House side, the investigation still continues on the Senate side. And Senator Specter has a request of Mr. Clinton, as I understand. It wants the former president to talk to Senate investigators. How likely is that to happen?
FRANKEN: Well, one can never tell, but at the moment, there is no real concrete plan to put that in effect.
Don't forget, there have been repeated willingness expressed for Bill Clinton to come in and testify and in effect clear his name. Thus far, that has not occurred. Although people suspect that at some dramatic point, if this continues to spiral out of control, a decision could be made, that he would decide to face his accuser.
It would not be the first time that a president had come to testify about controversial pardons. Of course, the most notable example, as everybody recalls, is when Gerald Ford came to Capitol Hill and talked about his pardon of Richard Nixon.
So anything is possible. I don't think anybody would have expected that this story would have what we call the legs that it has now. But it continues to blemish the former presidency of Bill Clinton. He has not been able to, by all accounts, get into this transition to private life, where ex-presidents are supposed to go out and do good works and become icons. That certainly hasn't happened in the case of Bill Clinton.
One other comment, if I may, and it has to do with what Bill Schneider was all up talking about just a moment ago. The -- not only has George Bush's rating gone up as Bill Clinton's has gone down, but it has allowed him to operate really in the background. And a lot of people are saying this was a good way to start, a good way to avoid controversy and sort of sneak into the presidency.
KAGAN: Bob, so you mentioned President Clinton, former President Clinton about whether he would or would not appear before a panel like this. Another character, a lead character in this. What about Marc Rich? Why not bring him up for this?
KAGAN: I realize he's a fugitive and hasn't been in the country in a number of years, but it sure would be interesting to hear from him on this matter.
FRANKEN: Well, no question about it. Do you think we would cover that? I believe...
KAGAN: Might get a -- get a little bit of a play, Bob.
FRANKEN: All right. But, thus far, he has stayed out of the country. He has, as a matter of fact, told the committee that, contrary to the request, he would not waive attorney-client privilege. As you know, when you have a relationship between a lawyer and his client, the conversations are considered privileged when it has to do with the case. Bill Clinton, President Clinton waived executive privilege. We discussed that a moment ago. Meaning that his ex-aides can feel free to talk about conversations they had.
But that other privilege, attorney-client privilege, is something that Marc Rich still has not been willing to give up, saying, in effect, right now this would not be something that would be helpful to his cause. Obviously if he's not going to do that, nobody should hold his breath before about his coming before the committee.
HARRIS: Bob, as you were speaking, we were watching President Clinton's counsel Bruce Lindsey take his seat there before the panel.
Bill Schneider, it's -- it's funny how this seismic shift we've seen since impeachment and what that's done with Democrats and Republicans. It's almost hard to tell the Democrats from the Republicans on this panel now.
SCHNEIDER: Well, since Clinton left office, really, the Democrats have rather surprisingly turned against him on this issue specifically, because a lot of them were fed up. They're not defending the president, the most of them. In fact, most of the president's ardent defenders, the people you are going to see on this panel, John Podesta, Bruce Lindsey, people who were in his employee at one time.
What we're seeing is that Congressional Democrat, elected officials are really no longer defending Clinton's behavior in this case. They don't have to anymore. And a lot of them were very exasperated. They had to for the last few years. Now they don't.
KAGAN: We're watching the arrival of Dan Burton, the man heading up this committee and these hearings.
This question is out to both Bob and Bill. What does he have to gain and actually also risk politically by leading this cause?
FRANKEN: Well, let me start if I may, simply because I want to point out the person who is speaking to Dan Burton right now is Chris Shays. He's a Republican Congressman from Connecticut, who is going to be the one who questions Beth Dozoretz; the one who has decided that he will get the rejections from Beth Dozoretz.
Now, as for your question, one of the things the Democrats are trying to say is, OK, OK, we disagree with the Marc Rich pardon. But aren't the Republicans playing their same old game, piling on, trying to demonize the Democrats and neutralize them? And by the way, if that is the case, they probably have been somewhat successful. The Democrats are in a bit of disarray because of this.
KAGAN: Looks like we are getting close.
SCHNEIDER: Yes, I was going to say the risks for Dan Burton is that it looks like a partisan vendetta.
KAGAN: Let's go ahead and listen in. Thank you, gentlemen.
REP. DAN BURTON (R), GOVT. REFORM CHAIRMAN: I haven't seen this many cameras since I went to RCA and watched the production line.
Can we ask the camera people to kind of leave the room so we can get started with our business? Or at least relocate?
Good afternoon. A quorum being present, the Committee on Government Reform will come to order. I ask unanimous consent that all members' and witnesses' written opening statements be included in the record, and without objection, so ordered.
I ask unanimous consent that all articles, exhibits and extraneous or tabular material referred to be included in the record, and without objection, so ordered.
I ask unanimous consent that a set of exhibits, which was shared with the minority prior to the hearing, be included in the record, and without objection, so ordered.
I also ask unanimous consent that questioning in this matter proceed under Clause 2(j)(ii) of House Rule 11 and Committee Rule 14 in which the chairman and ranking minority member allocate time to members of the committee as they deem appropriate for extended questioning not to exceed 60 minutes, equally divided between the majority and minority, and without objection, so ordered.
I also ask unanimous consent that questioning in the matter under consideration proceed under Clause 2(j)(ii) of House Rule 11 and Committee Rule 14 in which the chairman and ranking minority member allocate time to committee counsel as they deem appropriate for extended questioning not to exceed 60 minutes, divided equally between the majority and minority, and without objection, so ordered.
Today we're holding our second hearing regarding the president's last minute pardons of Marc Rich and Pincus Green. Since our last meeting, there have been a number of new developments, but before I talk about that, let's go back and look at what we've learned in our first hearing.
On February 8, the first thing that we learned was that the normal review process at the Justice Department was completely bypassed. Jack Quinn testified that he delivered the pardon application to the White House on December 11, but it was never delivered to the Justice Department for review. We released an e-mail that showed that Mr. Rich's lawyers were doing their dead-level best to keep the pardon application secret to keep it from getting shot down.
We heard from Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder. Mr. Holder was told by Mr. Quinn in November that Marc Rich's pardon application would be submitted directly to the White House. Mr. Holder didn't tell the pardon attorney. He didn't tell the prosecutors in New York, who were responsible for the case and who had worked on it.
On January 19, Mr. Holder was called by the White House about the pardon. At this point, it was clear that this pardon of an international fugitive was under serious consideration. Again, he didn't contact the pardon attorney and he didn't contact the prosecutors in New York. In that January 19 phone call, White House counsel Beth Nolan asked Mr. Holder what he thought about pardoning Mr. Rich. He told her he was neutral, leaning towards. But he admitted that he never reviewed the case. He never talked to prosecutors about it. The only information he had was former White House counsel Jack Quinn. Now, how could he be "neutral, leaning towards," when the only information he'd seen about the case came from Marc Rich's lawyer?
We released an e-mail that showed that President Clinton called Beth Dozoretz about the pardon. Beth Dozoretz is a former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee. She also pledged to raise $1 million for the Clinton Library, and she's a close friend of Denise Rich, Marc Rich's ex-wife. Neither one has cooperated with this committee so far.
According to that e-mail, the president wanted to approve the pardon, and he was doing all he could to turn around the White House counsels. Why was the president on such a different wavelength from his staff? Why would the president call a fund-raiser about a pardon, but he wouldn't ask his own Justice Department for an opinion?
Now there's new developments. That was three weeks ago. A lot's happened since then. I have said all along that I don't want to drag this investigation out, and I mean that. At the same time, new information is coming out so fast, it's almost impossible to keep up with it. I want to just mention a few important developments.
First, we've learned that Denise Rich gave $450,000 to the Clinton Library. That's on top of the $1.2 million that she gave to the Democratic campaigns. We need to learn more about that.
Second, we learned that Beth Dozoretz pledged to raise $1 million for the Clinton Library.
Third, we learned that the president's brother-in-law, Hugh Rodham, got more than $430,000 for helping two people get pardons. He received a $200,000 contingency fee from Glenn Braswell, who was convicted of fraud.
At the time of the pardon, Mr. Braswell was still under investigation by the Justice Department for tax evasion. He got another $200,000 to help Carlos Vignali get a pardon. Carlos Vignali was convicted of helping ship 800 pounds of cocaine from Los Angeles to Minneapolis. That's more than $5 million worth of cocaine, and they were going to turn it into crack.
Fourth, we learned that the former first lady's campaign treasurer received $4,000 to help two people who were trying to get pardons. And fifth, we learned that the president's brother, Roger Clinton, asked for pardons for a number of people. We need to find out if any money was promised to Roger Clinton, and we need to find out exactly what he did on behalf of these people.
We have learned more important details in just the last two days. Today, the New York Times reported that the first lady's older brother, Tony Rodham, helped get a pardon for someone who was paying him as a consultant. The Justice Department opposed this pardon, but it was approved anyway.
We received a new document that shows that the prosecutors in the Marc Rich case offered to drop the RICO charge against Mr. Rich if he would return to the United States to face trial. I believe that was in 1999. Now, Mr. Quinn has been telling us that this RICO sledgehammer was what forced Mr. Rich to flee the country. Well, evidently that wasn't the whole story, and it wasn't quite accurate, because they were going to drop the RICO charge to get him back to stand trial on the other charges, and there were 50 of them.
We learned that Carlos Vignali, the cocaine dealer who paid Hugh Rodham, lied on his pardon application. He lied about his prior offenses and yet he still got a pardon, much to the chagrin of the Justice Department and, I believe, the pardon officials.
We were very surprise to learn this week that Eric Holder wouldn't sign the Justice Department's memo opposing Carlos Vignali's pardon. Apparently, he didn't want to sign any more pardon denials. He was the deputy attorney general, and he didn't want to sign a memo opposing a pardon of a major drug dealer. Why?
We've learned that John Podesta's personal lawyer, Peter Kadzik, was lobbying Mr. Podesta on behalf of Marc Rich. That's one of the reasons we called Mr. Kadzik here today.
Finally, on Tuesday, the pardon attorney from the Justice Department told us that the night the pardon of Marc Rich was granted, his office sent information to the White House stating that Marc Rich was involved in illegal arms trading. That was the night the pardon was granted. Now, it's not clear now that this information is accurate, but nobody at the White House even called back to ask about it. As far as they knew, they were granting a pardon for an arms dealer.
The appearances that have been created here are obvious. If you have friends in high places, you can get around the law. It makes it look like we have one system of justice for the rich and powerful, and another system of justice for all the rest of us.
Were laws broken? We don't know. We don't have all the facts yet. We want to be responsible. We don't want to rush to judgment or make accusations until we have all the facts. But we have an obligation to try to find out what happened and lay the facts before the American people. We want to move expeditiously. In some areas, we're making progress. We asked the president not to claim executive privilege so his aides could testify, and he's done that, and that's a positive step.
We had a problem with the Clinton Library, they didn't want to comply with our subpoena for information on their donors. If you read the editorial pages across the country, I think there is widespread agreement that they shouldn't try to keep that secret. We've made a great deal of progress on this issue in the last two days, and we're very close to resolving it. The lawyers for the library have committed to bringing us more information tomorrow. I had scheduled the library's president, Skip Rutherford, to testify on the first panel today. We've made enough progress that I've excused him. I appreciate the fact that the lawyers for the library have worked with us to resolve this.
We asked Mr. Quinn to provide us with written answers to some questions prior to the hearing, and he's done that, and we appreciate it.
Last night, we received answers to the questions we submitted to Mr. Rodham, and that was helpful. And I ask unanimous consent to place this letter in the record at the conclusion of my remarks, and without objection, so ordered.
On the other hand, we still have some problems. We wrought to Roger Clinton. We asked him to provide us with some basic information about who he tried to help get pardons.
We asked him how much money he received, if any. He has not responded. We wrote to the lawyer for Glenn Braswell. His name is Kendall Coffey. We asked him for some very basic information, like a copy of the material he submitted to the White House. He hasn't responded.
The most serious obstacle we faced is this: We have two key witnesses who are taking the Fifth Amendment against self incrimination. Denise Rich exercised her Fifth Amendment rights three weeks ago. We don't know if she has done anything wrong. We don't anticipate that she has, but we sure wish she would answer our questions.
We want to get to the bottom of this. Now we're told that Beth Dozoretz will also take the Fifth. These are two people who are involved in raising money for the president and lobbying the president for pardons, and we apparently can't talk to either one of them.
Now, Ms. Dozoretz is here with us today. She was called as a witness to this hearing. We've received word through her lawyer that she plans to exercise her Fifth Amendment rights. However, this is a personal privilege that must be exercised by the individual and not through counsel. And that's why we've asked Ms. Dozoretz to be here, and we hope she'll reconsider.
On our second panel, we have several former senior White House officials. We have the president's former chief of staff, John Podesta. We have the former White House counsel, Beth Nolan. We have the former deputy White House counsel, Bruce Lindsey. And we also have Jack Quinn, who represented Mr. Rich as well as having, in the past, worked at the White House with the president. And he, of course, has lobbied for Mr. Rich's pardon.
The purpose of the second panel is to determine what kind of process they went through at the White House. We know the Justice Department was not consulted in any meaningful way. So who was consulted? What information did they use to evaluate the Marc Rich pardon? Who advised the president? And that's what we want to find out from that panel today.
On the third panel, we have three attorneys who represented Marc Rich. We have Robert Fink. We have Lewis Scooter Libby, and we have Peter Kadzik.
I want to thank all of our witnesses for being here today. I know that members on both sides here don't want to spend the rest of their lives investigating Bill Clinton, and I'm certainly one of them. But I want people to recognize that we're facing some significant obstacles in getting information for the Congress and the American people who deserve to know the facts. We're going to be responsible, and we're going to move forward as rapidly as possible.
I want to work with members on both sides to get this done. Mr. Waxman asked us to call Scooter Libby to testify today. I, personally, didn't think that was necessary. There is no evidence that Mr. Libby was involved in the pardon process at all. But it was important to Mr. Waxman, so I agreed. And I believe, if we work together, we can get this work done very quickly, and we can move on to other important things that need to be done for the country.
That concludes my opening statement. And I now yield to Mr. Waxman for his statement.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Three weeks ago at the committee's first hearing on the Marc Rich pardon, I criticized President Clinton's actions. I said, the Rich pardon was bad precedent, an end run around the judicial process and appeared to set a double standard for the wealthy and powerful.
Almost immediately, the phones lit up in my office. Oddly, many of the calls came from anti-Clinton viewers, accusing me of being an apologist for the president. But I also received many calls from Democrats, demanding that I explain why I wasn't supporting President Clinton's actions. That's where I want to start today.
I want particularly to direct my comments to Democrats around the country who are puzzled why congressional Democrats aren't defending President Clinton. Well, if a Republican president has presided over a pardon process that resembled the chaotic mess that seemingly characterized the final days of the Clinton administration, I would be outraged and would criticize it.
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's clear that President Clinton's efforts were not. President Clinton had two equally important responsibilities in deciding whether to grant pardons.
First, the president could not grant a pardon in exchange for any personal benefit. A quid pro quo obviously would break the law. And although the president's pardon power is absolute, it is not above the law.
To this point, I've seen no evidence that the president broke any law. I've seen a lot of evidence of bad judgment, but not illegality.
But given the extraordinary circumstances of the Rich pardon, it's important the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York fully, quickly, and impartially investigate this issue. The U.S. attorney is doing that, and its investigation should resolve any questions of illegality for the American people.
President Clinton's second fundamental obligation is just as important as the first. He must protect the American people's trust by exercising sound judgment. This isn't a legal standard, it's a subjective measure, and President Clinton failed to meet it.
The combination of revelations, ranging from the Marc Rich and New Square pardons to the role Hugh Rodham played in the pardon process, are disturbing and they raise serious questions about the president's judgment.
And if anyone should have been sensitive to this, it was the president. He has been subject to a constant barrage of attacks and scrutiny, some unquestionably justified, but most reckless and unfair. He knows that whatever he does will be questioned, even if he didn't actually do it.
During the battle over impeachment, I repeatedly noted a distinction between private conduct and official activities. The president's relationship with a White House intern was a personal failing and a betrayal of his family. Everything that sprang from that scandal, including his false testimony under oath, came from that personal failure.
In this case, however, Mr. Clinton's failure to exercise sound judgment affected one of the most important duties of the presidency. Bad judgment is obviously not impeachable, but the failures in the pardon process should embarrass every Democrat and every American. It's a shameful lapse of judgment that must be acknowledged, because to ignore it would betray a basic principle of justice that Democrats believe in.
I know that many Democrats fear that criticizing President Clinton's actions will somehow negate all of his accomplishments, all the accomplishments of his administration. I disagree. President Clinton's discipline and masterful handling of our economy, and his leadership on a score of international and domestic issues, health and environmental concerns, will not be forgotten.
Democrats, and I hope even some Republicans, should be proud of the progress we made and the immense talents President Clinton brought to the White House. Those truths remain, despite the president's other failings.
But when he makes a serious mistake, as I think he did in this case, Democrats must be willing to say so.
I hope that helps explain to my Democratic callers why I've been so critical of the president's conduct. But I also want to address the anti-Clinton callers, who attack me for being an apologist for the president and the first lady. At the same time that I believed that President Clinton made grave errors, I also believe there's clearly a double standard that's applied to him. Pointing out that there's a double standard isn't an attempt to excuse what's happened, it's just the facts.
One major reason we're holding this hearing is to investigate whether President Clinton pardoned Marc Rich in exchange for contributions. Republicans are saying that an investigation is essential, because of the suspicious circumstances that Marc Rich's former wife gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the DNC and the Clinton Library.
Well, compare this pardon to that President Bush gave in 1989 to Armand Hammer, the former head of Occidental Petroleum, who plead guilty to making illegal campaign contributions.
According to news reports, Mr. Hammer gave over $100,000 to the Republican Party and over $100,000 to the Bush-Quayle inaugural committee shortly before he had received his pardon.
The appearance of a quid pro quo is just as strong in the Hammer case as in the Rich case, if not stronger, since Mr. Hammer himself gave the contribution. But there was never an investigation of former President Bush.
The committee has now opened a new front by investigating the involvement of the first lady's brother in two of the last-minute pardons. Here, again, there's a parallel with the Bush administration. According to news reports, former President Bush's son Jeb Bush successfully lobbied his father's White House in 1990 for the release of an anti-Castro terrorist named Orlando Bosch. That's Orlando Bosch, no relationship. But we aren't investigating former President Bush or his son, just former President Clinton and his brother-in-law.
If we're genuinely concerned about the undue influence of relatives on policymakers, there are a lot of examples that we could investigate in Congress.
Representative Tom DeLay is the majority whip. After his brother, Randy, became a lobbyist for Cemex, which is a Mexican cement company, Mr. DeLay asked the Commerce Department for special treatment for that company.
Senator Ted Stevens' brother Ben lobbies for organizations that have been reported to have received millions of dollars in earmarked appropriations.
And Scott Hatch, Senator Hatch's son, represents entities like the American Tort Reform Association, even though they have extensive interests in Senator Hatch's own committee.
Now, I'm not impugning the actions of any of those individuals, and I don't question the integrity of their actions. But I don't believe that this committee should engage in selective indignation.
The committee's pursuit of the Clinton Library is another example of this double standard. In 1997, during the committee's campaign finance investigation, I asked that we subpoena records from the Bush and Reagan libraries about potential fund-raising abuses involving those administrations, but I was turned down. It seems we can pursue President Clinton's Library, but not President Bush's or President Reagan's.
And if anybody doesn't understand why I was turned down, let them know that the power to issue a subpoena is invested in one person on this committee and only one person, and that's the chairman.
I also wanted to investigate the Jesse Helms foundation. Senator Helms' foundation had reportedly received large contributions from foreign governments at the same time that the senator was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. But, again, there was no inquiry.
As I say this, I have no doubt that my phone is ringing off the hook in my office with people criticizing me for having the temerity to point out these inconsistencies.
But we need to keep perspective. American taxpayers have already spent over $140 million investigating President Clinton. I realize that ridiculing President Clinton makes great entertainment for some, but these obsessions with President Clinton are not healthy. President Clinton is not going to be impeached again, and he's no longer the president.
At times, the feeding frenzy involving President Clinton is unfair. He is denounced as an individual bent on thwarting or stonewalling the committee's investigation. But in fact, in this case, he has taken the extraordinary step of waiving executive privilege, the president's constitutional prerogative, to allow his top advisers to testify.
And at other times, the frenzy displaces any sense of priorities.
It's amazing that the news that President Clinton's brother Roger asked for pardons became the lead story in the country, even displacing the FBI scandal. After all, Roger Clinton was unsuccessful, and there's no evidence to date that he received any payments for his efforts.
Mr. Chairman, I want to comment for the record on your insistence that Beth Dozoretz be required to assert the Fifth Amendment during today's hearing. Mrs. Dozoretz has already informed the committee that, given the U.S. attorney's investigation in New York, she will not be able to participate in today's hearing. There is congressional precedent for requiring a witness to assert the Fifth Amendment, but I don't think it's constructive to call Mrs. Dozoretz before the committee if the goal is to punish her for asserting her constitutional right and to create a media spectacle.
I also want to note my disappointment in the committee's treatment of Peter Kadzik. Mr. Kadzik was informed a few days ago that he might be invited to today's hearing. The hearing conflicted with appointments he already had scheduled in California for today, and he informed the committee he could not participate but he's willing to cooperate in any way possible with us. Well, when Mr. Kadzik stepped off the plane in California, he was greeted by a federal marshal who served him with a subpoena requiring his presence here today. So Mr. Kadzik had to cancel his meetings and immediately board another flight back to Washington.
That all would have been necessary if Mr. Kadzik were an essential witness for today's hearing, but he's not. In fact, earlier this week, your staff told him that he wouldn't have to testify if I would agree that we should excuse Scooter Libby from today's hearing.
Since Mr. Libby was Marc Rich's lawyer for more than 10 years and helped develop the argument that was ultimately presented to the president as a justification for his pardon, we felt he should testify. And I regret he's been placed on the agenda for today so far down that we won't hear from him for at least four hours, and probably not until nightfall.
Mr. Chairman, given the developments of the last few weeks, I think it's appropriate for us to have this hearing. Clearly, there is a widespread interest in obtaining the views of today's witnesses, and I'm pleased they're going to be able to testify to us freely, not restrained under the executive privilege where the president refuse to let them testify.
But I think we need to think twice before continuing with additional investigation. There is a criminal investigation going on in New York that can answer whether illegal conduct is involved. We know that bad judgment was involved. We can have many investigations to show there was bad judgment.
But the issue before us is going to be, when all is said and done, was there anything illegal. We could spend months investigating the details of all of President Clinton's pardons, but I seriously question whether it makes sense for us to conduct another redundant investigation.
I look forward to listening to today's witnesses and learning what we can about this whole matter. And I thank you for yielding me this time.
BURTON: Thank you, Mr. Waxman.
Do other members have opening statements they'd like to make?
Mr. Barr? REP. BOB BARR (R), GEORGIA: Just one thing. While, as usual, I find nothing enlightening in the ranking member's discussion of things that are utterly irrelevant to this investigation -- we've sort of learned to expect that -- I did learn something. If you listen carefully enough to the gentleman, you can usually pick up a new euphemism. Witnesses used to simply assert their Fifth Amendment rights or their rights to not incriminate themselves. Now we know that really what they were doing is they were simply not able to participate in today's hearings. That's a delightful euphemism.
I think that, Mr. Chairman, you put your finger on the heart of the matter here. There have been very serious questions raised about these pardons; they go to the heart of whether or not we are a nation of laws or of men. And there is nothing at all improper about requiring a witness to come in here, and if they refuse to answer questions, if they have something to hide, than all they have to do is say so. And it's not a matter of not being able to participate in a hearing; it is simply exercising one's right not to disclose information.
We're not here to waste anybody's time. If any of the witnesses decide that they don't want to disclose information, all they have to do is say so. But this is something that the American people have a right to know, and members of this committee, as representatives of the people of this country, have a right to know that.
So I thank you for holding the hearings, and, as always, I thank you for your indulgence, even though there was nothing enlightening in the last 20 minutes, we did learn a new euphemism for asserting Fifth Amendment rights.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
BURTON: Thank you, Mr. Barr.
Any further opening statements? Any comments?
The gentlelady from Washington is recognized.
DELEGATE ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (DEL), WASHINGTON, D.C.: Mr. Chairman, I would like to indicate that I believe these hearings have served a salutary purpose. I believe that there are basically two functions: One is transparency. We live in a democratic republic and people have a right to know about any official matter. And the other is to send a message to future presidents, that while the power of a pardon is absolute, as I believe it should remain, that Congress does have the power itself to look into the appropriateness of pardons.
As we welcome today's witnesses, I think we ought to also say that the president deserves credit for having waived executive privilege and for having released the names of donors. I think that tends to show that he is trying to show he had nothing to hide.
At the same time, I want to say that how ever much we have hearings on this matter, I believe that the old rule that lawyers learn, that appearances control, mean that the only person who can get to whether there has been a corrupt motive is the U.S. attorney.
In my view, lawyers and public officials are essentially held to one rule: A thing is what it appears to be. The only person who can get between that, at this point, is the U.S. attorney, and I think we have to content ourselves with that.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to submit for the record a matter that I think is necessary to correct the record. I have read in the press and even heard from some members of Congress that, while the president pardoned this billionaire fugitive -- I must say, at odds with all he has stood for, this man, who stood for the poor and those most in need -- that he left in jail offenders languishing, who were first-time offenders and who are poorer people. Mr. Chairman, that is not true.
I would like to submit for the record the list from the Families Against Mandatory Minimums. This organization submitted 12 names to the president of first-time offenders -- poor people, moderate income people, anonymous people. All 12 had commutations and were freed from prison, and beyond those 12, five more that were not on their list, but were members of their organization, were also freed.
The public may know about Kemba Smith, the young mother and college student, who was caught up in her boyfriend's conspiracy to sell drugs when she, herself, had committed no overt act of crime, but I don't I don't think that the public knows of the press, which has made great stock of how these poor people have been left with nothing done for them. Shame on them.
I do think it only right for us to know that the president did pardon some such people. Congress has had no mercy, despite the fact that Justice Rehnquist, the Federal judiciary, Barry McCaffrey and the Catholic bishops have called for a change in the laws involving mandatory minimums.
Please let nothing that I have said contradict my view that Marc Rich should not have been pardoned, that pardons should not be granted to the privileged, that the president made a terrible judgment in making these pardons, that he will never set the record straight, because appearances control such matters. And I am afraid, tragically, that the appearances will always control this matter unless the U.S. attorney tells us otherwise.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
BURTON: Thank the gentlelady for her comments.
REP. MARK E. SOUDER (R), INDIANA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I want to thank Mr. Waxman for his statement. I don't agree with the latter part of his statement, but I appreciate his acknowledgement in the forward ...
HARRIS: We have been listening to the opening statements in the House Government Reform Committee's hearings into the Clinton's pardons issue today. And we're going to take this moment to take a break, but we do have much more coverage coming up.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com
|Back to the top|