Why Does Mrs. Clinton <br>Fail To Back Her Husband <br>For Pardoning Marc Rich?
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The best move for Hillary Clinton in the face of the FBI’s release of its trove of documents in the Marc Rich case is to defend her husband Bill. He’s the one who, in the last hours of his presidency, pardoned the fugitive financier and his partner, Pincus Green.
Yet Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem to be able to do even that, though a case can be made for the pardons. She’s trapped by the fact that the pardons, like everything else the Clintons do, got tangled up with their finances (in this case, raising money for their library).
The Rich pardon, granted in 2001, is back in the news because the FBI chose this week to release 129 pages of long-sought records related to a probe of the affair. It has thrown Hillary Clinton into more conniptions.
Her campaign called the timing of the FBI’s release of the documents, in response to a freedom of information request, “odd.” It demanded to know whether the FBI would release documents on an old housing case involving Donald Trump.
Why couldn’t she find it within herself simply to defend the pardons? There were plenty of distinguished free-market types who thought the criminal case against Rich was overreaching and that he should’ve been pursued, if at all, in civil court.
The answer is that the documents remind voters of the stink of Pardon-gate, starting with the pardons of key members of the Puerto Rican terrorist group known as the FALN. Clinton pardoned 16 of them in 1999.
What horrified people then was the suspicion that the FALN pardons were calculated to help Hillary get elected to the Senate, since New York has so many Puerto Rican voters. Congress formally condemned the pardons — almost unanimously (95 to 2 in the Senate and 311 to 41 in the House).
Hillary Clinton eventually withdrew her support for her husband’s FALN pardons. Yet there was nothing Congress or anyone else could have done. That’s because the pardon is the least-fettered of any presidential power.
A president can pardon any offense against the United States, except in impeachment cases. He doesn’t have to explain himself. He doesn’t have to consult the Justice Department or get pardons ratified by Congress. (Bill Clinton even pardoned his own half-brother, Roger.)
Marc Rich was particularly galling to prosecutors, led by then-US Attorney Rudy Giuliani. Before the grand jury handed up its indictments of Rich, the financier decamped to Switzerland, where his company was headquartered.
The charges against Rich centered on alleged violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. He allegedly dodged Jimmy Carter’s oil-price controls, evaded taxes on the profits and violated sanctions on Iran.
Free-market conservatives, like The Wall Street Journal, feared that Giuliani had used the RICO law in ways Congress had never intended. Some tax experts argued Rich’s tax maneuvering was within the law.
Rich’s company pled to some of the tax counts. But when the United States tried to extradite him (and Pinky Green) personally, Switzerland refused. Swiss prosecutors even threatened to charge Rich with violating Swiss secrecy laws if Rich sent evidence to America.
So a standoff ensued, until, with the clock literally ticking away Clinton’s presidency, Bill Clinton signed the pardons. They were greeted by an incredible uproar, including by Rudy Giuliani, now a leading ally for Donald Trump.
Outrage centered on the discovery that Marc Rich’s ex-wife, Denise, had made big contributions to the Clinton library. ABC News reported she’d given the library as much as $450,000 — and pegged her contributions to Democratic causes at $1 million.
What a sting this must be for Hillary Clinton at a time when millions of voters fear she’s too close to Wall Street. She can’t even argue (as I’ve done for years) that the pardons were given for good legal reasons.
Just days before the election, Hillary Clinton’s tragedy is exposed — that even when the Clintons do the right thing, there’s always the suspicion that they did it for the wrong reasons.
This column first appeared in the New York Post.