Skip to comments.Flashback: In 2001, Nets Not So Fast to Jump on Bill Clinton's Pardon of Marc Rich
Posted on 07/04/2007 8:02:52 AM PDT by lowbridge
Posted by Brent Baker on July 3, 2007 - 18:00.
Back in 2001, the broadcast network evening shows weren't quite so fast to jump on President Bill Clinton's Inauguration Day morning pardon of Marc Rich, a fugitive from justice over fraud and tax evasion, who was hiding overseas and whose ex-wife was a big Democratic contributor. ABC's World News got to it a day later, but it took the NBC Nightly News another day. The CBS Evening News didn't bother reporting it until the Thursday after Clinton's Saturday morning action -- and then Dan Rather framed it as another instance of Clinton being victimized by unrelenting critics who wouldn't let go even after he left office: Critics of former President Clinton are going beyond the very end. They're raising new questions about one of the end of term pardons President Clinton granted.
Monday night, July 2, ABC, CBS and NBC all led with the Libby commutation.
The Tuesday, January 23, 2001 MRC CyberAlert recounted:
....On Sunday's This Week, George Stephanopoulos praised Clinton's pardon of Susan McDougall: "She spent 18 months in prison because of what President Clinton did. It was the decent thing to do."
But then he complained: "There's at least one outrage from what I can tell. He pardoned a man named Marc Rich. You may not remember Marc Rich but he was a banker, a commodities trader who was trading with Iran while they were holding terrorists [actually the U.S. hostages of 1979-80] and trading with South Africa under the apartheid regime. Indicted by Rudy Giuliani. Instead of facing trial he went on the lam. He's lived in Switzerland for 17 years. His ex-wife has given $600,000 almost, over $500,000, to the Democratic Party over the last two years. This is outrageous."
Sunday night ABC's World News Tonight featured a whole story from Josh Gerstein on those upset by the Rich decision.
On Monday night, the NBC Nightly News caught up with a piece by Pete Williams on how Clinton's decision is "sparking outrage from people familiar with the case." Both ABC and NBC pointed out how his ex-wife is a large donor to Democrats and that Rich's lawyer, who appealed to Clinton, is former White House counsel Jack Quinn.
Sunday and Monday nights the CBS Evening News ignored the story.
An excerpt from the Friday, January 26, 2001 MRC CyberAlert:
Bill Clinton does wrong and on whom does CBS News put the burden? His critics! Four days after ABC's World News Tonight and three days later than NBC Nightly News, on Thursday night [January 25, 2001] the CBS Evening News finally ran its first story about the pardon for Marc Rich. But check out how Dan Rather introduced it by portraying those concerned about it as the ones who are doing something unseemly:
"Critics of former President Clinton are going beyond the very end. They're raising new questions about one of the end of term pardons President Clinton granted. CBS's Jim Axelrod is looking into the case of fugitive financier Marc Rich and the circumstances that led to his pardon."...
Nothing W. has ever thought about doing with pardons even begins to compare with the outrages which SlicKKK perpetrated. Slick conducted a fire sale on presidential pardons as he was going out the door.
Below is a list of Marc Rich’s crimes. Compare that to Scooter Libby. There’s no comparison.
WND Exclusive ALL THE EX-PRESIDENT’S SCANDALS
The story of Clinton’s Marc Rich pardon
Co-conspirators serve time while multimillionaire enjoys clemency
Posted: February 5, 2001
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Timothy P. Carney
© 2001 Human Events
He wasn’t born Rich. No, he was born Marc David Reich in Belgium in 1934 to a working-class Jewish father. Fearing the Nazis, his family fled to America in 1942, changed their name to Rich and tried to start life all over again.
Forty-one years later, Marc Rich was fleeing again, but this time the feared authority was not Adolph Hitler, but the assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Morris (Sandy) Weinberg. Rich’s crimes included tax evasion, fraud and “trading with the enemy” — Iran, during the hostage crisis.
Rich, by now a multimillionaire, was in Switzerland on the day his indictment came down and decided to stay. Once again, Rich started his life afresh, leaving his old wife Denise for a young blond model, changing the name of one of his Swiss firms and starting a new business.
On Jan. 20, President Clinton gave Rich a chance for a third “do-over.” Clinton wiped all the criminal charges off of Rich’s record with a presidential pardon on his last day in power. The Rich pardon has received special attention because Denise Rich raised and donated more than $1 million to the Democratic Party in recent years and also provided the Clintons directly with a $10,000 contribution to their legal defense fund and $7,300 worth of furniture.
Even left-wing newspapers and columnists have rebuked Clinton for pardoning Rich. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., declared himself “troubled.” Bush White House lawyers looked into overturning the pardon, and House Government Reform Committee Chairman Dan Burton, R-Ind., has launched an investigation.
The strange case started with the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973, which established a system of price controls on crude oil produced in or imported to the United States. In 1980 and ‘81, the Energy Department classified oil that came from wells that produce 10 barrels a day or less as “stripper” oil and exempted it from the price caps.
According to his 1983 indictment, Rich saw this regulation as a potential gold mine, setting up a scam to have his company’s oil relabeled “stripper” oil by a reseller, and thus seemingly exempted from the price controls.
To hide this activity and the illegal profits it produced, says Sandy Weinberg, the lead prosecutor in the case, Rich allegedly had a reseller claim Rich’s profits were really its own and then hand over the money through sham transactions to companies Rich controlled in Panama.
This led the government to charge Rich and his partner Pincus Green with fraud and the evasion of $42 million in taxes.
On top of that, Weinberg alleges, Rich bought crude oil from the Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran while Iran was holding U.S. citizens hostage. This was in direct violation of a U.S. trade embargo — and, in effect, helped to arm the Iranians by giving them needed cash.
Bring all of these activities together into a concerted effort to make illegal profits, and you’ve got what the prosecutor called racketeering — violating federal criminal statutes designed for busting the Mafia.
Rich’s attorneys — at the time of the investigation as well as in the consideration of the pardon — uttered cries of “over-prosecution.” They hoped an agreement could be reached. Rich’s and Green’s attorney, Edward Bennett Williams, met with Weinberg a few times in 1983 to offer a deal: The companies would pay $100 million if all charges were dropped.
This was on top of the $50,000 per day that Marc Rich was paying in contempt-of-court fines for not turning over certain documents. Every Friday, Rich paid $200,000, and every Monday, $150,000. The payments eventually equaled $21 million.
Rich started paying the fines only after the feds, following an anonymous tip, “reeled in a plane on the runway at JFK” (Weinberg’s words) and found it was carrying a paralegal from a New York law firm who had checked on board with two steamer trunks full of subpoenaed documents.
The plane was on its way to Europe.
Weinberg recounts a June 1983 meeting with Williams, in which Williams put his feet up on the prosecutor’s desk and made the pitch. In Weinberg’s view, and in the view of his boss, then-U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani, Rich and Green deserved nothing short of jail time. If wealthy criminals could buy their way out of their misdeeds, the prosecutors felt, then they were effectively above the law.
Rich and Green, according to a few sources, were in Europe at the time of the negotiation. When Weinberg told Bennett, “No deal,” the two businessmen decided not to come back. Three months later, a federal grand jury handed down an indictment for fraud, tax evasion and trading with the enemy.
The resellers who were the main co-conspirators in the “stripper oil” fraud were convicted and served 12 months in jail. Rich’s companies pleaded guilty to 78 counts and paid over $150 million, while Rich and Green remained fugitives. Attempts at extradition failed.
That did not mean that they could not profit off the U.S. government. As then-Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va, unearthed in hearings in the early 1990s, while Rich was a fugitive the U.S. mint was contracting to buy metal from one of his companies.
Between fiscal years 1989 and 1992, the mint issued at least 21 separate contracts for nickel, zinc and copper to the company. Also, in 1988, the Defense Logistics Agency lifted its bar on contracting with the same company.
Wise characterized the scandal of dealing with the fugitive Rich this way: “I wonder how the average American taxpayer feels when they go to the shopping center and they reach into their pockets to pull out some change, some coins to pay the sales tax, which they are obligated to pay. And as they pull out that change and put those coins on the desk, they find that the person who provided the metal to the mint and is benefiting is accused of evading the very taxes that the citizen is paying. I don’t think that sits very well with the American taxpayer.”
But President Clinton completely ignored standard procedures in finally pardoning Rich. His action bypassed the Justice Department and blindsided Mary Jo White, the U.S. attorney who serves in the district formerly presided over by Giuliani.
Various lawyers had tried to get White to accept a plea-bargain from Rich for years. One of these lawyers, according to the New Yorker, was Lewis Libby, now chief of staff to Vice President Cheney. (Cheney’s office did not return calls on the matter.)
But when Jack Quinn, Clinton’s former White House counsel, took Rich as a client, things changed. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the Anti-Defamation League and, of course, mega-fundraiser Denise Rich all submitted letters directly to Clinton, through Quinn, requesting a pardon.
Burton and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., now intend to investigate how the pardon came about. Did Clinton do it out of the kindness of his heart, or was there another consideration?
The lesson Clinton has taught us, and President Bush would do well to note it, is this: It’s okay to issue pardons for bribes, because it can’t then be argued that ideology has trumped justice. See how easy it is?