Ms. Rich, 57, who has written songs for Diana Ross, Celine Dion and Donna Summer, gave about $1.5 million to Clinton causes, including his presidential library in Arkansas and the Democratic Party. The investigators want to know if these donations were linked to the pardon and if any of them were made with money originating from Rich, a fugitive in Switzerland since 1983.
"Immunity was inevitable for her, given the theory that they are investigating," a lawyer for another witness in the case told Time magazine. "It doesn't mean the investigation is necessarily going anywhere." Former president Clinton granted 140 pardons and commuted 36 prison sentences before he left office on Jan. 20. The Justice Department is particularly shocked at the Rich pardon because the charges were so serious.
In a further twist in the Clinton pardon scandal, the former president's brother Roger is to appear before a grand jury at the end of this week. Two Texans claim they paid more than $200,000, to a group that included Roger Clinton, to secure a pardon for a relative. They say the group achieved nothing on their behalf.
Bart Williams, Roger Clinton's lawyer, said that he did not know whether his client would testify or plead the Fifth Amendment as insurance against incriminating himself.
"It's always a very serious matter when one is asked to testify before the grand jury, and one should proceed cautiously," he said.
"Pardongate" has sullied further the Clinton legacy, which the former president had hoped to crown with a Middle East peace deal rather than a toxic aftertaste stimulated by favors for cronies. It has also demolished any hopes Hillary Clinton might have had about running for the presidency in 2004. The new U.S. senator from New York has been obliged to rule this out though she has been more equivocal about 2008.
Mary Jo White, U.S. attorney for New York's Southern District, is also looking into the clemency granted to four Hasidic Jews from the village of New Square, N.Y., about 30 miles north of Manhattan, who were convicted of stealing up to $40 million in government grants for schemes that included a nonexistent school.
White wants to know if Clinton granted clemency to the men in return for the village's support for his wife in her election to the Senate in November.
New Square backed her by 1,359 votes to 10, and the convicts' sentences of up to 78 months were reduced to a maximum of 30 after the community's grand rabbi visited the White House for a meeting at the end of last year attended by both Clintons.
A lawyer close to the case said it would be hard to establish that a crime had been committed even if Sen. Clinton had promised to lobby the president in return for votes. "Politicians make promises all the time," he said. "That's nothing new, or illegal."
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