Tags: The | Rich | Pardon | Scandal | Re-emerges

The Rich Pardon Scandal Re-emerges

Tuesday, 04 September 2001 12:00 AM

Further imagine that this totally inexplicable action sets off a firestorm of criticism, results in a brief congressional hearing and an ongoing investigation by the U.S. attorney in New York, and then slowly fades from the media and the public consciousness. Nobody is able to explain what prompted the president to take this bizarre action.

Now imagine this: During all that time when people were scratching their heads wondering what had possessed Bill Clinton to pardon this notorious international criminal, a very plausible explanation for this bizarre pardon was lying neglected in some cubbyhole in the Washington headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Finally, when the facts that suggest a possible commission of a horrendous presidential crime emerged in a highly detailed story in a credible national magazine, instead of re-igniting the January firestorm as would be expected, this blockbuster story attracted barely any coverage in the national media.

Sound fanciful? Well, it ain't.

"Five months before Bill Clinton left the White House in late January 2001, the FBI received a shocking tip: International fugitives Marc Rich and Pinky Green would be pardoned by the president in the waning hours of his administration. And along with the tip were detailed allegations of financial payoffs to ensure the presidential actions," wrote investigative reporter Paul Rodriquez in Insight magazine.

"At the time the FBI received this information in mid-August 2000, Rich and Green were well known to the bureau as indicted tax cheats and lavishly rich fugitives on the lam. Rich’s ex-wife was a close friend of Clinton and a big-time contributor and fund-raiser for Democrats. But even to casual observers the two fugitives were not plausible candidates for presidential pardons.

"Incredibly, despite the national dustup, when news of the actual pardons broke following a late-evening notification of the Department of Justice by the White House on Jan. 19 – less than 18 hours before Clinton was to leave office – the bureau did not follow up on the confidential information it had received on the alleged pardons scheme from a previously reliable source. In fact, the bureau sat on the tipster's information until late March.

"Moreover, despite a written report sent to FBI headquarters last year by a veteran agent at an FBI field office who received the original tip, neither top FBI brass nor senior officials at DOJ, according to insiders interviewed by Insight, were informed about the then-unimaginable pardons secretly being worked on by Clinton and supporters of Rich and Green. Nor were top officials told about millions of dollars alleged to be deposited in secret bank accounts for Clinton and others identified as involved in securing the pardons."

Remember, this tip came to the bureau's attention in August 2000, a full five months before Clinton issued the pardons. Incredibly, it was ignored when it reached Washington and would have never been revealed if the veteran FBI agent in the field who sent a lengthy memo detailing the tipster's explosive allegations to FBI headquarters had not raised a ruckus about it time and again.

Current and former FBI and Justice officials told Rodriquez that had they been aware of the field-office report they would immediately have tried to block the last-minute pardons.

"You're damn right we would have been on alert to stop this!" a recently retired official told Insight. "All hell would have broken out if we had been told."

But they weren't. And neither was U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, who was, and is, investigating the pardons in New York. Bureau officials who talked to Rodriquez could not say that she has yet been told.

"It’s a total screwup," a U.S. government official conversant with the extensive review of FBI operations now under way, told Insight. The source, who recently was briefed on the confidential tip, is looking into the subsequent handling of the matter, according to Insight.

Said another official involved in the review of FBI operations: "They can say what they want about it before the pardons occurred, but how in the hell do you explain not doing anything with the information until many, many weeks after the scandal hits?" the source told Insight.

That's a good question. Another good one to ask is just what is the attorney general doing about this? If the tip was as accurate about the pardons being granted as succeeding events proved, was it also accurate as to millions of dollars in bribes being paid to William Jefferson Clinton to grant the pardons?

I don't know the answers, but if the information provided to the FBI by an informant the bureau had reason to regard as reliable turns out to be true, it is a scandal that surpasses any of the other outrages that characterized what was beyond doubt the most corrupt administration in American history.

A lot of people need to be questioned about this. Former attorney general Jane Reno, for example. It happened on her watch, and now she's running for governor of Florida. The people of that state need to know if she had any involvement in burying a memo that could have buried her boss. Remember, the FBI worked for her.

The ball is now in Attorney General John Ashcroft's court. I know that he is following President Bush's lead in trying to let bygones be bygones, but this atrocious matter cries to the heavens to be thoroughly investigated, dug into, turned upside down and inside out and shaken vigorously until the truth emerges. In many ways, his handling of this hot potato will define the Bush administration's commitment to the concept of equal justice under the law.

Investigate the hell out of this, Mr. Ashcroft, and let the chips fall where they may. And don't expect to get any help from the Clinton-worshipping national media, which, true to form, are ignoring what could be the biggest scandal in U.S. history, and will continue to do so until it gets rubbed in their smarmy faces.

Faugh 'a Ballagh

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Further imagine that this totally inexplicable action sets off a firestorm of criticism, results in a brief congressional hearing and an ongoing investigation by the U.S. attorney in New York, and then slowly fades from the media and the public consciousness. Nobody is able...
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Tuesday, 04 September 2001 12:00 AM
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