The Clinton indulgences

Posted: Wednesday, February 14, 2001

The following editorial appeared in Tuesday's Washington Post:

The more that is learned about some of the pardons former President Clinton granted on his final day in office - particularly the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich - the more it appears that they constituted a major abuse of the pardon power. We learn, for example, that the Rich pardon was, if not facilitated, at least preceded by gifts of nearly a half-million dollars from Mr. Rich's former wife to the Clinton presidential foundation and library fund. Ms. Rich was also a major campaign contributor not just to the president but to his wife the senator.

The Rich pardon has been thoroughly denounced by almost everyone except the lawyers who were paid by Mr. Rich to lobby for it, and various others to whose organizations he has made contributions over the years. The denunciation has been thoroughly bipartisan. Mr. Clinton's only public response has been to say that he "spent a lot of time on that case" and that he thinks "there are very good reasons for it." "Once the facts are out," the public will understand, he said. ...

This is a classic Clinton case. The facts suggest that he first abused, then wrapped himself protectively in, a presidential prerogative. The public has a legitimate interest in determining the extent of the abuse. ... Mr. Clinton could solve the problem by being forthcoming providing an explanation of the questionable pardons and a full list of the contributors to his foundation. But he won't, or hasn't so far. His lawyer says that a possible congressional subpoena of the foundation records would be a violation of the First Amendment. But if the public will understand as readily as he suggests, why doesn't Mr. Clinton volunteer the list...?

The issue is whether the public trust was violated. Enough valid questions have been raised about some of these pardons to warrant a full accounting. Mr. Clinton should volunteer it, and not force the country to extract it from him.

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