Here’s Holder’s response:
No I was not. And that was one of the mistakes that I made. I did not really acquaint myself with his record. I knew that the matter involved — it was a tax-fraud case; it was a substantial tax-fraud case. I knew that he was a fugitive. I did not know a lot of the underlying facts that you have described.
In written follow-up questions, Specter pressed again: “Did you receive information about the facts of the Rich case from anyone other than Mr. Rich’s attorney, Jack Quinn?”
Holder tersely responded, “No.”
Yet, as I pointed out in the days before Holder’s confirmation, none of this appears to have been true. It is a virtual certainty that Holder knew quite a bit about Rich, years before he was approached to assist the Rich pardon effort.
Before becoming deputy attorney general, Holder was the Clinton-appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. In 1995 — years before Holder got his talking points from Quinn — Holder’s office filed a civil suit against a Swiss trading company called Clarendon, Ltd. Why? Because, in obtaining $45 million in government contracts, Clarendon had concealed its intimate relationship with the dastardly, notorious federal fugitive . . . Marc Rich.
It turned out that Holder’s office had been conducting an investigation into Rich and his business interests for tax evasion and other suspicious activity. Not surprisingly, then, the civil complaint U.S. attorney Holder filed against Clarendon exuded familiarity with Rich. Indeed, the premise of the complaint was that Rich’s sordid history of fraud and his status as a fugitive from justice rendered him ineligible for government contracts. Therefore, the suit alleged, Clarendon was liable for hiding the fact that Rich controlled the company.
The complaint screams out knowledge of Rich’s corporate holdings and his tortuous efforts to obscure his connection to the company. Holder’s office also recounted that Rich had blatantly obstructed justice in a grand-jury investigation. One of his companies ended up paying $21 million in contempt fines, the complaint reported. And although a number of Rich companies ended up pleading guilty to various charges, Holder’s office took pains to point out that their “plea agreement did not resolve any of the personal charges pertaining to Rich” and his accomplice, Pincus Green. Those charges, the complaint asserted, “remained outstanding.”
And the matter doesn’t stop at the complaint. Holder’s office held extensive negotiations with Clarendon and, as it happens, Clarendon’s principal. Astoundingly, Holder’s office not only had discussions with company attorneys but actually accepted an affidavit from Rich — then one of the country’s most infamous fugitives — in the course of settling the case.
Ultimately, U.S Attorney Holder agreed to dismiss the case in exchange for a payment to the government of $1.2 million. Naturally, though, it was not enough just to reach a settlement. Justice Department officials like to trumpet the conclusion of their high-profile cases as successes, and D.C.’s United States attorney was no exception. On April 13, 1995, the Wall Street Journal reported Holder’s public announcement of the settlement and of the fact that his office was ending its probe of the Rich conglomerate.
To summarize, at the pardon hearings in 2001, Eric Holder testified before Congress that he had barely known who Marc Rich was when he went to bat for Rich in 1999 and 2000. At his confirmation hearing in 2009, Holder repeated this testimony that errors in judgment had stemmed from his failure to acquaint himself with Rich’s sordid record. In point of fact, however, Holder had actually overseen an investigation of Rich and his companies years earlier, precisely premised on the fact that a Rich company had hidden its connection to the fugitive and his extensive record of fraud and obstruction. Holder had even publicly announced a lucrative settlement.