Politics & Policy

Rich Is No Cap

There's nothing like Rich.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the Marc Rich pardon is Bill Clinton’s attempt to defend it by, among other subterfuges, pointing to George Bush’s pardon of Caspar Weinberger in the so-called Iran-Contra matter. I’m appalled by the failure of conservatives to respond to this malicious fabrication. There is absolutely no correlation between the two pardons.

By now, most literate people are familiar with the broad strokes of the Rich scandal. Marc Rich is a fugitive from justice and a tax cheat who renounced his citizenship and fled the United States. Moreover, he traded with the Iranian government while it was holding American hostages. He’s a detestable man who did detestable things.

In lobbying Bill Clinton for her ex-husband’s pardon, Denise Rich gave over $1 million to Clinton’s campaign and the DNC, $450,000 to the Clinton library, over $100,000 to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign, and thousands of dollars in gifts to both Clintons. Law enforcement may not be able to prove a quid pro quo as a matter of law, but one nonetheless exists as a matter of fact.

Let’s contrast this with the Weinberger/Iran-Contra situation. Weinberger had always opposed the sale of arms to the Iranians. And he had no knowledge of the transfer of funds from those sales to the Nicaraguan Freedom Fighters. But even if he had supported the sale and knew of the transfer of funds, neither violated the law (including the unconstitutional Boland Amendments) — which is why no one was ever prosecuted for these actions.

The prosecutor in this case, Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, demanded that Weinberger nonetheless discredit President Ronald Reagan’s account of events and provide incriminating testimony against him. Walsh was hoping to bring a possible obstruction charge against the former president. In exchange for turning state’s evidence, Walsh would permit Weinberger to plead to a single misdemeanor. Weinberger refused, insisting that Reagan did nothing wrong. That’s when Walsh indicted him. He charged Weinberger with, among other things, obstructing Congress. Both Republican senator Warren Rudman and Democrat senator Daniel Inouye, who co-chaired the joint congressional investigating committee, came to Weinberger’s defense and disputed that Weinberger had lied to Congress. The court dismissed quickly the charge as failing to allege a prosecutable criminal offense. It was utterly frivolous.

Walsh also later brought a second indictment against Weinberger — just days before the November 1992 presidential election between then-President Bush and then-Gov. Bill Clinton — for lying to Congress. The court dismissed this charge for violating the statute of limitations, but only after the damage to Bush’s reelection had been done. Clinton seized on the indictment calling it “smoking gun” evidence that Bush had lied about his role in the so-called “arms for hostages” deal. More than frivolous, this indictment was malicious and intended to punish a candidate Walsh personally disliked.

Another of the earlier charges Walsh brought against Weinberger alleged that he withheld documents from the Independent Counsel’s office. The fact is that Weinberger gave his documents to the Library of Congress, which placed them in a secure area. Weinberger’s lawyers even informed Walsh on the whereabouts of the documents. However, Walsh mistakenly looked for the documents in the wrong area of the library. Rather than being embarrassed by his incompetence, he charged Weinberger for concealing the documents from prosecutors. (Walsh is the same prosecutor who dropped off suitcases full of classified documents at an airport sidewalk check-in. When the luggage was lost by the airline, he concealed their disappearance from the FBI for two weeks. The classified documents were never recovered.)

Then-President Bush saw Walsh’s actions for what they were — an outrageous abuse of power. Bush deserves accolades for his wisdom and courage in granting this pardon. There were legitimate, articulated reasons for Weinberger’s pardon. And the pardon was reviewed through normal Justice Department processes. No secrets were kept from the United States Pardon Attorney or anyone else. This is precisely what the presidential pardon power is for: correcting a wrong done to an upstanding citizen.

Leave it to Bill Clinton and his underbosses to rewrite history to excuse their own contemptible conduct.


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