… I think occasional excerpts from the House Committee on Government Reform’s lengthy and enlightening report on the Clinton pardons should be required reading — given not only President-elect Obama’s decision to nominate Holder for AG but the assertions of such ubiquitous fans as Lanny Davis that no attorney in America is better qualified for the job. So I offer this from pp. 213-14 of the report:
The key point that must be taken away from November 21, 2000, discussion between [Eric] Holder and [Mark Rich’s counsel, former Clinton White House Counsel Jack] Quinn is that it took both of them to keep the Rich pardon petition from the Justice Department. It cannot be disputed that Holder should have recognized the significance of the fact that Quinn was applying for a pardon for Rich, and should have asked for a copy of the pardon petition to be forwarded to the Justice Department. Holder has not provided any coherent explanation of why he failed to do so. Similarly, Quinn should have provided a copy of the pardon petition to Holder. Quinn has claimed that he had nothing to hide, and frequently asked the White House to include the Justice Department in the pardon process. Quinn’s claims are misleading. Quinn clearly tried to keep his pardon petition from the Justice Department, apparently out of the fear that it could fall into the wrong hands, namely the prosecutors in New York, or anyone else who had knowledge of Rich’s illegal activities or his subsequent actions in support of countries like Iraq, Iran, and Libya.
The final question then is whether Holder’s failure to obtain the Rich petition and involve the Justice Department in the pardon process was the result of incompetence or a deliberate decision to assist Jack Quinn. At the Committee’s hearing, Holder suggested that it was the result of poor judgment, initially not recognizing the seriousness of the Rich case, and then, by the time that he recognized that the pardon was being considered, being distracted by other matters.[Footnote 646 omitted] However, it is difficult to believe that Holder’s judgment would be so monumentally poor that he could not understand how he was being manipulated by Jack Quinn. Rather, the preponderance of the evidence indicates that Eric Holder was deliberately assisting Quinn with the Rich petition, and deliberately cut the rest of the Justice Department out of the process to help Quinn obtain the pardon for Marc Rich. This conclusion is supported by the following e-mail, which was sent by Quinn to Kitty Behan, Gershon Kekst, and Robert Fink [i.e., Quinn’s Rich pardon team] on November 18, 2000, three days before Quinn’s meeting with Holder on November 21:
spoke to him last evening. he says go straight to wh. also says timing is good. we shd get in soon. will elab when we speak.[Footnote 647 omitted]
Assuming the “eric” referenced is Eric Holder, this e-mail contradicts the heart of Holder’s defense. Holder claims that he was not focused on the Rich pardon until late in the process, at first on January 6, when he spoke to Beth Nolan, and then, not really until January 19, when he announced his position of “neutral, leaning towards favorable.” He claims that he does not even recall the November 21, 2000, meeting [with Quinn], because it was an unremarkable request. And he claims that he did not ask for a copy of the petition because he thought he would get everything in due course from the White House.
However, this e-mail indicates that Holder suggested that Quinn file the petition directly with the White House and circumvent the Justice Department. It also suggests that Holder had reason to know that the request was remarkable, as he suggested to Quinn that he circumvent the Justice Department. Finally, it indicates that Holder was a willing participant in the plan to keep the Justice Department from knowing about and opposing the Marc Rich pardon.
The final question is why Eric Holder would do such a thing. As discussed below, Holder had been asking Quinn for his help in being appointed Attorney General in a Gore Administration. At the time when Holder made the decision to assist Quinn, there was still a realistic possibility of Vice President Gore winning the election. As an influential friend of Vice President Gore, Jack Quinn would be in a key position to assist Holder’s chances of becoming Attorney General. While this may not have been Holder’s sole motivation in aiding Quinn, it was likely a powerful motivation for Holder.[Footnote 648 omitted] Regardless of Holder’s motivations, his actions were unconscionable. One of Holder’s primary duties in the pardon process was to make sure that the views of the Justice Department were adequately represented in the pardon process. In addition, as a Justice Department employee, he was bound by federal regulations that required the Justice Department to review pardon petitions before they were presented to the White House. Finally, as a simple matter of prudence, Holder should have ensured that he knew something about the pardon before he took action that substantially assisted the chances that the pardon would be issued. By helping Quinn circumvent the Justice Department, Holder ensured that his own prosecutors would not be able to express their opinion about the Rich case. In so doing, Holder disserved his own Department, as well as the statutes he was sworn to uphold.