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Podesta to testify pardon deliberations 'overwhelmed the system'

Former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta plans to tell a House committee Thursday that the eleventh-hour Clinton administration pardon deliberations "overwhelmed the system" but he will insist there was no criminal conduct or any pardons granted based on financial or political considerations.

In the draft of an opening satement being prepared for his testimony to the House Government Operations and Reform Committee, Podesta acknowledges the process was "sloppy," according to an associate helping prepare Podesta and other former top Clinton aides for the hearing. "There were some mistakes made and as chief of staff he is going to take responsibility for that," the aide said. "But there was nothing criminal; it wasn't about money."


This source and another former top Clinton adviser said Podesta had been informed by committee sources to expect questioning about contacts with Peter Kadzik, a Washington attorney and a Podesta friend who served as Podesta's personal lawyer in the Monica Lewinsky investigation. The committee has copies of e-mails detailing contacts in which Kadzik contacted Podesta to ask the status of efforts to get fugitive financier Marc Rich pardoned.

The sources familiar with Podesta's preparations say he will tell the committee he told Kadzik he believed the Rich pardon application was a non-starter. Mr. Clinton ultimately approved the pardon, and the committee is exploring whether contributions from the financier's ex-wife to the Democratic Party and the Clinton presidential library played any role in the controversial decision.

"Peter should have known better but John's answer was that it wasn't going anywhere," one of the sources said.

Former Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey, the president's closest confidante, was not planning to deliver an opening statement, the sources said.

The Clinton camp said it also was expecting questions about whether another former close adviser, Deputy Counsel Cheryl Mills, played any role in the last-minute pardons. Mills left the White House for private practice not long after he role in defending Clinton during the impeachment proceedings, but remained an informal adviser to the first family and was a regular visitor to the White House even after leaving the staff.

One source noted that the controversial last-minute pardons were processed even as Clinton was negotiating the agreement under which Independent Counsel Robert Ray agreed to end his investigation of the president.

"The more we look back as we are trying to answer questions, the more we are reminded that it was a chaotic time," one of the source said. "It is clear we didnt follow a process that might have served us and the president better."

House panel opening new hearings into Clinton pardons (March 1, 2001)

The House Government Reform Committee

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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