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Burden of Proof

Examining the Aftershocks of the Marc Rich Pardon

Aired February 13, 2001 - 12:30 p.m. ET


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, CO-HOST: A billionaire receives an 11th-hour pardon. His ex-wife wants to take the Fifth. The potential for immunity and the specter of impeachment.

Today on BURDEN OF PROOF, the coming storm on the horizon in the case of Marc Rich.


JOHN PODESTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: People can second guess it. They can criticize it. But he listened to the arguments. He concluded that it was better to handle this matter in civil courts, rather than criminal court, and proceeded on that basis, based on the arguments that Mr. Quinn made to him.



SEN. DON NICKLES (R), OKLAHOMA: President Ford did go before Congress and explain his pardon of President Nixon. It was a very controversial pardon. I would love to see President Clinton explain this pardon.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: I think that the pardon of Marc Rich was a mistake, but it's time to move forward. The last thing America needs is to consider getting embroiled in that kind of controversy again.


ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF with Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack.

VAN SUSTEREN: Hello, and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF.

The aftershocks of former president Clinton's last day in office continue to rumble through Washington. Marc Rich was among 140 people pardoned on January 20th. The wealthy financier left the country nearly two decades ago. He was later charged for tax fraud and for trading with Iran while American hostages were being held in Teheran.

ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: Now, last week the House Government Reform Committee held hearings into the matter, but without the testimony of Rich's ex-wife, Denise. Now the committee's chairman wants to offer her immunity, hoping it will spur her testimony.

VAN SUSTEREN: And Republican senator Arlen Specter said the "I" word this week, suggesting the legal potential that President Clinton could be impeached for the Rich pardon.

COSSACK: Yeah, "I" word, eh?

Joining us today here in Washington, Phil Schiliro, Democratic staff director for the House Government reform committee; Jeffrey Harris, a former deputy associate attorney general; and Jim Wilson, majority counsel on the House Government Reform Committee.

VAN SUSTEREN: And in the back row, Josh Beer (ph) and Elizabeth Brown (ph). And also joining us here in Washington, who else but CNN national correspondent Bob Franken?

Bob, it's another one of those Capitol Hill stories, so you're here with us. Tell us, what is going to happen tomorrow?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Arlen Specter, Senator Arlen Specter, is going to ratchet up his hearings on the pardon, focusing on the pardon of Marc Rich.

And CNN has obtained some documents which will allow Specter to question whether, in fact, Marc Rich has been validly pardoned. The documents include the list of pardons that was approved by President Clinton right before he left office, where he designates the pardon attorney, who is Roger Adams (ph), to, in fact, complete those pardons. And then there is the actual pardon of Marc Rich. Specter will raise the question whether it was completed after Clinton left office. Specter will then question whether that would mean that it was not effectively a pardon, since Bill Clinton was no longer the president.

He also has gotten a document from Roger Adams, who is the pardon attorney, to the director of public affairs of the Justice Department. He says, "On the above date," meaning January 20th, "President Clinton granted Mr. Rich a full and unconditional pardon after completion of sentence."

Now, Specter is going to raise the question, "What sentence?" Does that mean that, as a result of all this, this pardon is not valid? These are going to be some of the questions that are raised. The first witness tomorrow is going to be Roger Adams, who was and is the pardon attorney at the Department of Justice.

One other thing. The House Government Reform Committee, which, of course, held its hearings last week on the same matter, has sent out a number of subpoenas and letters and requests. Most notable, what hadn't been reported before, is a request from the Secret Service for all logs, e-mail and the like of Jack Quinn's visits to the White House. Jack Quinn is the person who represented Marc Rich in the effort to get a pardon, the successful effort. There are also subpoenas going out which we've reported, which would be subpoenas for the bank records of Denise Rich, who is the ex-wife of Marc Rich, bank records from her bank and from her, which would detail possibly any amounts of money that were sent by Rich, who is living overseas, that might have been turned into campaign contributions.

So it's very busy on Capitol Hill.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Bob, let me sort of pull a little bit of this news apart. Let me talk first about whether or not President Clinton had the authority or actually pardoned Marc Rich. Without going into the issue of whether he should have or shouldn't have -- the Constitution's quite broad. It says he has the right to pardon without any more instruction. Tell me, did President Clinton -- is there any information that he signed the pardon for Marc Rich after he left office?

FRANKEN: Well, the information is that the pardon attorney might have, according to Specter, signed that document. Now, if I may, I need to read something...

VAN SUSTEREN: But wait. Let me back up for one second. President Clinton actually signed a pardon, did he not?

FRANKEN: He signed a list. He signed a list of people, this list right here of all of the pardons. The actual pardons were signed by the pardon attorney. For instance, the one for -- for Marc Rich was signed by Roger C. Adams. Now, Clinton, in his document, says, "I hereby designate, direct and empower the pardon attorney as my representative to sign each grant of clemency to the persons named herein." And so the argument would be, of course, that that was all that it took.

Specter raises the question, if he can, in fact, delegate that authority, and if it holds, as a result, after Clinton is president.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's one of those legal technicalities people...


FRANKEN: That is a redundancy.


COSSACK: Legal technicalities! You know, there was a great case several years ago having to do with wiretaps and who could -- who had to actually sign them and who -- and who did sign them. And there was a holding by, I think, the Supreme Court or the 9th circuit that said the attorney general had to sign them.

Jim Wilson, is there a problem here?

JIM WILSON, MAJORITY COUNSEL, HOUSE GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: Well, I don't think there's a problem with the Rich pardon. There may be with a number of the other pardons.

VAN SUSTEREN: Problem -- let me just -- you mean problem in terms of timing? Is that...



WILSON: I think the part of the -- the executive grant of clemency that Bob left out was that the president granted a full and unconditional pardon to a long list of people for the offenses that they requested a pardon for. So the president was very specific and clear in what he directed the pardons to be for. Marc Rich did make a request for specific pardons, and so he'll probably be fine. It's an interesting question about the time served angle, but I don't think...

COSSACK: The no time served angle.

WILSON: Right. I mean, that's an interesting question, but I don't think there's a problem. There is a question with a number of the other pardons because, apparently, there were no request. And if there were no requests, then the president cannot delegate a constitutional power reserved only for him. There's a list of 46 individuals that the Justice Department does not have the request.

VAN SUSTEREN: It'd be sort of interesting to see how other presidents handled that particular issue. But let me -- let me just sidestep that for a second, Jim, and ask you this question about -- do we know if Marc Rich is a citizen of the United States? Do we know that?

WILSON: He apparently is. He attempted to renounce his citizenship, but it was not accepted by the United States. He apparently has...

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

WILSON: ... a valid U.S. passport.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me ask you, then, the follow-up question. And I obviously don't know much about tax law, I confess. But if you are an American living overseas, are you obliged to file tax returns yearly? And did he?

WILSON: In this case, he should have filed tax returns if he was a United States citizen. According to what his -- there's confusion. His own lawyer doesn't even know his status. So at this point, we're just speculating.

VAN SUSTEREN: And so even if he got a pardon for -- let's say he got a pardon for the -- the stuff, you know, that Clinton thinks he pardoned him for, he also could be at risk for the -- for...

WILSON: It might open a whole different can of worms.

COSSACK: For what, for failure to file income tax returns?

VAN SUSTEREN: Failure to file -- yeah, he'd have, like, 17 misdemeanors, failure to file.

COSSACK: Yeah. The funny thing about that, of course, as Greta points out, is that failure to file a tax return is a misdemeanor.



VAN SUSTEREN: But you can add those misdemeanors up.

COSSACK: True. All right, let's take a break. Up next: Is Denise Rich the next Susan McDougal? We'll explain that when we come back. Stay with us.


According to new FBI statistics, 7,876 hate crimes were reported in the United States in 1999. The new figures represent an increase of 121 crimes over the number reported in 1998.



COSSACK: Now, hoping to convince the ex-wife of Marc Rich to testify before his committee, Congressman Dan Burton hopes to offer her immunity against prosecution. Now, yesterday, at his first news conference as attorney general, John Ashcroft was asked about the Rich case and the issue of immunity.


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I respect the right of the United States Congress to get information and to grant immunity in order to get information. That's a kind of a use immunity, of course. And I respect the need for cooperation. And so it's with that in mind that I would say that I would be very pleased to work with the department to cooperate with the Congress whenever possible.


COSSACK: Now, Jeffrey, we all remember Susan McDougal, who was marching around in chains and wouldn't testify for Ken Starr. If -- she had to go to jail, and off she went to jail.


COSSACK: And so Denise Rich is being offered immunity, and we know what happens. If you're offered immunity and you're asked questions, you don't answer, you march off to jail. But I suppose the real question here is, is why does Denise Rich want immunity? You only want immunity if you're thinking about perhaps you're going to get prosecuted for something.

JEFF HARRIS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I'm sure Denise Rich is being advised by her attorneys that there is some possible liability if -- if there could be a theory that the money that she gave actually is her husband's money. So as a good lawyer, I think any defense attorney would advise her to take the Fifth.

The real interesting question to me is -- I am sure that the U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York, Mary Jo White, is very displeased when she saw what the attorney general said because from her point of view, when you -- if Denise Rich is the target of a potential investigation, giving immunity is the last investigative step you take, not the first.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which is the Oliver North sort of...

HARRIS: That's right. She wants -- I'm sure she is lobbying very hard to have the ability to develop a case against Denise Rich. And then, if you can't develop it, you give immunity.

COSSACK: For what? What would -- what -- what possible -- let's suppose that some of the money that -- that Denise Rich donated did belong to her ex-husband. What -- what's wrong with that?

HARRIS: Well, if there can be a quid pro quo theory -- in other words, if the money caused the pardon, or a gratuity theory, where because of her relationship and the money...

COSSACK: But that doesn't mean -- that -- I mean, the fact of the matter is it doesn't matter whose money it is. If there's a quid pro quo -- I mean, that's really the nexus here. If they can show that somehow...

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

COSSACK: ... there was a -- you know, "I'll give you the money, you give me the pardon" -- and I don't even -- I haven't seen any evidence of that. I've seen things that look uncomfortable...

VAN SUSTEREN: Hey, Roger -- Roger, in this town, when there are subpoenas flying, and investigations, and we are as divided as we are in this town, you better take the Fifth when they ask you even about a parking ticket.

Phil, what do you think...

COSSACK: Spoken like the good lawyer she is.


COSSACK: She's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Phil, what do you make of Denise Rich and the desire for her testimony?

PHIL SCHILIRO, DEMOCRATIC STAFF DIRECTOR, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM: Well, the first question is what is she going to say? And that's really a key question for us. In our committee, back in 1997, the Republican majority brought a witness in who gave us false testimony, received immunity, and then in the process of giving false testimony, truthfully confessed to more serious crimes than what he was brought in for.

VAN SUSTEREN: But forget the...

SCHILIRO: And so you...

VAN SUSTEREN: Forget the immunity. What -- what is it that the committee -- I mean, I realize that you're on the minority side, but what's the -- what's the point of Denise Rich? I mean, where is it going?

SCHILIRO: Well, I think there are two possible points. One is does she have any incriminating information about her husband, and so she could help us on that point, if she has such information, and we don't know that.

VAN SUSTEREN: But that's -- let me just -- I mean, I guess I'm having a hard time understanding why the United States Congress is becoming a grand jury.

SCHILIRO: Well, I think what happened with Denise Rich is Chairman Burton sent her a letter asking questions. What was interesting is she was not invited to testify for last week's hearing. The night before the hearing, she said she's was going to take the Fifth Amendment. So she took that before she was even being compelled to come in.

COSSACK: But Jim tells us that she was sent some questions.


COSSACK: And it was in response to those questions that she allegedly indicated she was going to take the Fifth Amendment.

WILSON: Right. We didn't want to take, as a first step, bringing her down to Washington, put her in front of the cameras. We just wanted answers to questions, so we...

VAN SUSTEREN: But you -- wait. Put her in front of the cameras -- I mean, by this investigation, you put her in front of the cameras. I mean...

WILSON: Well, but our first step was to write her a letter and ask her questions. You know...

VAN SUSTEREN: Like what? What do you ask her?

WILSON: Well, we wanted to know where the money ultimately came from that was made in terms of the contributions.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, she's a successful song writer, I've heard. Is that -- I mean -- so I mean, do you have any...

WILSON: And she presumably has money in her own right, but...

VAN SUSTEREN: But then -- well, wait a second.

WILSON: ... there was...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, see, that's what bothers me. If she presumably from -- you say she has money in her own right. Are we being unfair to an American citizen just...

COSSACK: Well, not to just ask her.

WILSON: But -- but that's...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, I...

WILSON: ... precisely the point. We can ask her the question. She can provide the answer, and we can move on. And there's nothing wrong with the healthy back and forth of Congress exercising some oversight.

COSSACK: Asking the question, I mean, is not presuming...

VAN SUSTEREN: Where do you get your...

COSSACK: ... that, in act...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... money?

COSSACK: Yeah. I mean, that's what the investigation's all about.

Bob Franken -- let's let Bob in here on this.

FRANKEN: WE have to go back a couple of controversies ago to the campaign finance scandal, to maybe embellish on what you were talking about, Roger. One of the questions that came up repeatedly was, was money being sent from somebody from overseas who was not a U.S. citizen to somebody in the United States who was, who then turned that money around -- in effect, laundered it -- as a campaign contribution.

VAN SUSTEREN: which goes back to the whole issue. Is Marc Rich a citizen?

You want to get in on this, Phil?

FRANKEN: Well, there is that, and the other question is, if he is not, did he, in fact, have some sort of conspiracy with Denise Rich to provide her money to turn around...

VAN SUSTEREN: And the question is, do -- we don't even know if she -- if he did give money. And of course, and you've also got the more complicated issue of a divorce settlement. But go ahead.

COSSACK: Yeah. And Phil -- but let me ask you -- is it -- you know, Bob used the phrase "launder the money." Did he send the money to Denise, who Denise then gave it -- assume that happened. That's not money laundering, is it?

SCHILIRO: No. And we don't -- you just mentioned a divorce settlement. We -- the point right now is we don't know more than what we know. And so we're at a point where everybody's going faster than what we should.

VAN SUSTEREN: Then that raises Jim's question, then. Does Jim -- I mean, Jim says that we have a right to know. I mean, does the United States Congress -- I mean, is this fair play? Does the United States Congress have a right to know where Denise gets her money?

SCHILIRO: Denise Rich has a right to say she doesn't want to tell us. that's her right, and she can exercise the Fifth Amendment. Chairman Burton then said, "We're going to give her immunity." If you're going to give Denise Rich immunity, the first question is, what do we get back? What is she going to tell us?


COSSACK: Let me just ask you this question. You know, one of the things that have been brought up is they say they were going to subpoena the records of charities. And David Kendall, the president's lawyer of the president's foundation, said, "You're not going to get these charity records so fast." There's some -- apparently, he's indicating there's some kind of privilege. Is there some kind of privilege against getting charity records and who -- who makes these donations?

HARRIS: No, I don't believe that -- I don't believe...

COSSACK: I don't think so, either.

HARRIS: ... that there is. But I also believe that probably -- if there is a potential criminal investigation, the Department of Justice or the U.S. attorney are going to handle it. All these issues we're talking about are created, in my view, because the Congress has decided that they're going to step in and conduct a criminal investigation...

VAN SUSTEREN: And that's exactly...

HARRIS: ... and they shouldn't do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's -- the United States Congress acting as a grand jury. If there is criminal conduct alleged, it should be a grand jury so that you don't create problems of destroying...

HARRIS: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... what should be a lawful...

HARRIS: And you know, this is...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... criminal investigation.

HARRIS: This is not such a national emergency that if we waited four months for the U.S. attorney to complete her investigation, and then let the Congress hold oversight hearings, that there'd be anything lost.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we're going take a quick break...

COSSACK: We'll take a break, and we'll get back to you. Go ahead. VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you!


VAN SUSTEREN: We'll be right back. Stay with us.


Why have federal officials seized an Indianapolis Baptist temple?

Answer coming up.




Why have federal officials seized an Indianapolis Baptist temple?

To satisfy a $6 million tax debt. The temple stopped withholding federal income and Social Security taxes from employees' paychecks in 1984.


VAN SUSTEREN: This month on Capitol Hill, both a House and Senate committee are investigating the presidential pardon of Marc Rich.

Jim, two questions. I'm going to let you respond to Jeff Harris. That's question number one. And number two, I want to know just flat out -- if you could answer this one first -- do you have any evidence of criminal conduct?

WILSON: Let me go the other way, if I can, just -- Jeff made a good point. Why not wait? And what's why we wrote to the attorney general first, asking for their input. We don't need to do that. We could go straight to an immunity vote. But we have done that, and we've asked for the Department of Justice to weigh in. And if they give us their blessing and they don't want to go forward with an investigation, then we can responsibly move forward. If they ask us to hold up, then we will respectfully consider that.

Now, on the second question, do we have any evidence of...

VAN SUSTEREN: Real -- I mean, like, evidence like lawyers talk about.

WILSON: ... criminal conduct, we're doing an investigation right now to find out what happened.

VAN SUSTEREN: I know, but how do you get past...

WILSON: And that's -- that's perfectly appropriate. VAN SUSTEREN: How do you get past -- I mean, the president has absolute authority under the Constitution. And so the question is, is do you want to -- you know, when do you investigate? When do you investigate any of the presidential pardons? And the question is, when you have some evidence of criminal conduct -- I mean, how do you -- how do you -- how do you argue that this isn't just sort of Republicans getting even? I mean, what's the evidence that takes it one step further?

WILSON: In this case, you start with the circumstantial facts on the table right now, which is...

VAN SUSTEREN: Rich guy gets pardon.

WILSON: ... that -- that there are some...

VAN SUSTEREN: And has ex-wife with...


COSSACK: ... and donates tons of money to...


COSSACK: ... the president's...


WILSON: ... very peculiar things...

COSSACK: The president's (INAUDIBLE)

WILSON: ... that go into this pardon. You look at the application. The first thing that's really on the table is Jack Quinn claims Marc Rich isn't a fugitive. Now, he's been out of the country for 17 years.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me tell you what Jack Quinn says, whether you buy it or not. And I went over this with Jack in the CNN Green Room one night. He was trying to explain it to me, which was that he said that he was out of the country when the indictment came down, and he didn't return. And I sort of rolled my eyes and went, "Well, OK, Jack." I mean, that's lawyers talking.

WILSON: Well, people laugh at him when he says that. It's patently absurd. Under his theory of fugitivity...

VAN SUSTEREN: But I mean, I...

WILSON: ... if you hijack an airplane...

VAN SUSTEREN: I think...

WILSON: ... to leave the country...

VAN SUSTEREN: I think it legally... WILSON: ... you're not a fugitive.

VAN SUSTEREN: Legally, he may be correct, but I think that's a non-issue. I mean, the thing that...


WILSON: Well, legally, he's incorrect.


COSSACK: I mean, this guy's a fugitive with a capital "F"...


VAN SUSTEREN: But I mean, whether he's a fugitive or whether he stayed out of the country isn't of great moment to me. It's whether he committed a crime.

WILSON: But this is the point. If somebody comes to you and makes an argument that is so absurd that it doesn't pass the laugh test...

VAN SUSTEREN: Is that enough to open...

WILSON: ... and you don't seek -- and you don't seek...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... a criminal investigation against someone?

WILSON: ... and you don't seek any input from your National Security Agencies or anybody that would know the facts of the matter, then you wonder here and...

VAN SUSTEREN: So it's -- it's not...

WILSON: ... as in the country...

VAN SUSTEREN: So you're saying it's wonder.

WILSON: ... why was this done?

VAN SUSTEREN: It's wonder and not evidence. Let me give Phil...


COSSACK: Let's let Phil jump in here.

SCHILIRO: Just on that, the laugh test -- I think most Democrats disagree with the pardon, but we should point out "Scooter" Libby, who's Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, obviously agreed with the pardon.

COSSACK: Well, that...

SCHILIRO: He took -- he took this position so... COSSACK: But that's why Jack Quinn can't really be attacked because what Jack Quinn did was be a lawyer. I mean, he did what lawyers do.

HARRIS: Here's the question. I mean, if you come -- Jack Quinn comes to the president, says, "Look, this case is so bad. We have all these tax experts who say" -- my question, if I were the president, is, "Well, Jack, if the case is so bad, one, why doesn't he come back and have his trial and get acquitted? And two, how come his"...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well -- well, according to...

HARRIS: ... "his co-defendants pled guilty?"

VAN SUSTEREN: According to the pardon papers -- I actually (INAUDIBLE) the pardon papers, the thing they submitted -- is that the Department of Justice wouldn't talk until he came back in the country, so they had this stalemate, where he wouldn't -- you know...


COSSACK: But that's all irrelevant. What we're talking about here is -- and I think, in answer to your question is -- why do you have an investigation? You have an investigation because this is so unusual that you -- that it requires...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, but...

COSSACK: ... some fact finding. Now, no one says...

VAN SUSTEREN: But I got to tell you...

COSSACK: ... anybody's going to be indicted.

VAN SUSTEREN: I can pull up -- I can pull up pardons from prior administrations, with all due respect to former president Bush, when he -- when he pardoned Caspar Weinberger before he was even charged, a lot of people raised eyebrows on that. I mean, but these are -- this is the authority. President Bush had the constitutional authority to do it.

COSSACK: Well, what...


HARRIS: I'm not arguing with the constitutional authority.

COSSACK: Go ahead.

HARRIS: What you're arguing with is you have a set of circumstances where everything is questionable. Jack Quinn -- Jack Quinn talking to the president, the president not wanting the Department of Justice's views, the large amount...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, Eric Holder -- I mean, Jack Quinn says Eric Holder was in on it. HARRIS: But the large amount of money, the fact that he was...

VAN SUSTEREN: What large amount of money?

HARRIS: The large amount of money...

COSSACK: The money that was donated.

HARRIS: ... that the ex-wife...

VAN SUSTEREN: That the ex-wife...

HARRIS: ... donated.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... donated.


HARRIS: You have the fact that he -- he is a fugitive, whether -- whether Jack Quinn is right or wrong. I think...

VAN SUSTEREN: I rolled my eyes on that one, too. I got to admit.


COSSACK: How many ex-wives do you know that want to help their husbands so much?

HARRIS: Put all this together -- every -- every...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, they had -- I'll tell you. I'll play devil's advocate with you -- one, two, three, four -- you four gentlemen -- is that they had a child together who died of leukemia, a tragic story, and maybe in some ways, you know, they have a better relationship...

COSSACK: They had a...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... than most divorced couples.

COSSACK: They had a vicious divorce battle, and the fact that she suddenly ends up wanting to help this guy...

HARRIS: Greta, I think the point is that at every stage of these proceedings -- should have been granted the interaction with the president, the money -- everything raises questions. And you put it together, and I think there are legitimate questions.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And you know what? All of you...

COSSACK: We're done.


COSSACK: That's all the time we have for today. Thanks to our guests. Thank you for watching.

Today on "TALKBACK LIVE": Will the military under George W. Bush change the way the U.S. fights future wars? Send your e-mail to Bobbie Battista and tune in at 3:00 PM Eastern time.

Good to be back with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you very much. And it's a great issue to fight about!

Join me tonight for "THE POINT," 8:30 Eastern time.

And Roger and I'll be back tomorrow with another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF.



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