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Inside Politics

U.S. Attorney in New York Investigating Whether Marc Rich Bought His Pardon; Bush and Powell Condemn Mideast Violence

Aired February 14, 2001 - 6:20 p.m. ET


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: There are breaking developments at this hour in the Marc Rich pardon case. The Associated Press is reporting the U.S. attorney in New York has opened an investigation into the case to determine, according to an AP source, if there was a transfer of money to buy the pardon.

The U.S. attorney's office had no comment on the AP report.

Earlier today, a Senate committee heaped more criticism on former President Clinton's decision to pardon Rich. Some of the toughest comments came from the former president's own party.

The story from CNN congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl.


JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Justice Department's pardon attorney got a call from the White House counsel's office in the middle of the night. With less than 12 hours left in his presidency, Bill Clinton had additions to his list of last-minute pardons. At least two names on that list -- Marc Rich and his partner, Pincus Green -- had completely bypassed the usual pardon process.

ROGER ADAMS, U.S. PARDON ATTORNEY: If the president decides to not follow the procedures, as is any president's right, in other words, if he doesn't want input from the Justice Department, if he doesn't want an investigation from my office, you know, I can't -- I can't force one down his throat.

KARL: Adams said the counsel's office told him it would be difficult to get background information on Rich and Green, because they were -- quote -- "living abroad."

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: But when you were told they were living abroad, you were not told that they were under indictment?

ADAMS: No, sir.

SPECTER: Or that they were fugitives?

ADAMS: First, I was not told they were fugitives. I learned that from the FBI.

KARL: The Senate hearing, which followed nearly identical hearings a week ago in the House, brought out some harsh criticism from Democrats of President Clinton's pardon.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: The circumstances surrounding his pardon involving campaign contributions certainly raise the appearance of impropriety if not much more.

KARL: Mr. Rich's attorney, former White House counsel Jack Quinn, insisted President Clinton pardoned Rich based on the merits of the case, not the campaign contributions of Rich's ex-wife.

JACK QUINN, MARC RICH'S ATTORNEY: I did not know at the time about the reported contributions or pledges that she has made to the Clinton library, nor did I know at the time about the extent of her fund-raising activity for the Democratic Party.

KARL (on camera): Mr. Clinton has been busy defending his pardon decision. He's placed calls to at least two key Senate Democrats to discuss the issue. On one of the those calls, the president offered a lengthy and legalistic defense of the decision. The senator, however, found Mr. Clinton's argument unconvincing.

Jonathan Karl, CNN, Capitol Hill.


SHAW: And also this late-breaking information from CNN sources on Capitol Hill: The Senate Ethics Committee has cleared New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton from any alleged ethical violations surrounding her $8 million book deal with Simon & Schuster. Victor Baird, the committee's chief counsel said -- and this is a quote -- "The publishing agreement appears to be an arm's length business deal which falls within the normal business arrangements of the publisher, and its term appear to be usual and customary in the publishing trade." Unquote.

We'll be back with more news in a moment.


SHAW: President Bush today denounced the violence in the Middle East and along with Secretary of State Colin Powell urged both sides to be calm. Powell held his first meeting with Israeli delegates sent to Washington by Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon.

CNN's John King has more on the president's remarks and the administration's position.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The statement was hastily arranged, a first for this president, but an echo of what his predecessor had said so many times before. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The tragic cycle of violent action and reaction between Israel and the Palestinians, particularly the escalation this week, needs to stop. I'm urging all parties to do their utmost to end the violence.

KING: Mr. Bush emerged from the Oval Office after calling Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to express condolences for those killed and injured in a rush-hour bus-stop bombing.

Secretary of State Powell called Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and urged the arrest of suspected terrorists. But the State Department said Powell also condemned the Israeli strategy of targeting Palestinian suspects for assassination.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: What we are trying to do is to say that each side has its own responsibilities and that there are things that the Palestinians should be doing and there are things that the Israelis should be doing.

KING: Representatives of incoming Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were in Washington for talks with Powell and Vice President Cheney. They blamed Arafat for the bus stop bombing and said there would be no peace talks unless the violence stopped.

DORE GOLD, FORMER ISRAELI AMBASSADOR: The organizations involved in violence are under the direct control of Mr. Arafat himself, and therefore, his role and therefore his critical input is necessary to bring this violence to a stop.

KING: Arafat, visiting Turkey, said he condemned all violence, and the Palestinians note that of the nearly 400 people killed since September, more than 300 were Palestinians. And they say the United States should do more to urge Israeli restraint.

HASSAN ABDEL RAHMAN, PALESTINIAN REPRESENTATIVE TO U.S.: I would have liked to see President Bush condemning strongly those acts of assassination carried by the Israeli state. You know, those are acts of terror.

KING: Short-term hopes for resuming peace talks were faint to begin with, dimmer now because of the escalating violence.

(on camera): Secretary Powell will visit the region for a firsthand assessment in little more than a week, and both the Israelis and Palestinians say the new administration has been cautious as it wades gingerly into what one senior U.S. official calls -- quote -- "the Middle East mess."

John King, CNN, the White House.


KING: The collision of a U.S. naval submarine with a vessel in Hawaii continues producing developments. For the very latest, let's go to the Pentagon and Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie. JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bernie, sources tell CNN that the 15 civilians who were on the submarine USS Greeneville when it sunk the Japanese fishing boat were members of an organization that supports the USS Missouri battleship memorial in Hawaii.

Following a CNN report, the Navy is now confirming that two civilians were manning control stations on the submarine while it was conducting an emergency surfacing drill. Sources say one VIP was seated at the steering position while the other was allowed to activate the ballast tanks that carried the submarine quickly to the surface. But the Navy insists that had nothing to do with the accident, because, while they were at the controls, they were not in control of the submarine -- Bernie.

SHAW: Jamie McIntyre with the latest from the Pentagon. I'm Bernard Shaw in Washington.

The "MONEYLINE HOUR" is next.



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