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U.S. Attorney, FBI Confirm Probes of Marc Rich, Pincus Green Pardons

Aired February 15, 2001 - 12:24 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: This just into us here at CNN. The U.S. attorney's office in New York has released a new statement regarding the federal investigation looking into former President Clinton and his last-minute pardon of financier Marc Rich.

With more on this, let's go to Eileen O'Connor, who's in Washington, D.C. -- Eileen.

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, yes, the U.S. attorney has issued a statement in conjunction with the FBI in New York, and basically saying that various questions have been raised concerning the activities and pardons of Marc Rich and Pincus Green. That was Marc Rich's business partner.

According to the statement, the United States Attorney's Office and the FBI New York office have opened an investigation to determine whether there have been any violations of federal law. There will be no further comment.

Now, according to sources, the U.S. attorney will try to determine if there was a quid pro quo; in other words, a direct link between payments made by Marc Rich's ex-wife, Denise Rich, to the foundation established for President Clinton's library and the pardon itself. In other words, did she make those payments in expectation of getting that pardon?

Now, congressional sources say both the House and the Senate committee investigations already under way will continue, but that this U.S. attorney's investigation, the federal investigation, will certainly complicate and delay their desire to have Denise Rich come before Congress to testify.

She has already invoked the 5th Amendment, refusing to testify on the grounds it could incriminate her. And lawmakers were hoping to try to offer her immunity in exchange for testimony. That offer will be complicated, as she is going to be one of the subjects of this federal probe.

Now, Hill sources admit it will also be hard for the U.S. attorney or Congress to prove a direct link between the money paid to the library and the pardon. They're also looking into some other pardons to determine if influence and access were also involved. But they admit that even if they can prove that the president used pardons to pay back people who had done political favors for him, or who had contributed to Democratic causes, it is not criminal. As one source said, while you can call it irresponsible, it is not corrupt.

Former President Clinton issued a statement last night saying, "As I have said repeatedly, I made the decision to pardon Marc Rich based on what I thought was the right thing to do. Any suggestion that improper factors, including fund raising for the DNC or my library had anything to do with the decision are absolutely false. I look forward to cooperating with any appropriate inquiry."

And as you heard, Daryn, Ari Fleischer, President Bush's spokesman earlier again repeated what President Bush has been saying, that it is perhaps now time to move on past these controversies -- Daryn.

KAGAN: All right, Eileen O'Connor, thank you for the latest there from Washington, D.C.

More on that just ahead, the investigation into President Clinton and the pardon involving financier Marc Rich.

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