<i>FTN</i> Transcript - Feb. 18

face the nation logo, 2009 CBS

Bob Schieffer, CBS
News Chief Washington Correspondent:
Today on Face The Nation, former President Clinton offers a detailed defense of his pardon of Marc Rich, but critics are already saying he may have dug himself into an even deeper hole.

The former president lays out his rationale in a long, op-ed piece in today's New York Times, citing as one of the reasons that three distinguished Republican lawyers favored it, but last night and this morning, all three denied that in strong terms.

We'll talk about it with Dan Burton, the Republican who heads the House committee probing all of this, Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on that committee, and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Gloria Borger's here, and I'll have a final thought on the good news. But first, it's Clinton again on Face The Nation.

Announcer: Face The Nation, with Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer. And now from Washington, Bob Schieffer.

Schieffer: Good morning again. When former President Clinton laid out his reasons for pardoning Marc Rich in today's New York Times, he said it had nothing to do with political contributions to his campaign by Rich's former wife, Denise. In his words, "There was no quid pro quo." He suggested that he acted because the case really belonged in civil court and went on to say that one of the reasons he acted was that the pardon was reviewed and advocated by three distinguished Republican attorneys.

Well, last night and this morning, all three of those lawyers flatly denied that. One of them, Len Garment, told me, "That is just wrong. I have had nothing to do with Rich for seven years." Another of the lawyers, William Bradford Reynolds, who had represented Rich at one point in the '90s, told Gloria Borger he never reviewed nor advocated the pardon and said when he heard of it, he was "as astonished as everybody else was." The third lawyer Mr. Clinton mentioned was Lewis Libby, who once represented Rich and is now Vice President Cheney's chief of staff. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told me last night that Libby, "was in no way, shape or form involved in this pardon."

So joining us now in our studio Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman. With us from New York City, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who, by the way, brought the original indictment against Mr. Rich. And from Palm Springs, California, Chairman Dan Burton.

We're going to talk first to Congressman Waxman. Congressman Waxman, you have defended, you have been a strong defender of Bill Clinton in the past, but I do note you have not defended this pardon. But now with this revelation today, these things just seem to be getting worse. What's going on here?

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.: Well, I - I've been critical of President Clinton's decision to pardon Marc Rich. And I don't know that anything is worse today than was the case beore. President Clinton set out his arguments in this op-ed, and I think that was very helpful to hear his views on the matter. But there is an appearance of impropriety because of the campaign contributions he received from Mrs. Rich. But that's an appearance of pr - impropriety. Let's realize there's a big difference between some actual wrongdoing.

Schieffer: But let me just interrupt you for a second, 'cause I want to talk about this op-ed piece that - that he did lay out this morning.

Waxman: Right.

Schieffer: Here he says that three Republican lawyers advocated this pardon. All three of them have now told Gloria and told me that's absolutely untrue. Doesn't this just raise more questions about his credibility?

Waxman: Well, I think it's important to hear from "Scooter" Libby, for example, under oath before our committee. He was Marc Rich's lawyer for 12 years. The theory of the case made for a pardon was based on the - the - the work that Mr. Libby had done for s - Mr. Rich. So we ought to hear from him, not just have Tom Quinn as the--Jack Quinn as the only re - pr - lawyer to testify.

Schieffer: Let me - let me point out Mr. Libby, of course, is the one who now works in the White House and Mr...

Waxman: Right.

Schieffer: ...is Mr. Cheney's chief of staff. Gloria.

Waxman: Yeah.

Gloria Borger, U.S. News & World Report: Well, if you'd like to hear from Mr. Libby, do you - would you also like to hear from President Clinton? Would you urge him to testify now?

Waxman: That's complicated. It's his decision to make. But it's complicated because there's an investigation going on by the Justice Department, so he'll have to decide that for himself whether he should be testifying before the U.S. attorney in New York, before the Senate, before the House. In fact, that points out the fact that we've got three redundant committees - three redundant investigations going on at the same time. This matter warrants an investigation. And - and now that the law enforcement has taken over to investigate whether there was wrongdoing, I think that they're the ones who we ought to defer to.

Borger: So are you saying that the Congress should halt its investigation and not give Denise Rich immunity to testify?

Waxman: Well, I think everyone agrees on that point, even Chairman Dan Burton, who I think has done a responsible investigation to this point in this whole matter. But he's also indicated he doesn't want to push for immunity for Denise Rich because the - the Justice Department is investigating and we wouldn't want to interfere with any criminal prosecutions.

Borger: But - but what about the president? I mean, he's written an op-ed. He's now out there publicly talking about it. Why not come voluntarily before your committee and tell his story?

Waxman: Well, that's his decision.

Brger: Would you argue that he should do it? Would you tell him to do it?

Waxman: And I - ordinarily, I would say he - he probably should come forward, but he's got to think through the fact that there are three different committees, including the US attorney, looking into the matter. And he ought to recognize that there are legal consequences for testimony he might receive - might give one place as opposed to another.

Schieffer: What you seem to be saying this morning is that this investigation in - belongs with the U.S. attorney and you'd sort of like to clear the way for her to go forward with it and for Congress to stand aside, or at least for a while.

Waxman: Well, if there's any - if there's any criminal wrongdoing - and I - that's a big if - then it ought to be handled by law enforcement. Our committee has been looking at the question of this pardon, was it proper. And that's appropriate because we ought to look at how the exercise of the pardon power has been handled by the president of the United States. But, you know, President Bush pardoned a man for possession of over $1 million of heroin. The law enforcement people, the sentencing judge, all objected to it. There was no congressional committee at that time. So I think to some extent, President Clinton is - is held to a double standard - a different standard than - than other presidents have who have - who've given controversial pardons in the past.

Schieffer: One of the things that Chairman Burton wants to do is to find out who contributed what to the Clinton Presidential Library. Do you think that those who contributed to the library deserve some sort of privacy or should that be made public?

Waxman: I - I think the committee's entitled to get information if it's - if it's relevant to the investigation. It may be a little far-fetched to ask that everybody who's contributed to the library be identified to the Congress, because ordinarily, organizations don't have to make that public. But I - I - I - I - I - I want to look at that issue a little bit more carefully.

Borger: Mr. Waxman, does it bother you that President Clinton seemed to be communicating with Democratic Party fund-raisers about this pardon and not with United States attorneys about the pardon?

Waxman: It bothered me a lot that the president didn't get the full input from the prosecuting attorneys in New York, from the Justice Department doing a thorough review so he had all the facts before him. I - I was very critical of the fact that the - the president gave this pardon without - without getting all that input and maybe even from our intelligence agencies. And then when you look at the facts, it just doesn't seem, on - on the - on the surface, to - to warrant a pardon for a man who is a fugitive of justice - from justice.

Schieffer: Well, then let me ask you this question. Why did he do it?

Waxman: Wel, I think you have...

Schieffer: Why did this happen?

Waxman: You think you have some idea of why he did it, based on his statement in that op-ed in The New York Times. And in - and why he did it is going to be the subject of, right now, three investigations. So, you know, when I talked about double standard, in some ways what we investigate and what we don't investigate is a double standard. Could you imagine if five Democratic justices of the Supreme Court ruled that the votes in the state where the - Al Gore's brother had been governor and - and his cousin was on the network and announced that the election had gone to Mr. Gore and thousands of Republicans are disenfranchised - could you imagine what the Republicans in the Congress would be doing? They'd be investigating that. But what we see them doing now is investigating President Clinton.

Schieffer: All right.

Waxman: There's a cottage industry of investigating President Clinton, and it seems like they never want to stop.

Schieffer: All right. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Waxman.

Waxman: Thank you.

Schieffer: And let's turn now for another side of this possibly. Mayor Rudy Giuliani is in New York. He brought the original indictment. And, Mayor Giuliani, review the - the bidding for us here. What was this original indictment? An - and what did Mr. Rich and his partner get in trouble for in the - in the first place?

Mayor Rudy Giuliani, R-New York: Marc Rich and Pincus Green and their companies were alleged to have traded with Iran during the hostage crisis. I think that's been conveniently left out of the president's analysis of this, as well as multimillions of dollars' worth of tax fraud, which I think was the largest in the country up to that point, if not forever, violating criminal energy restrictions, when we had many, many restrictions on trading oil.

Essentially, what they were doing is they were buying oil at very, very low prices, including from Iran, charging 10 times more than that, ultimately, and hiding those transactions from the United States government. When the indictment was brought, I believe the exact amount that we charged was $48 million in tax evasion. Ultimately, it got up to almost $200 million. And it included, however, fraud, mail fraud, and trading with Iran during the - during the - during the hostage crisis.

And then you might remember Mr. Rich and Mr. Green ran away. There was a sanction of $50,000 a day in contempt by the federal judge. And then, ultimately, his companies pled guilty and his lawyers got up and admitted the wrongdoing that President Clinton today in the newspaper says wasn't correct. I - I - I really don't know what President Clinton had been told about this case, but by reading the article today in the paper, it seems to me that he was terribly misinformed.

Schieffer: Well, he - he says in that article, if I undrstand it correctly, that - that, in fact, Mr. Rich was probably wrongfully indicted, that this was some sort of a civil suit that should have been brought.

Giuliani: Yeah, amazing - yeah, kind of - kind of an amazing thing that a man would run away from a wrongful indictment for 17 years and spend $100 million in legal fees to run away. But here's a man who had the best lawyers in America representing him. If he was wrongfully indicted, you would think he would have come back for trial rather than spending $100 million to be a fugitive. He also - this man, who was wrongfully indicted, allegedly, you know, renounced his American citizenship during this process. And this is a very strange way to figure out wrongful indictments, to talk just to defense lawyers, but not talk to the prosecutor. If you did that, I - I would venture to guess about nine out of 10 indictments in America would be dismissed like that.

Borger: M - Mr. Giuliani, do you think that former President Clinton should testify voluntarily before the Congress?

Giuliani: I think that's up to the Congress and it's up to the- up to the president. That's a very, very difficult legal issue. I - I - I -I think right now, every time the people defending President Clinton, including the former president, explain it, including the article today, they raise more serious questions than existed before. Now you have the president saying that he determined the indictment was wrongful. This is a very strange use of the pardon power. You might remember the first time the president was asked about this, on January 22nd, he said they had paid their price in full. Now we have a different explanation.

Schieffer: Let me go back to - let me - let me go back to what...

Giuliani: I don't know.

Schieffer: ...one of the president's defenders is saying today, and that is Joe Lockhart, his former press secretary, who spoke to the point you just talked about. But he says the reason that the president didn't check with prosecutors is that he knew what their arguments would be.

Giuliani: Right. Well, that would change our American system of justice. Just talk to one side of the case because you know the other side of the case's position but don't hear it.

Borger: Well...

Giuliani: In - in this particular case, the president spoke only to defense lawyers. They told him it was a wrongful indictment. He concluded it was a wrongful indictment. On that basis, the president of the United States would have to grant pardons in 90 percent of the criminal cases in America because if you talk just to the defense lawyers, they're going to tell you it's a wrongful indictment. If you leave out the prosecutor, in this case, Mary Jo White, who was appointed by President Clinton, well, you're going to hear what you want to hear.

Borger: Mr. Giuliani, let me ask you to respond to something Congressman Waxan said, which is that Bill Clinton is being held to a double standard.

Giuliani: I don't see that - I don't see that at all. I mean, I - I - I favor the pardon process. I'm in f--I--I've supported pardons. I used to be in charge of the Pardon Attorney's Office and have recommended, I think, probably 200, 300 pardons, looked at about 2,000 professionally. And I've never seen anything like this before. I mean, the an - the analogy to a pardon that President Bush gave just doesn't work. I - I don't recall President Bush receiving, you know, $1 million in campaign contributions from whomever it's alleged that he pardoned. I mean - and I don't remember a fugitive being pardoned ever before by any president. There may be one like it, but I've never heard of one.

Schieffer: Let--let me ask you this. So the investigation is going to go forward, but isn't it, in fact, going to be extremely difficult to bring some sort of criminal charges?

Giuliani: Well...

Schieffer: It seems to me, in - in fact, that it's going to be very difficult to - to prove there is some connection between political contributions and this pardon.

Giuliani: Well, maybe there wasn't. I mean, th - no - no one is saying that that's the assumption anybody should--should now entertain. I mean, the fact is that the United States attorney here in the Southern District of New York, a Democratic appointee, is conducting an investigation. I don't know all the facts that she has. And I think the president is entitled to the same presumption that any one of us would be entitled to in this situation. So nobody should jump to conclusions.

But on the other hand, I - I - I think the facts warrant a very complete investigation, and I wouldn't be complaining about the investigation. And - and when you read the article today, I - I have a suspicion that this is actually going to make the investigations even--even more difficult. There are more questions raised, including the three lawyers who now say they didn't say what the president says they said. So I think more questions seem to emerge as you focus on this.

Schieffer: All right. Mayor Giuliani, thank you so much.

Giuliani: Thank you.

Schieffer: And by the way, just one final question. How are you feeling?

Giuliani: I'm feeling a lot better. Thank you - and thank you for asking.

Schieffer: OK. Thank you so much. We'll be back in a moment with the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, Congressman Dan Burton.

(COMMERICIALS)

Schieffer: And joining us now, Chairman Dan Burton, who began the investigation into the circumstances surrounding this pardon.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for coming. First question: your reaction to the defense of the pardon that former President Clinton wrote in today's New York Times. You agree with Mayor Giuliani that this may raise more questions than i answers?

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.: Well, there's no question about that, Bob. The president accused or in - in - in - inferred that three Republican lawyers worked on this. We checked on this up until 1:00 last night. There's just no truth to that. So once again, he's in error. In addition to that, he listed eight points that Jack Quinn brought up before our committee, and - and it almost looked like Jack Quinn participated in writing that op-ed piece. And next week I'm going to be sending a rebuttal to that - to The New York Times going item by item on why those were not correct.

Schieffer: Well, would you like to give us a little preview of that? What - what do you most disagree with in the piece?

Burton: Well, for instance, the two professors that wrote the - the piece that indicated that Marc Rich didn't do anything wrong. Well, his attorney, Marc Rich's attorney, paid those two people $100,000, which had to come directly from Marc Rich to write that. So it was a very biased piece. Obviously, it was going to favor his position on the tax evasion issue.

Borger: Do you feel now that you really need to have President Clinton testify before your committee as a result of this op-ed piece in particular?

Burton: I have said from the beginning that unless we find some reason to believe that there may have been a quid pro quo or he did something wrong, I don't think we need to have him bor - before the committee. The - the problem is that he has - or not problem, but he had the right to pardon whomever he chose to pardon. And unless we find that there was some reason other than a legitimate reason for him to pardon him, then we won't call him before the committee. But if we find out there's indications there was a quid pro quo, you bet we'll call him.

Schieffer: Well, would you - what would happen - for instance, I note this morning that Arlen Specter, Senator Specter, who's conducting a parallel investigation over in the Senate, says that - that the president, if he comes before Congress, it ought to be a voluntary act. At least that's how he feels. And he would be pleased if he did come before the committee. What if Mr. Clinton called you and said, "Mr. Chairman, I'd like to come up and tell you all about this," would you--would you then want to hear it?

Burton: Well, I - I would not ask the president to testify before a committee or - or allow him to testify unless there was a reason for it. Right now what we're trying to do is we're subpoenaing documents on Denise Rich and others. Well, we're holding off on that because of the Justice Department investigation. But we will be doing that as soon as they conclude theirs. And we'll also be calling people who are in meetings at the White House when this was discussed. We want to find out from the previous counsel of the president what was discussed with the president, who was in attendanceand how they decided to pardon Mr. Rich.

Borger: Can you tell us about your communications with the Justice Department and what you have decided to do, say, to hold off on immunity for Denise Rich and how they're pursuing it?

Burton: Well, we contacted the Justice Department, as we always have, to see if they had any objection to us voting immunity for Mrs. Rich to testify. Now because they are conducting a criminal investigation in New York, we're going to defer action on that. However, if it looks like there is not a thorough investigation - and we'll watch that very closely - then we'll consider going ahead and calling her. But if they conduct a very thorough criminal investigation, then, you know, we may not have to do that.

Schieffer: Now you've already subpoenaed a couple of White House aides, Beth Nolan, who was a White House counsel...

Burton: Right.

Schieffer:...Podesta, who was a White House chief of staff. Suppose the Justice Department comes to you and says, 'We wish you'd kind of hold off on that part of the investigation'? What's your - I'm just trying to get some sense of where you intend to take this in conjunction with where the Justice Department is headed?

Burton: Well, we don't want to step all over a criminal investigation. Although we have the right to call them, we wouldn't do that. We have a scheduled committee hearing on March the 1st, and we have four witnesses, including Jack Quinn coming back again, to find out what happened at the White House during the discussion on this pardon.

Borger: Are they going - are these White House aides going to waive their executive privilege in relation to their conversations with the - the president on this matter?

Burton: Well, we'll have to find out if that applies. I mean, executive privilege does not always apply, unless there's some security interest. If this was a case where they had some kind of national security interest, then I suppose they could waive it - waive that. They could accept and use executive privilege. But barring that, I expect them to testify and give us some answers to the questions.

Schieffer: Well, have they, in fact, told you that they will cooperate and will honor the subpoena?

Burton: Well, they'll honor the subpoenas, I'm - I'm confident, because if they don't, I'll--I'll vote a contempt citation and send it to the Justice Department. The only thing that would stop us from subpoenaing them would be if the Southern District of New York and the US attorney there said they had some information on these witnesses that was very critical to their investigation that they didn't want in the public domain, but that's the only thing.

Schieffer: Mr. Chairman, how far do you intend to go on trying to determine who gave what to former President Clinton's library? There's been some controversy, as you know about that, about whether somof those people ought to be granted privacy. How far do you intend to press that?

Burton: Well, we don't necessarily need to make those things public. When I subpoenaed those documents from the president's library board, we didn't intend to go public with them unless there was a need to do so. Now if we find out that the Lippo Group in Indonesia, James Riady or Mochtar Riady gave a huge sum of money, anybody connected with John Huang or some of these others, including Marc Rich, then, of course, that's something we'll take a look at because we want to find out why some of these people got light sentences and breaks from the previous Justice Department and some of these pardons from the president.

Schieffer: Now there have been reports that Mrs. Rich has given as much as $450,000 to the library. Have - has your committee, in fact, been able to confirm how much she gave to the library?

Burton: No, we haven't received information, to my knowledge, from the library as yet. I have been told by news accounts that that was the amount. But her attorney, when she talked to our chief counsel, said that it was a huge amount of money, so I don't know what they mean by huge amount. It may be $450,000 now and more later. So we'll just have to look into that.

Borger: Mr. Chairman, very quickly, President Bush has said it's time to move on. Was he talking to you? Do you have a sense he wants you to finish this investigation quickly?

Burton: Well, you know, I think President Bush is right on the money. We need to move ahead. There's a lot of problems facing the nation. And I really like his agenda. I think he's doing a fantastic job. He's got a great Cabinet. And so we intend to move on as quickly as possible. But this is something that needs to be looked at very thoroughly because people across this country - and Congressman Cummings on my committee, a Democrat, mentioned this. People don't want to see a double standard in law enforcement. If somebody breaks the law, whether the president or Mr. Rich or you or me, we should all be held to the same standard.

Schieffer: OK.

Burton: And that's what America wants.

Schieffer: Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.

Burton: Thank you, sir.

Schieffer: We'll be back with a final word in just a minute.

(COMMERCIALS)

Schieffer: Finally today, I never cease to be amazed at how good the government is at getting out the news when it wants to get it out. When the administration sent those bombers into Iraq last week, the Pentagon rolled out briefers with facts, statistics, charts, graphs, even the old overhead projector to make sure we all knew it went well. White House officials were available to provide context. No criticism here on any of that. That's what they're supposed to do.

But my, oh, my, is there a different when the news goes bad as it did when that American sub hit he Japanese boat. Suddenly this vast taxpayer-supported public relations apparatus went silent. We now know that even the Navy people in Washington couldn't find out what was going on from the Navy people in Hawaii.

As for what those civilians on board the sub were doing, we didn't find out about that until a pesky old reporter named George Wilson asked what sounded like a goofy question at best: "Were any of those civilians sitting at the controls when the accident happened?" When the Pentagon's man responded, "I'm sure we'll find out during the investigation," astonished reporters began checking sources and confirmed that was exactly what had happened.

Last night, the Navy announced it is convening a formal public board of inquiry to get to the bottom of all of this. That's the right thing and maybe it would have happened anyway, but I chalk this one up to a pesky old reporter. Government is good at getting us the good news but it usually needs a little push to give us the whole story.

That's it from here. See you next week on Face The Nation.

END


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