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Clinton Waives Executive Privilege

To convince Congress he has nothing to hide, former President Bill Clinton says three of his closest ex-aides are free to tell a House committee whatever they wish about the clemencies he granted in his last hours in the White House.

Clinton has waived his claim to executive privilege, which could have kept his former aides from telling lawmakers everything they know about the pardon of billionaire Marc Rich, who has lived in Switzerland since just before he was indicted in 1983 on charges of tax evasion, fraud and making illegal oil deals with Iran.

Rich declined to be a witness before the House Government Reform Committee, which is trying to determine whether money played a role in the pardons of Rich and others.

Rich also refused Tuesday to free his lawyers from attorney-client privilege that would allow them to share details on the pursuit of clemency. If he did, his lawyer said it could be later argued in criminal or civil proceedings that the privilege no longer exists. The Rich pardon is the subject of a criminal investigation by U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White in New York City.

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  • "Mr. Rich has asked me to inform the committee that he mst continue to rely on the advice of his lawyers and, therefore, is unable to comply with the committee's requests at this time," his attorney, Laurence Urgenson, said in a letter to the committee.

    The Washington Post, in Wednesday's editions, said a newly discovered e-mail suggests a Justice Department official told Rich's pardon attorney, Jack Quinn, to take his pardon request directly to the White House. According to the e-mail, Quinn told associates in November 2000 that Eric Holder, then-deputy attorney general, advised him to "go straight to" the White House to seek clemency for Rich. The message also said: "timing is good. we shd (should) get in soon."

    Holder told the newspaper that he strongly disagreed with Quinn's e-mail message. He testified to Congress earlier this month that he wished he had asked more questions about the Rich case, and would have been opposed to it if he had obtained more information at the time.

    While Clinton's decisions to issue pardons and commute the sentences of 176 Americans on Jan. 20 continued to make news in Washington, the former president was in New York telling an audience of media and entertainment executives: "I want to get out of the news."

    Asked whether he was disturbed by reporters' attention to the pardons, Clinton said: "People always get it right over the long run, and the truth will prevail. So I'm not worried about that at all."

    The committee will hear Thursday from John Podesta, former Clinton chief of staff; Beth Nolan, former White House counsel; and Bruce Lindsey, a longtime White House aide and confidant to the former president.

    The panel also was to hear testimony from Skip Rutherford, the director of the William J. Clinton Foundation, which is raising money to build his library and policy center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Committee Chairman Dan Burton has threatened to seek a contempt citation against Rutherford over the foundation's refusal to provide a full list of Clinton library donors.

    The committee and foundation are negotiating a deal that would allow lawmakers to see a list of people who contributed more than $5,000, but would protect the identity of donors unrelated to the committee's investigation.

    The committee wants to know whether Clinton's decision on Rich's pardon was influenced by contributions from Rich's ex-wife, Denise, to the library and various political campaigns. She has refused to testify before the panel, citing her constitutional privilege against self-incrimination.

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