Rosario Gambino, a convicted heroin trafficker and reputed Mafia boss serving a 45-year sentence, did not receive a pardon from former President Clinton. But the White House did request background information on Gambino from the Justice Department near the end of Mr. Clinton's second term, a source familiar with the House investigation said late Wednesday.
The New York Times reported on its Web site that the background request was connected to a possible White House pardon. The Justice Department sent the Clinton administration a copy of Gambino's criminal record, the newspaper said.
Roger Clinton's lawyer Bart Williams says all this is just an attempt by a Republican-controlled committee to embarrass the Clinton family, reports CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.
Williams confirms Roger Clinton the former president's half brother once tried to get the elder Gambino paroled from prison and that he was given $50,000 by the Gambino children. But he says the two facts are not connected and Roger Clinton never tried to get Gambino a presidential pardon.
According to a committee letter obtained by CBS News, the investigation goes beyond just that payment. Investigators have also asked Roger Clinton to explain how $250,000 in traveler's checks purchased in Taiwan and Venezuela turned up in his bank account.
Williams had no specific explanation, but said he's satisfied the money was payment Roger Clinton received for performing with his band. He says Roger Clinton never took money to ask for pardons for his friends.
"Tommy Gambino is a friend of Roger Clinton's and has been for many years," Williams told the Times. "I'm not going to comment on what the payment is for or about. I am going to say it was not related to Roger Clinton's assisting Tommy Gambino's father in his parole efforts or any other effort."
The controversy over whether the Clinton administration offered pardons for money began in the weeks after the president's final day in office, when he granted 177 clemencies and commutations.
Three cases drew instant criticism: the pardon of then-fugitive commodities broker Marc Rich, commutations for four Hasidic Jews convicted of fraud and an allegation that Roger Clinton received up to $200,000 for promising to help a Texas man win a pardon.
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