Clintons & Marc Rich
Marc Rich has died.
He was one of the reasons a wise person would have little to
do politically with the Clintons and a major example of the sort
of thing Hillary Clinton's supporters are just ignoring.
The story also tells much about the role of Eric Holder and how
Washington really operates. Don't miss Jeffrey
St. Clair's summation of how the pardon came about at the
end of this account.
York Times - Marc
Rich, a shrewd, swashbuckling oil trader who fled to Switzerland
after being indicted on charges of widespread tax evasion, illegal
dealings with Iran and other crimes, and who was later pardoned
by President Bill Clinton in his last hours in office, setting
off a whirlwind of criticism, died on Wednesday in Lucerne, Switzerland.
He was 78.
Nicknamed El Matador
for his steel nerves and razor-sharp acumen, Mr. Rich pushed
the limits of legality and, the government said, broke them.
In 1983 he was indicted on 65 criminal counts that included tax
fraud and trading with Iran when it was holding American hostages.
One of the most serious allegations was that Mr. Rich had misrepresented
the provenance of crude oil he sold in 1980 and 1981. Under complicated
regulations then in place, newly found oil fetched a higher price
than older oil. By illegally marking up the price of old oil
and passing it through a bewildering chain of transactions, Mr.
Rich sold oil at a markup of up to 400 percent. He was accused
of making more than $100 million from the scheme, avoiding paying
$48 million in United States taxes.
Mr. Rich paid the government about $200 million in civil penalties
but fled to Switzerland to escape criminal prosecution. The Internal
Revenue Service offered a $500,000 reward for his capture, and
the F.B.I. put him on its "most wanted" list, along
with Osama bin Laden. Even as he remained the world's biggest
trader of metals and minerals and lived in opulence, he was called
the world's most famous fugitive.
Then, on Jan. 20, 2001 - Mr. Clinton's last day in office - Mr.
Rich's name appeared on the presidential pardon
It was soon learned that Mr. Rich's former wife, Denise Rich,
had made large donations to the Democratic Party and the Clinton
library, and that Israeli officials, including Prime Minister
Ehud Barak, had lobbied Mr. Clinton for the pardon. Rabbi Irving
Greenberg, chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,
also pressed Mr. Rich's case, on museum stationery.
Eric H. Holder Jr., then the deputy attorney general and
now the attorney general, advised the White House that he was
"neutral leaning favorable" to the pardon. Only weeks
later, however, Mr. Holder said he regretted the recommendation.
Mr. Clinton later quoted respected tax experts he had recruited
who concluded that no crime had been committed and that the tax-reporting
tactics of Mr. Rich and his corporation had been reasonable.
But Mr. Clinton, too, came to have regrets, calling the pardon
Mr. Rich never returned to the United States, nor did American
agents succeed in several attempts to seize him and bring him
Mr. Rich traded with Libya under Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, South
Africa under apartheid (in violation of an international embargo),
the Communist dictatorships of Cuba and Romania, and undemocratic
Latin American countries. He often did business with countries
A congressional report on the BCCI scandal, from a committee
chaired by Senator John Kerry, included this as among issues
that still needed to be studied: "BCCI's financing of commodities
and other business dealings
of international criminal financier Marc Rich . . .
STEWART TENDLER, TIMES, LONDON: Customs officers have seized
nearly $2 million in cash after it was flown into Britain on
behalf of Marc Rich, the fugitive billionaire pardoned by Bill
Clinton. Mr Rich, whose presidential pardon is under investigation
by the FBI, now has to prove that the cash was honestly acquired,
or he could lose it. Investigators are holding the cash under
powers aimed at preventing drug traffickers moving their profits
from country to country.
NEWSWEEK - On Jan. 8, with less than two weeks to go
in his presidency, Clinton was speaking on the phone with the
then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The subject: a possible
pardon for fugitive financier Marc Rich. "I know quite a
few things about that," Clinton interjected as soon as Barak
raised the matter. He had already gotten a long memo on it, Clinton
explained, and he was "working on it." But Clinton
also understood there were risks, possibly big ones. "It's
best that we not say much about that,"
Clinton advised Barak
on the subject of Rich. The Israeli leader understood. "OK,
I'm not mentioning it any place," he replied. The two leaders
had no reason to believe their confidential chat would ever become
public. Yet the Clinton-Barak telephone call that evening, like
all conversations between U.S. presidents and foreign heads of
state, was monitored by a team of note takers sitting at computers
in the White House Situation Room. Last week congressional investigators
probing the Rich pardon received access to National Security
Council-prepared transcripts of three Clinton-Barak conversations
that dealt with the Rich pardon . . . The transcripts offer no
"smoking gun" showing that the former president was
motivated by large donations to his presidential library or by
generous campaign contributions. But the conversations do show
that, in sharp contrast to the picture painted by some of his
former aides, Clinton was keenly aware of details of the Rich
case, and appeared determined to grant the highly questionable
pardon even though, as he admitted to Barak, there was "almost
no precedent in American history."
BRIAN BLOMQUIST, NY POST: Anti-Defamation League Director
Abraham Foxman admitted he sought a presidential pardon for Marc
Rich a month after his group accepted a $100,000 donation from
the billionaire financier. Foxman, leader of one of the nation's
largest Jewish groups, wrote a letter to then-President Bill
Clinton on Dec. 7, urging a pardon for Rich . . . Foxman said
last Monday that he regretted writing to Clinton, saying he had
a change of heart after learning the feds had offered to let
Rich return to the United States on bail to face his legal troubles
. . . The ADL acknowledged that Foxman and Rich's Israeli representative,
former Mossad agent Avner Azulay, met in Paris last February
to discuss ways to resolve Rich's legal problems. Foxman recommended
to Azulay that Rich seek a pardon by using his ex-wife Denise
Rich - a major contributor to the Clintons' campaigns and to
Bill Clinton's library - as an intermediary.
JAMES RIDGEWAY, VILLAGE VOICE:
from the US Attorney's office have been poring through dusty
records stashed in a New York court storeroom, looking for clues
as to whether Marc Rich, the onetime fugitive financier, used
his former wife, the songwriter Denise Rich, to pass political
contributions to Bill and Hillary Clinton in exchange for a January
pardon. All sides deny any wrongdoing. At the heart of the investigators'
search is a 1993 New York lawsuit, filed by Denise Rich against
her ex-husband, whom she accused of defrauding her, as well as
the children's trusts. As confusing as the case is, it raises
the question of Denise's role in Marc's business:
CHARLES THOMPSON II & TONY HAYS, WORLD NET DAILY:
In his frenetic last day in office, Bill Clinton issued 177 pardons
and commutations. More than 30 of these didn't go through the
rigorous screening process that typically takes 18 to 24 months
and is designed to weed out people who continued to break the
law. And more than six weeks after Clinton departed the White
House, Justice Department officials are still at a loss as to
who many of these people are or how they received presidential
pardons and commutations
Bill flirted outrageously with Denise, reveals a source, "and
when Hillary caught wind of the untold number of visits Denise
made to the White House when Hillary was away, she went ballistic."
Forced to explain her involvement in the presidential pardons,
Hillary called a press conference and used it to distance herself
from her husband. She never mentioned him by name and referred
to Bill as 'the president" or "him."
WINDREM, NBC NEWS Newly available financial data shows
that Denise Rich's giving to the Democratic Party and the Clintons
intensified dramatically over the past two years, ending in a
final rush as the Clintons neared their White House exit. An
NBC News analysis of documents on file with various federal agencies,
including the Federal Election Commission, the Internal Revenue
Service and government ethics office shows that while Rich gave
at least $1.5 million to Clinton-related political, legal and
charitable organizations during the last decade, the majority
of the giving - more than $900,000 - came over the final two
years of the Clinton era - just before her ex-husband, Marc Rich,
was pardoned. More than $200,000 came in a spurt during the final
six months, $140,000 of that in September, October and November,
as her ex-husband's team of lawyers, led by former White House
counsel Jack Quinn, began pressing Clinton for a pardon.
LATHEM, NY POST: Billionaire Marc Rich lived a double
life during his 20 years as a fugitive, funneling secret data
to Israeli and other intelligence services about some unsavory
governments. Sensational details about Rich's ultimate high-wire
act as a spy for Israel and other countries were provided to
The Post as congressional committees prepare to hold hearings
into former President Bill Clinton's controversial decision to
pardon the fugitive commodities trader. Among the issues that
will be explored by the House Oversight Committee in its probe
of the hotly disputed Rich pardon, according to congressional
* Rich's lengthy relationship with the Israeli Mossad.
* His numerous contacts with federal prosecutors in New York,
during which his lawyers offered to provide intelligence to the
CIA in return for leniency.
A CIA spokesman denied any relationship with Rich and said no
one from the agency participated in behind-the-scenes White House
discussions about his pardon. But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Barak repeatedly cited Rich's contributions to Israel's "national
security" in phone calls to President Clinton last month
in which he lobbied for Rich's pardon, according to Barak spokesman
Gadi Baltiansky. And a letter from former Mossad chief Shabtai
Shavit to Clinton confirming that Rich provided "assistance"
to the Israeli spy agency that produced results "beyond
the expected" was among the documents released last week
by Rich's lawyer Jack Quinn to support the Rich pardon.
AMERICAN SPECTATOR: Hillary Clinton may be down in the
dumps fashion-wise, but it doesn't necessarily mean her closet
isn't filled with goodies. While New York is abuzz with talk
about the gifts Denise Rich gave the Clintons, such as furniture
for the new homes and a saxophone for Bill, the hottest items
are said to be the four fur coats that Hillary received in the
waning days of the Clinton presidency -- and that Denise Rich
is said to have paid for.
NEWSMAX: Ex-President Clinton said that
the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation would pay half
the $650,000 annual rent on his tony Manhattan post-presidential
office space. But what he didn't tell reporters was that one
of the high rolling donors who has apparently pledged at least
$1 million to the cause is none other than Denise Rich, the New
York City songwriter-socialite whose $1 million in Democratic
party campaign contributions is believed to have influenced Clinton's
decision to pardon her ex-husband, fugitive billionaire Marc
Rich. The Clintons refuse to release a full list of the donors
who have agreed to underwrite the ex-president's foundation,
which is expected to consist mainly of a luxurious library complete
with presidential apartment complex.
JACK NEWFIELD, NY POST - "We are just lucky that
those seven escaped killer convicts from Texas didn't have time
to hire Clinton's former counsel, Jack Quinn, the way Marc Rich
did. Otherwise, Clinton might have pardoned them mid-flight."
TIMES EDITORIAL: Bill Clinton's last-minute pardon of
Marc Rich, the shadowy commodities trader who fled to Switzerland
in 1983 to avoid American justice, was a shocking abuse of presidential
power and a reminder of why George W. Bush's vow to restore integrity
to the Oval Office resonates with millions of Americans who otherwise
disagree with the new president's politics. Unchecked by any
other branch of government, the president's authority under the
Constitution to pardon anyone charged with federal crimes is
meant to be exercised with great restraint to correct an injustice
or to further some societal good. Bestowing undeserved beneficence
on a fugitive accused of evading $48 million in taxes and illegally
trading with Iran in oil during the hostage crisis is hardly
what the Constitution's framers had in mind.
WALL STREET JOURNAL, FEBRUARY 23, 2001 - Though the main
charges pending against Mr. Rich when Bill Clinton pardoned him
involved a complex tax-evasion scheme, Mr. Rich faced another
serious allegation: He illegally traded with the enemy, prosecutors
charged, by buying about $200 million worth of oil from Iran
while revolutionaries allied with the Ayatollah Khomeini held
53 Americans hostage there in 1979-81.
Mr. Rich was never tried because he fled to Switzerland and renounced
his American citizenship before being indicted in 1983. An examination
of Mr. Rich's trading activities from Switzerland reveals that
his multibillion-dollar commodities operation continued doing
business with countries that the U.S. deemed unworthy trading
partners for supporting terrorism or abusing human rights.
Considering itself unfettered by American restrictions, Mr. Rich's
business not only conducted additional deals in Iran, it also
traded with Libya, Cuba and South Africa, all at times when U.S.
citizens and companies were barred from doing so. The Wall Street
Journal confirmed the deals -- involving oil, aluminum and other
commodities -- in interviews with more than a dozen former Rich
traders and executives as well as with competitors, industry
analysts and government officials.
NY TIMES - Denise
Rich, Malcolm S. Forbes, Nelson Mandela and other friends and
supporters of the Clintons showered the couple with roughly $1
million in previously unreported gifts during the Clinton presidency,
according to documents released by Republican Congressional investigators.
The gifts vary from tens of thousands of dollars in jewelry,
rugs and furnishings to a $90,000 framed handwritten letter by
President Harry S. Truman, a $10,000 Mickey Mantle trading card
from 1952 and nine rare books, according to the documents.
The gifts were not disclosed by the Clintons because the couple
turned them over to Bill Clinton's presidential library, the
investigators said. Under federal law, gifts that the first family
do not keep for themselves are exempt from the public disclosure
requirement on presidential gifts, the investigators said. .
The report contains a new round of potentially embarrassing information.
It documents an array of gifts that the Clintons received and
the names of the people who gave those gifts. There was a $2,000
bronze statue of an angel from Denise Rich; a $9,000 hand-woven
Navajo chief's blanket (circa 1885) from Larry Rockefeller; and
an oil painted in a gilt frame, a cheese plate, a porcelain teapot,
a gold cross and other items totaling $6,000 from Nelson Mandela.
The report also shows that the former first family received gifts
from individuals who were at the center of the Clinton White
House campaign finance scandals. To investigators and others,
that suggests that the gifts became another avenue for influencing
the administration. There was a $2,100 sculpture of a goddess
on a wooden base given by James Riady, an Indonesian businessman
who pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations last year and
agreed to pay $8.6 million in fines for using foreign corporate
money to back Mr. Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. The Clintons
also received two sculptures worth $1,550 from Johnny Chung,
who was at the center of a 1996 campaign fund-raising investigation.
JERRY SEPER, WASHINGTON TIMES, MAY 2002 - Former White
House Counsel Jack Quinn and former Deputy Attorney General Eric
H. Holder Jr. sought to cut the Justice Department out of a decision
by President Clinton to pardon fugitive financier Marc Rich,
according to a congressional report. The 467-page report, to
be released by the House Government Reform Committee, said Mr.
Quinn and Mr. Holder "worked together" to ensure that
department officials - particularly federal prosecutors in New
York who handled the Rich case - "did not have the opportunity
to express an opinion on the Rich pardon before it was granted
. . . The evidence amassed by the committee indicates that Holder
advised Quinn to file the Rich pardon petition with the White
House, and leave the Justice Department out of the process,"
the report said."
ABC NEWS - Former American fugitive Marc Rich was
a middleman for several of Iraq's suspect oil deals in February
2001, just one month after his pardon from President Clinton,
according to oil industry shipping records obtained by ABC News.
And a U.S. criminal investigation is looking into whether Rich,
as well as several other prominent oil traders, made illegal
payments to Iraq in order to obtain the lucrative oil contracts.
. . Rich is still living in Switzerland and unavailable for comment.
POST EDITORIAL, NOVEMBER 2004 - the last thing we want
to do is dampen the festivities in Little Rock, where the Clinton
Presidential Center is opening today, but does anybody remember
Marc Rich? He's the fugitive financier who was pardoned by President
Bill Clinton on his way out of office -- after Mr. Rich's ex-wife,
songwriter Denise Rich, gave $450,000 to the foundation raising
money for this very same library. The pardon scandal spotlighted
a dangerous gap in financial disclosure rules: Sitting presidents
are free to raise millions for their future presidential libraries
without having to reveal who is writing the checks.
This lack of disclosure was outrageous even before the pardon
scandal erupted: Mr. Clinton was vacuuming up six- and seven-figure
pledges from his White House perch, and there was no way for
the public to know what interests these donors had before the
government or what favors they might be receiving. It's even
more outrageous that this practice remains legal after the revelations
of Mr. Clinton's final-days pardons. The House passed a measure
two years ago that would have required disclosure, but the Senate
failed to act; with the topic out of the headlines, lawmakers
seem to have lost interest.
JEFFREY ST. CLAIR, COUNTERPUNCH -Hillary has never addressed
her role in the Rich pardon. In fact, she's rarely been asked
her opinion on the free pass given to one of the world's most
wanted fugitives, a man who violated embargoes against Iran and
South Africa and fled the country rather than face trial in what
was billed as "the biggest tax evasion case in history."
The senator has variously said that she was "unaware"
of the decision and "surprised" by it. When pressed,
she merely cackles.
Even though 300 pages of core documents relating to the pardon
decision remain under seal at the Clinton Library, a review of
the available record tells a much different story. In fact, the
Rich legal team viewed Hillary as a secret weapon, and as one
door after another closed on their search for a pardon they focused
more and more on invoking what Rich lawyer Robert Fink called
the "HRC option."
The machinations to secure a pardon from Bill Clinton for Marc
Rich began in earnest in the fall of 1998, when Rich's public
relations flack in the U.S., Gershon Kekst, squirmed his way
into a seat next to Eric Holder, the number two in the Clinton
Justice Department, at big D.C. party thrown by Daimler/Chrysler.
Without mentioning Rich by name, Kekst asked Holder how a man
of considerable resources might be relieved of the burden of
being "unproperly indicted by an overzealous prosecutor."
Holder took a sip of wine and told Kekst that such a man would
need to hire a D.C. lawyer who knows the ropes and has deep connections
inside the Clinton administration. "He comes to me and we
work it out," confided Holder.
"Can you recommend such a person?" Kekst inquired.
Holder pointed to a man sitting at a nearby table. "There's
Jack Quinn," Holder whispered. "He's a perfect example."
Kekst dutifully wrote
down Quinn's name, did some research on the former lawyer for
the Clintons, and transmitted the joyful news to the Rich camp.
There is every indication that Holder was trying to drum up business
for Quinn, a partner at the powerhouse firm of Arnold and Porter,
as well as a top advisor for Al Gore's presidential campaign.
Holder was desperate to have Quinn's backing in his doomed bid
to become attorney general
The scene shifts to a crowded restaurant in Paris. It's Valentine's
Day. Two men are having dinner and drinking wine. They know each
other well. One man has just received a $100,000 contribution
from the other man's boss. The man on the receiving end of the
money is Abe Foxman, and the financial gift was for his group
the Anti-Defamation League. The man picking up the hefty dinner
tab is Avner Azulay - though Marc Rich will soon reimburse him.
Rich has one last shot, Foxman advises. They need to get directly
to Bill and Hillary. And the key to unlocking the inner doors
of the White House, Foxman told Azulay, is Denise Rich. Foxman
confided that he and Denise had flown together on Air Force II
to the funeral of Yitzak Rabin. There was just one problem. Denise
Rich still loathed her husband. Entreaties are made to Denise,
now a New York socialite and successful songwriter, by Quinn
and others on the Rich teams. Three times "Denise Rich declines
to come to the rescue of her former husband.
Then suddenly, in November 2000, she agrees to help. What made
her change her mind?
That remains open to speculation, but given Marc Rich's history
and Denise's view that she was shortchanged in the divorce, it
may well have involved a financial offering. This much is known.
On November 16, Avner Azulay flies to New York and takes Denise
to dinner. He pleads for her to back Rich's pardon to her friends
Bill and Hillary. Two days later Denise consents.
Denise calls her close
friend Beth Dozoretz for help in the best way to handle the matter.
Another rich Manhattan socialite, Dozoretz had been the finance
chair of the Democratic National Committee. Dozoretz had contributed
more than $1 million to Democratic coffers. Bill Clinton was
the godfather of her daughter.
Dozoretz who, like Denise Rich, would later plead the Fifth at
a Senate hearing in the matter, helped Rich craft her strategy.
Almost immediately, a check for $25,000 was sent from Denise
Rich's account to the DNC. This was soon followed by Denise Rich's
first letter to the Clintons, imploring them to pardon her ex-husband.
Dozoretz also helped Rich bundle a $450,000 contribution to the
Clinton library fund. (A Democratic fundraiser told the New York
Times in 2001 that Denise had also pledged another million in
four installments over the next two years. This figure was disputed
by Denise Rich. But the donor lists to the Clinton Foundation
are kept secret.) In all, Denise Rich made at least $1.1 million
in contributions to Democratic causes, including $70,000 to Hillary's
Senate campaign and PACs, and at least $450,000 to the Clinton
For her part, Dozoretz kicked in another million of her own money
to the fund. This is the same library that now refuses to release
more than 300 pages of Clinton's records relating to the pardon.
She later lavished gifts on the Clintons as they left the White
House, including antique furniture for the new home and golf
clubs for Bill.
As Dozoretz and Denise Rich plotted their strategy, Quinn and
Azulay sought another opening. In a December 19, 2000, email
to Quinn, Azulay emphasizes the importance of Hillary's role
in the affair. She has just been elected senator from New York,
where Rich was indicted. If there was to be fallout, it might
backfire on Hillary. She would need reassurance. Dozoretz and
Denise would provide financial aid, but she might also need political
cover. Azulay recommends Abraham Burg, former speaker of the
Knesset. "Burg is on very friendly terms with Hilary (sic)
and knows POTUS from previous contacts."
The next night there's
a party at the White House honoring Barbra Streisand, Quincy
Jones and Maya Angelou. Dozoretz and Denise are invited, and
Denise lands a plum seat at the presidential table. Denise is
wearing a burgundy ball gown trimmed in fox fur. She eats little
and talks less. After dinner, Denise espies Bill having an intimate
conversation with Streisand. She rushes across the room, cuts
in on Babs and whisks Bill away. She makes an impassioned plea
for the ex-husband , who had humiliated her, stuffs a letter
into Bill's hand and whispers, "I could not bear it were
I to learn you did not see my letter." When Denise arrives
home, she makes a call to Lucerne. It's the first time she has
talked to Marc Rich since the divorce. She describes her meeting
with Clinton. Her friends say she ended the conversation by telling
Rich: "You owe me."
A week later the Rich team is getting antsy. There's still been
no word on how Hillary feels. Rich's New York attorney Robert
Fink sends an email to Quinn: "Of all the options we discussed,
the only one that seems to have real potential for making a difference
is the Hillary option."
Quinn, Dozoretz, Burg and, perhaps, Denise call Hillary's people.
They are told that the senator needs cover. According to a December
26 email from Azulay titled "Chuck Schumer": "Hillary
shall feel more at ease if she is joined by her elder sen. of
NY, who also represents the Jewish population."
Gershon Kekst leaps at the opportunity, firing an email to Fink
looking for Schumer's pressure points:
"Can Quinn tell us who is close enough to lean on Schumer??
I am willing to call him but have no real clout. Jack might be
able to tell us who the top contributors are
Bernard Schwartz was a good guess. The former CEO of Loral (a
Friend of Bill and Marc Rich) was a top DNC contributor and had
lavished money on both Schumer and Hillary. Schwartz also donated
$1 million to the Clinton library fund.
But Quinn had been around
Washington a long time. He knew enough not to trust Schumer,
a famous media hog who was already showing signs of being jealous
of the attention Hillary was getting. Quinn notes: "I have
to believe that the contact with HRC can happen w/o him after
all, we are not looking for a public show of support from her."..
It's now January 19, 2001. Jack Quinn is sitting at a board meeting
of Fanny Mae. He quietly types a message to Denise on his Blackberry.
(It's not known if he bills both clients for this hour of his
time.) The text message urges Denise to make one last call to
Bill. Quinn tells her not to "argue merits" but merely
to explain to Clinton that "it is important to me personally."
Though both women will later dispute it, the Secret Service logs
show that the next afternoon at 5:30, Beth and Denise were admitted
to the private quarters of the White House. This was Denise's
nineteenth visit to the White House. Beth had visited the White
House 76 times in merely the last two years. The logs do not
record when the women departed. This is the encounter that appears
to have consummated the pardon.
At 2:30 in the morning on January 20, Clinton gets a call from
his National Security Advisor. Marc Rich's name has surfaced
in an intelligence file in connection with an international arms
smuggling network. Clinton calls Quinn. Quinn says the allegations
are bogus. Bill turns to his staff, all of whom oppose the pardon
that is now being signed. "Take Jack's word," Clinton
snapped. Later Clinton will claim to have been "sleep deprived"
when he signed the pardon, an excuse that his wife would resurrect
to explain her fabulation of her landing under sniper fire in
Marc Rich bought his pardon and now flies freely in his private
jet, while Leonard Peltier languishes in prison with no hope
of release. That sums up Clintonism.