Hillary Clinton was out campaigning in Iowa this week and for the first time she brought her husband Bill along. She wasted no time in lashing out at President Bush’s decision to commute the sentence of “Scooter” Libby saying: “Today’s decision is yet another example that this Administration simply considers itself above the law. …This commutation sends the clear signal that in this Administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice.” Standing behind her, Bill clapped along with the audience, but without too much enthusiasm.
Surely, the former President realized that some journalist like me would dig back into the record of pardons and clemency granted when he was in the White House. It was so rampant and so corrupt that, at one point, it was labeled “Pardongate,” and was the subject of an investigation by Federal prosecutors.
Despite vigorous objections from the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Fraternal Order of Police, President Clinton on August 11, 1999 commuted the sentences of 16 members of FALN, a violent Puerto Rican nationalist group that set off 120 bombs in the United States. They had been convicted of conspiracies to commit robbery, bomb-making, sedition, and firearms/explosives violations. The sentences ranged from 35 to 105 years. Congress condemned the President’s action with a 95-2 vote in the Senate and a 311-41 vote in the House. When the House Committee on Government Reform held an investigation into the matter, Clinton invoked “executive privilege” in refusing to turn over some documents to Congress regarding his commutation decision.
One of the more vocal critics of the President’s action was (are you ready for this) Hillary Clinton – his wife, the First Lady, and soon-to-be Democrat candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in New York. Anticipating that she would be running against Rudy Giuliani, she was trying to avoid any appearance of being soft on terrorism, or crime.
In March, 2000, President Clinton pardoned Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory who had been convicted in 1982 on charges of bank fraud. They were owners of a carnival company and just happened to be close friends of Hillary’s younger brother, Tony Rodham. The group Judicial Watch filed a request with the Justice Department for an investigation, alleging that Rodham had gotten $107,000 from the Gregorys to lobby for the pardons. Technically, they were “loans” — but were never repaid.
Finally, on January 20, 2001 — his last day in office, President Clinton issued no less than 140 pardons and commutations. Many of these raised some serious questions:
• Almon Glenn Braswell was pardoned of his mail fraud and perjury convictions even though a federal investigation was currently underway into tax evasion and money laundering charges.
• Carlos Vignali had his 15-year sentence for cocaine trafficking commuted (after serving only 6 years).
Both Braswell and Vignali paid an estimated $200,000 to Hillary Clinton’s brother, Hugh Rodham, to lobby the President for their clemency. When these payments were made public, Rodham claimed to have returned the payments.
• Marc Rich, a fugitive from justice, was pardoned of tax evasion. He had been implicated in the Iraqi Oil-for-Food kickback schemes involving over 4 million barrels of oil. His former wife, Denise Rich, was a close friend of the Clintons and had made huge donations to the Clinton Library, and to Hillary’s Senate campaign.
• Susan McDougal was pardoned for her role in the Whitewater scandal.
• Former Illinois Democrat Congressman Dan Rostenkowski was pardoned after having been convicted in the Congressional Post Office Scandal.
• Clinton also commuted the sentence of former Illinois Democrat Congressman Melvin J. Reynolds who was in jail for bank fraud, 12 counts of sexual assault, obstruction of justice, and solicitation of child pornography.
• Last, but certainly not least, President Clinton issued a full pardon to Roger Clinton, his half-brother, who had served time for convictions on drug charges. In less than a year after his pardon, Roger would be arrested again on charges of drunk driving and disorderly conduct.
Now, Bill and Hillary Clinton have the colossal gall to utter a word of criticism about President Bush’s commutation of the jail sentence part of the “Scooter” Libby perjury conviction. A Special Federal Prosecutor’s “fishing expedition” had wanted to show that Libby was the culprit in disclosing the identify of CIA employee Valerie Plame. Since it was clear that Libby was not involved in that, and that no crime had been committed, it is difficult to understand why he was even on the witness stand in the case.
When it comes to putting yourself “above the law” and “cronyism”, the Clintons clearly hold the record. Those who view that record will find it very difficult to “pardon” their bold and blatant hypocrisy.