When you’re the attorney general, you’re the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. You should be above and beyond politics. Politics should not be entering into your decisions; you should be making them based on the Constitution and the law. Although Eric Holder was not attorney general during the Clinton Administration, he was really in charge over there, especially near the end. I just don’t think, with all the other qualified people out there, that he’s the guy I would choose. ~ Congressman Dan Burton in an exclusive interview with HUMAN EVENTS
During the 1970s and 1980s, Marc Rich made billions of dollars by trading with enemies of the United States, including selling weapons to the Iranian regime of Ayatollah Khomeni and helping Russian mafia figures launder money from smuggling drugs and material for nuclear weapons. He fled the United States and renounced his citizenship in order to avoid paying at least $48 million in income taxes in what U.S. attorneys called “the largest tax-evasion scheme ever prosecuted.” He spent years on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list and even his own lawyer, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, called him a traitor. In 2001, Eric Holder, Barack Obama’s apparent choice to be the next Attorney General of the United States, helped arrange a Bill Clinton pardon for this career criminal.
In 1982, the Puerto Rican separatist terrorist group FALN bombed the headquarters of the New York City police department, maiming several police officers. According to the Wall Street Journal, “By 1996, the FBI had linked FALN to 146 bombings and a string of armed robberies — a reign of terror that resulted in nine deaths and hundreds of injured victims.” In 1999, Eric Holder helped arrange Bill Clinton pardons for 16 unrepentant members of FALN who had been convicted of “a variety of charges that included conspiracy, sedition, violation of the Hobbes Act (extortion by force, violence or fear), armed robbery and illegal possession of weapons and explosives — including large quantities of C-4 plastic explosive, dynamite and huge caches of ammunition.”
Had Holder not circumvented the normal pardon request vetting process in the Department of Justice, he would have run across widespread opposition to the pardons, both from inside and outside government. But Holder didn’t seem to care. With the Marc Rich pardon, he hoped to feather his own nest; with the FALN pardons, he was likely aiming to help Hillary Clinton (whose role in the FALN pardons is also quite troubling) in her first Senate campaign.
I discussed these and other issues with Congressman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) who served as Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform during the Committee’s investigations of the Marc Rich and FALN pardons. Following are some of the questions, answers, and analysis from our conversation.
HUMAN EVENTS: Do you think the Marc Rich pardon disqualifies Eric Holder from being the Attorney General of the United States?
Dan Burton: He knew what the problem was with Mark Rich. He knew Rich was the 2nd most wanted person on the FBI’s most wanted list. He’d been made aware of the situation and he said initially that he was neutral on the pardon and then right at the end he said neutral but leaning positive and I think it was poor judgment. I think he did it because he thought he had a chance to be the next attorney general, assuming Al Gore got elected president, but of course that didn’t work out.
The Rich pardon was political incest. Marc Rich hired his attorney, Jack Quinn, on the recommendation of Eric Holder because Holder knew that Quinn, as former White House counsel, was close to Bill Clinton and knew how to work the process. Holder was looking for his back to be scratched in return, with his admission that he had asked Quinn for “his help to become the new attorney general under a Gore administration.” (And of course, Marc Rich’s wife contributed about $400,000 to the Clinton presidential library.)
HE: What are your thoughts on the pardons of the FALN members in 1999?
DB: Those guys were killers. Pardoning terrorists that were involved with killing policemen is absolutely terrible. It’s beyond comprehension.
Congressman Burton has sent information about Eric Holder to Senator Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the committee which would vet the nominee. It would not be surprising to see the first important resistance to the Holder nomination come from those quarters. Indeed, Burton believes that “the only thing that could derail Holder is if some Republican in the Senate put a hold on him.”
Although the dramatic lapses in judgment and ethics demonstrated in the Rich and FALN pardons are enough to oppose Mr. Holder’s confirmation as attorney general, there is a larger case against him.
HE: What are your thoughts about the Elian Gonzales case and Holder’s role in it?
DB: That was a terrible thing. The mother died on the high seas bringing that boy to freedom. She wanted that boy to live in the United States. I met with the family. They (Reno, Holder, and DOJ) were going to force him back to Cuba, even at gunpoint, which they did. I issued a subpoena to have the boy brought before the committee to slow down the process. Janet Reno just went in there and, in my opinion, violated our subpoena, and now he’s back in Cuba being raised by the Communist government. If Mr. Holder does in fact appear before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, I really hope some of the Senators at least inquire about what role, if any, he played in that tragic sequence of events.
Holder does seem to have been involved, appearing more than once as the Administration’s spokesman on the case. After Elian Gonzales was taken from his home, Holder made the remarkable statements that Gonzales “was not taken at the point of a gun” and that “armed agents who went in there…acted very sensitively.”
A major issue of concern for anyone who believes that the attorney general has a responsibility to uphold the Constitution (which presumably requires understanding it) is Eric Holder’s view on the Second Amendment and his long history of supporting extremely restrictive and punitive gun ownership and sales laws.
Holder joined Janet Reno in filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the landmark DC v. Heller case in which Holder supported the argument that the Second Amendment does not confer an individual right to keep and bear arms. Fortunately, Holder, Reno, and the District of Columbia lost, but can we count on Eric Holder to uphold one of our citizens’ fundamental rights?
HE: What do you think of Holder’s view that the Second Amendment doesn’t confer an individual right to own a firearm, as it relates to his fitness for the job of Attorney General?
DB: That alone would make it impossible for me to support him. The right to own and bear arms was guaranteed by our forefathers and the Constitution. As long as the criminals know they can come in your house with a gun and you can’t have one, that’s just what they’ll do. I wouldn’t live in DC…and I don’t live in DC. Criminals can get guns at the drop of a hat, and they use them, and law-abiding citizens are defenseless. It’s insane.
Another concern about Eric Holder is whether he will follow in the footsteps of Janet Reno in refusing to pursue allegations of criminal behavior within the administration that employs him. Congressman Burton noted that he “had sent Reno five criminal referrals (primarily regarding campaign finance violations) — they were iron-clad — and she never acted on any of them. If she were a blocker in the NFL, she’d have made all-pro.” And Holder worked right into that game plan.
Given Holder’s lapses of ethics and judgment in the past, and his apparent willingness to use his position in the Department of Justice for his own future benefit and that of his political allies, Burton’s words of warning ring true:
The one thing I learned from the investigation of Clinton and Reno and the Department of Justice during that time, if you want to make sure you can do anything at all with impunity, just make sure that one appointment — attorney general — is someone who will back you no matter what. Then you can get [away] with anything.