Pardon Hillary Now?

I'm thinking more unthinkable thoughts.

Via Glenn Reynolds, I found myself walking down memory lane with this reflection on a newly resurrected Pardongate case by Captain Ed:

One can ask for no clearer indication that the Clinton administration had a fire sale on presidential pardons, and made sure that the money stayed in the family.

Hillary Clinton needs to answer for this. It involves her brother and her husband, and the family business in presidential pardons can be expected to have a grand re-opening if Hillary wins the presidential election in 2008. George Bush cannot allow this obvious corruption to go uninvestigated, and if the facts bear it out, Bill Clinton and Anthony Rodham should face prosecution for corruption.

The Pardongate scandal is an oldie but a goodie. It never got the play it should have, because the pardon fire sale happened at the last possible minute -- during the lamest lame duck days of the nearly extinct Clinton administration.

Not only had George W. Bush just been elected, the unsuspecting country was in the last stages of its naive, pre-9/11 days.

And now that I think about it, the country was still in its pre-blogosphere days! That means there were no hordes of bloggers to scrutinize the pardons. There were a lot of them, and as pure corruption goes, this was the worst scandal of the Clinton administration, and possibly any administration. Here's Salon's editor in 2001:

it's not just Rich and Green. There's Carlos Vignali, the cocaine trafficker whose father was a big Democratic contributor (and one of the two men whose lawyers paid Hugh Rodham $200,000 for his services). Thanks to his well-connected dad, Vignali relied on a network of folks close to the Clintons. "How'd you get out?" Vignali's lawyer asked him, shocked at his client's release halfway through his 15-year sentence. "Word around prison was that it was the right time to approach the president," Vignali replied, according to the L.A. Times.

"This was a straight-up drug dealer, a source of cocaine, proven at trial, convicted by a jury and sentenced to a fair sentence," the U.S. attorney who prosecuted him, Todd Jones, told Good Morning America. Jones, who is black, said Vignali's pardon "further erodes any confidence that the public, particularly communities of color, may have that federal drug laws are enforced fairly." Indeed. Prominent Los Angeles Democrats, as well as Cardinal Roger Mahony, also pleaded Vignali's case, but Mahony at least has since said he regrets his involvement. So should Clinton.

Then there's Hugh Rodham's other would-be benefactor, Glenn Braswell, the herbal-medicine mogul sentenced to three years in prison in 1983 for mail fraud, perjury and tax evasion. Clinton, lamely, claims he didn't know that Braswell was under investigation by federal prosecutors for separate cases of tax evasion and money laundering, which his pardon made harder to prosecute. He might have known if the pardon had gone through normal Justice Department channels, but Braswell was apparently too deserving of urgent mercy to abide by the normal process. Maybe he had a sick friend who desperately needed one of the phony baldness cures Braswell specialized in providing.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton's campaign treasurer, New York attorney William Cunningham III, helped obtain last-minute pardons for two Arkansas tax evaders, Robert Clinton Fain and James Lowell Manning. Even more intriguing, the pair were referred to Cunningham by Clinton's New York campaign guru and fixer Harold Ickes. With pals like these, maybe you don't need to talk directly to the first lady and senator.

The list goes on. There's Tom Bhakta, another Arkansas businessman convicted of tax evasion. (His name was misspelled in his hasty pardon). For geographic balance, we have the four New York Hasidic leaders -- convicted of stealing $40 million in student grants, small-business loans and housing subsidies from their suburban New Square community (those guys certainly took a village, literally) -- after their representatives met with the president and his wife, their new senator, in December. In that case, no money is alleged to have changed hands, but there may have been political considerations at play. On Election Day, the New York Daily News reported, the New Square community gave only 12 votes out of more than 1,400 to Clinton's GOP opponent Rick Lazio, while a nearby Hasidic community not affiliated with New Square chose Lazio over Clinton, 781 to 26.

There are no doubt other stinky pardons. This list alone makes the pardons Clinton granted strictly on personal prerogative -- to his brother Roger for his cocaine conviction (Roger will need another, thanks to his DUI last weekend); to his Whitewater pal, Susan McDougal, who went to jail rather than talk to Kenneth Starr -- look humanitarian by comparison. (And believers in the vast left-wing conspiracy will love the footnote that Hugh Rodham's lawyer, Nancy Luque, defended former Kathleen Willey pal Julie Hiatt Steele when she was battling the evil Starr machine.)

Now, instead of battling, say, evil Starr machine factotum Ted Olson, newly appointed as George W. Bush's solicitor general, Democrats are having to either defend or distance themselves from Clinton's mess. These outrageous pardons seem to confirm everything Clinton-haters said about them (well, maybe not the charges that they murdered small children, or poor Vince Foster). They appear to be the corrupt, self-dealing mandarins of their opponents' most virulent imaginings, insulated from the implications of their grasping and their bad judgment by layers of protective minions all these years.

That's just an excerpt, but come on. Selling pardons, for cash, to convicts?

The Justice Department (per Mary Jo White) had a case going, and there was a lot of talk about Bush doing the right thing and pardoning the Clintons, but Bush (and his advisers, doubtless weighing his slim margin of victory and the Democrats' threat to go ballistic had Bush dared pardon the Clintons) obviously wanted to put the acrimony behind, and "move on."

But a huge unresolved scandal can't be expected to stay disappeared when a principal player decides to run for president. It's one thing to move on and forget the past, but quite another to return to power a co-partner in an administration which left such a grand mess as its last nose-thumbing gesture.

At the time, I thought Bush should have just pardoned the Clintons, and I'm sure there were many reasons why he didn't. Bush's style was to sweep the whole thing under the carpet (a literal coverup?) and let bygones be bygones. That would have been fine had bygones become bygones. The problem is that if Hillary makes a serious run for the presidency, the Pardongate scandal will not be a bygone. The stuff Captain Ed is talking about is barely the tip of the iceberg.

Still, I'm wondering. Is it too late to pardon the Clintons? Couldn't Bush just pardon Hillary? (Honestly, I don't see how it could hurt his ratings. And legally speaking, no indictment is necessary.)

Might it be time to put the whole mess behind us?


UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and welcome all!

I notice that commenter Daveg below mentioned the White House dishes. Frankly, I had forgotten about that. China was the last thing on my mind, but yes, let's bygone that doggone bygone too!

posted by Eric on 07.10.06 at 10:15 AM


Now that's funny. The more likely scenario is that Hillary will have to consider pardoning Bush someday.

ny nick   ·  July 10, 2006 1:33 PM

On the plus side, maybe she'll return all of the Whitehouse dishes that accidentally got packed by the movers.

Daveg   ·  July 10, 2006 1:39 PM

Hillary to Geo. Bush, "I beg your pardon."
Bush to Hillary, "it's all whitewater under the bridge."

Esbiem   ·  July 10, 2006 1:59 PM

When Hillary announces her bid to re-enter the White House, the facts about her life will make the Swift Boat Vets' ads on John Kerry look like child's play.

TexasRainmaker   ·  July 10, 2006 2:00 PM

It is so funny how leftists are so comfortable with committing illegal and immoral acts, yet tell others to do as they say, not as they do.

It is part of the reason Republicans are so much happier than Democrats.

But this would be a good way to sabotage her PResidential campaign. But it would be better to do that after she actually wins the nomination (which is not a guarantee). The Kosa Nostra is already trying to purge anyone who supports the Iraq War from the Democratic Party.

The 2008 Presidential Election will really be a weird one, for many reasons.

Twok   ·  July 10, 2006 2:47 PM

Now that's funny. The more likely scenario is that Hillary will have to consider pardoning Bush someday.

Why not both? Then later, Jeb can pardon Chelsea, and Chelsea can later pardon the twins.

Tom Maguire   ·  July 10, 2006 3:22 PM

Pardon them only after full allocution.

Mike G in Corvallis   ·  July 10, 2006 3:32 PM

How about a new tradition. The first act of business of every new president is to pardon the departing president and first lady. /sarcasm

Ross   ·  July 10, 2006 3:50 PM

Which law is it that Hillary is supposed to have violated, that she'd need to be pardoned for?

The Constitution itself is silent on the issue of why the President may pardon someone, or whether he may take payment for it, so we're left with the question of legislation.

18 USC 201 would seem to cover the President, though one willing to debate the meaning of "is" is certianly going to be willing to debate the nature of being an "officer" or "acting on behalf of the United States".

(For that matter, IANAL - it could be that that language, in a close legal reading without any straining, already exempts the President. I don't know. I suspect that the President is always "acting on behalf of" the executive branch, but perhaps as its unquestioned head, it acts on behalf of him? Law's tricky that way, though my intuition is that the President is covered and is meant to be covered by 18 USC 201.)

However, I see no way that 18 USC 201 could possibly cover Hillary Clinton while she was First Lady, as she was not a member of congress, an officer, or acting on behalf of the United States in any way - the First Lady has no legal powers whatsoever.

Unless there's compelling (ie, convictable) evidence Hillary acted as a go-between
in such a case, there's nothing to pardon.

Sigivald   ·  July 10, 2006 5:43 PM

"Selling pardons, for cash, to convicts?"

Isn't that kind of triple reduntant? OK, it could be something other than cash. And, it could be to someone about to be convicted, or at least with a lot of reason to worry about it... which leads me to:

"Couldn't Bush just pardon Hillary? ... Might it be time to put the whole mess behind us?"

Ha ha, that would be the last thing it would accomplish. Think about it, what would it do to Hill's electoral outlook if she suddenly became the recipient of pardon? Like, the weekend before the election?

Maybe GDub is keeping that one under his hat until the best possible moment, a la the well-timed DUI bomb drop.

kyle Bennett   ·  July 10, 2006 6:10 PM

Sigivald, I'm talking about AVOIDING any prosecution, not dredging up the past. There's plenty of stuff out there, but that's really not my point.

The nature of the charge would be conspiracy -- which does not require holding an official position. If Hillary acted as a go-between, she'd be a conspirator. (Even if her husband enjoyed presidential immunity, that would not immunize her.)

There's also the issue of pardons and campaign contributions.

Barbara Olsen nearly filled a book with such allegations (including the terrorist pardons).

Is it really necessary to get into asking why John Cunningham III, attorney for two of the pardoned criminals, became Hillary's campaign treasurer?

Or why the money from pardoned criminals went to the Rodhams?,10987,100549,00.html

(an article titled "Pardon Me, Boys")

This is barely a start, but why dredge through this stuff? I'd rather not. I say pardon her now!

Tom, I think what you and Nick are talking about might lead to cycles of pardons. Well, why not?

Eric Scheie   ·  July 10, 2006 6:50 PM

Why shouldn't Wubya just cut to the chase and give Hillary the real kiss of death; his endorsement for nomination and election to the presidency?

Chuck Ames   ·  July 10, 2006 7:38 PM

Because she might win, and his conscience would never let him rest.

Don Meaker   ·  July 10, 2006 10:42 PM

You might want to take a gander at this...

Nixon - 863 pardons
Ford - 382 pardons in just three years
Carter - 534 pardons
Reagan - 393 Pardons
George I - 74 what a hardass!! :)
Clinton - 396 pardons

I'm quite sure there were some unsavory characters in all these groups. I'd also be willing to bet that if you looked hard enough, you could find some interesting connections in quite a few of these pardons. If that bothers you, then welcome to politics my naive friend. Political affiliations seem to be generating a lot of selective ethics lately.

T. Stafford   ·  July 11, 2006 1:40 AM

Frankly, I think it's a crying shame the pardon process has fallen into such disarray, as it was intended to be an important constitutional remedy.

The current president is one of the stingiest of all -- 69 pardons in nearly TWO TERMS:

I don't think it is naive, though, to observe that what stands out most about the Clinton pardons was their last minute (last DAY!) nature.

In total, President Clinton issued 456 executive clemency orders - 395 pardons and 61 commutations - between 1993 and January 20, 2001. The vast majority were issued in the last three years of his presidency - 176 (140 pardons, 36 commutations) were issued on his last day in office.

Here's the list of the last day pardons (January 20, 2001 -- the number appears to be 141):

Pardon Attorney Roger Adams complained that he and his staff didn't have time to follow normal procedures:

I think the pardon process was seriously damaged by Bill Clinton, and that this is at least a partial explanation of why the remedy is sinking into oblivion.


While I guess it is a bit naive to hope that President Bush might be more generous with pardons, I do think that considering the totality of the circumstances, pardoning the Clintons would appropriately serve the ends of justice.

Eric Scheie   ·  July 11, 2006 8:39 AM
cheap rental wedding chair cover   ·  July 15, 2006 11:48 PM

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