With former President Clinton miles away at his new New York home, a congressional committee pounded his ex-aides with questions about the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. On Thursday, former White House chief of staff John Podesta, former White House counsel Beth Nolan and former deputy counsel Bruce Lindsey testified before the House Government Reform Committee that none of them favored the Rich pardon, and that Clinton was well aware of their objections.
Much to the chagrin of their more ardent inquisitors, however, the trio was equally adamant that they knew of no quid pro quo between their former boss and Marc Rich's ex-wife, Denise Rich, who has donated more than $1 million to Democratic candidates and $450,000 to Clinton's presidential library fund. Beth Dozoretz, a former Democratic National Committee official, friend of Denise and big booster of the Rich pardon, appeared at the hearing but refused to testify, citing her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Democrats sank their teeth into another witness, Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's current chief of staff and a former lawyer for Marc Rich. Libby said that he had nothing to do with the pardon push, and insisted that Rich did not break any tax laws.
As the Rich investigation plods forward, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., is still struggling to defend her brothers against charges that they pushed the president into granting improper pardons. While Sen. Clinton expressed shock and disappointment last week when reports revealed that her brother Hugh Rodham had pocketed $400,000 from clients who received Clinton pardons, the former first lady said the latest pardon case involving her brother Tony Rodham isn't so problematic. Tony, Clinton proclaims, lobbied for the pardons of Ed and Vonna Jo Gregory, a Tennessee couple convicted of bank fraud, out of friendship, not for money.
Until now, President Bush's family had avoided humiliating him in the public arena, but that could be changing. Jenna Bush, one of the president's twin daughters, traveled with her Secret Service guards to fetch a boozed-up buddy from jail earlier this week. The youth, William Bridges, reportedly told his jailers that he was Jenna Bush's boyfriend. The White House won't comment on the incident.
-- Alicia Montgomery [6 a.m. PST, March 2, 2001]