About that pardon...

On Christmas Eve, President Bush revokes a pardon he'd issued just the day before, to a developer whose father had given $28,500 to the RNC in April.

Published December 25, 2008 4:54PM (EST)

President Bush un-pardoned Brooklyn developer Isaac Toussie on Wednesday, just a day after the White House had announced that the president had wiped away his conviction on fraud charges related to a Long Island mortgage scheme.

"Based on information that has subsequently come to light, the President has directed the Pardon Attorney not to execute and deliver a Grant of Clemency to Mr. Toussie," the White House said in a statement issued at 3:45 p.m., by which point most of the country was paying very little attention to any declarations coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Evidently, Toussie's name had been included on a list of 19 pardons granted on Tuesday without the Justice Department reviewing his case. Usually, Justice officials won't even look at an application for a pardon until at least five years after the person applying finishes their sentence. Toussie was sentenced in 2002 to five months in prison, a $10,000 fine and three years of parole -- which means he didn't meet the Justice Department guidelines. But White House counsel Fred Fielding apparently reviewed Toussie's case and told Bush to approve the pardon, even though Justice hadn't weighed in.

Toussie certainly doesn't sound like the kind of guy who necessarily deserved a lot of mercy. His conviction resulted from using fake documents to get federal mortgages and getting officials in Suffolk County, on Long Island, to overpay for land he sold them. He's also facing a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that he and his father ran a scam preying on first-time and low-income homebuyers, promising them nice homes in the suburbs and instead delivering "shoddily built homes in poor neighborhoods," according to the New York Times.

"The politically connected get what they want, and little people like us are just left to sink or swim," one victim, Maxine Wilson, told the New York Daily News. Not long after she bought a $146,000 house from Toussie, the toilets backed up, the basement flooded, the foundation cracked and the closet doors fell off. "Thanks to the president for the worst Christmas gift you could have ever given us."

One reason Toussie may have been able to slip through the usual process? His father, Robert Toussie, gave $28,500 to the Republican National Committee in April, apparently the first political contribution he'd ever made. (He later followed up with $2,300 contributions each to John McCain and Republican Sens. Norm Coleman and Gordon Smith.) Which makes the whole situation more than a little reminiscent of the pardon of Marc Rich by President Clinton just before he left the White House -- which some Republicans hope they can use against Barack Obama's nominee to be attorney general, Eric Holder, who signed off on that decision. Having a similar episode at the tail end of the Bush administration might make that maneuver a little more difficult to pull off.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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