Former White House counsel Beth Nolan, chief of staff John Podesta and adviser Bruce Lindsey told the House Government Reform Committee they advised Clinton against pardoning Rich, the fugitive billionaire charged with racketeering, wire fraud, income tax evasion and illegal oil trading.
“The staff informed the president that it was our view that the pardon should not be granted,” Podesta said.
Podesta said he thought Clinton would never grant the pardon. But he also says he doesn’t think Clinton did anything illegal in granting it. All three said they know of nothing to link the pardon to contributions to the Clinton library, Mrs. Clinton’s Senate campaign or the Democratic National Committee.
The House panel subpoenaed the three aides in its widening investigation of possible influence peddling or links between campaign donations and the pardon of Rich and others on Clinton’s last day in office. Marc Rich’s ex-wife Denise gave more than $1 million to Democratic causes and $450,000 to the Clinton library.
At today’s hearing, the former finance chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee refused to testify to Congress about the Rich pardon. Appearing before the House Government Reform Committee, Beth Dozoretz cited her constitutional right against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions about whether Clinton pardoned Rich in return for campaign contributions from Denise Rich, who also has declined to answer questions before the committee.
The committee also heard testimony today about the role of Hugh Rodham, brother of former First Lady Hillary Clinton, who successfully represented a convicted cocaine trafficker seeking clemency and a tax evader seeking a pardon.
Meanwhile, New York state officials said today they will sue Rich for income tax evasion and will seek $137 million owed on money he made in the 1980s while in control of two companies that admitted fraud involving illegal oil trading.
The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance filed a tax warrant against Rich, who fled the United States to Switzerland 17 years ago under indictment on a string of fraud and racketeering charges but was pardoned by former President Clinton during his last hours in office Jan. 20.
“Mr. Rich has avoided his tax payments in New York for nearly two decades while he was under federal indictment,” New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Arthur Roth said in a statement. “It is now time for him to pay the piper,” said Roth, who added that the department had not previously filed civil litigation against Rich in order not to jeopardize the federal investigation against him that led to criminal charges.