U.S. Attorney White Keeps the Iron Hot

  • Share
  • Read Later

U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White

While national attention's been focused on the conflict with China, federal prosecutors have been moving forward quietly and quickly in their investigation of Bill Clinton's last-minute pardons. TIME has learned that U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White has dropped a subpoena on Clinton's brother, Roger, for a grand jury appearance this week to discuss his role in an alleged pardon swindle. Insiders say that White has all but finished with most witnesses in the controversial clemency granted to four New York Hasidic Jewish leaders. And, in a possibly major development, one lawyer close to the investigation says that White has struck an immunity deal with Democratic donor Denise Rich, whose international financier ex-husband Marc was pardoned by Clinton despite objections from White House lawyers.

A host of witnesses connected to the pardon of Rich, the fugitive financier whose clemency kicked off the furor about how Bill Clinton used his pardon power, have already either been before the grand jury in New York or have been interviewed by White's prosecutors, according to lawyers close to the case. Beth Dozoretz, a friend of Clinton and Denise Rich, testified in grand jury proceedings earlier this month and will be returning for another appearance. Jack Quinn, an attorney for Marc Rich who took the pardon plea to the President, also testified, as did another Rich lawyer, Robert Fink. Beth Nolan, the former White House counsel who opposed the Rich pardon, agreed to talk to White's prosecutors outside of the grand jury.

Democratic donor Denise Rich, who was persuaded to go to bat for her former husband in spite of a bitter divorce, had been bargaining with prosecutors for weeks in an attempt to work out an immunity deal. Any deal she cuts means nothing she tells them, and nothing derived from leads she gives them, can be used against her. Investigators are looking at whether Clinton pardoned Marc Rich in exchange for large contributions from Denise Rich to Clinton's presidential library, the Democratic party or other political campaigns, and whether Marc Rich was the actual source of the money.

Rich's lawyers declined comment, as did White's office. However, cautioned a lawyer who represents a different witness in the case, "Immunity was inevitable for her, given the theory that they are investigating. It doesn't mean the investigation is necessarily going anywhere."

Roger Clinton's subpoena requires him to appear before the grand jury on April 20. While Clinton has said he received no money from a handful of people for whom he requested clemency from his brother (the President denied them all), two Texans claim they were swindled after being solicited to pay more than $200,000 to a group that included Roger Clinton — who was then supposed to secure a pardon for a relative, but did not attempt to do so, they allege. Several witnesses connected to those allegations have testified recently as well.

Bart Williams, Roger Clinton's lawyer, said he doesn't know if his client will testify or claim his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. "It's always a very serious matter when one is asked to testify before the grand jury and one should proceed cautiously," said Williams, who also added that he was trying to convince White's office to give Clinton more time to make the decision.

He may find White a tough sell. "They are moving speedily along, and they are not letting people have extensions," said a lawyer who represents someone else in the pardons probe. Most of the possible witnesses connected to the clemency granted to four Hasidic Jews from the New Square, N.Y., community, for instance, have already testified. The four were convicted of stealing more than $30 million in government funds by establishing a fictitious religious school; their sentences were commuted after the Grand Rabbi of their ultra-Orthodox community arranged a Dec. 22 meeting at the White House with both Clintons present. New Square had voted almost unanimously for Hillary Clinton in the New York Senate race. But, said a lawyer familiar with the case, even if Hillary had promised to lobby her husband for clemency in exchange for the town's votes (and there appears to be no proof of that), it would be tough to find a crime there. "Politicians make promises all the time," said the lawyer. "That's nothing new — or illegal."