It’s almost funny, reading and hearing Democrat indignation about President Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s 30-month jail sentence. Bush left intact the $250,000 fine, the probation and the overall conviction against him; he just kept Libby from having to go to jail. The appeals case continues.
Where were today’s outraged Democrats when Bill Clinton pardoned hundreds of felons, many of them cronies, friends and even relatives of his, in the waning weeks of his presidency?
On November 21, 2000, Clinton pardoned 11 convicts. They had been convicted of bribing union officials, making false statements to a government agency, and dealing cocaine. Clinton did this while the nation was embroiled in and distracted by the Florida fiasco that would eventually end in the Supreme Court.
On December 22, 2000, just a fortnight after the Bush v Gore decision guaranteed that Al Gore would not become president, Clinton issued another round of questionable pardons. At this point, Clinton had just a month left on his presidency. He pardoned 59 people and granted clemency to 3 others. These people had been convicted in Arkansas while Clinton himself was governor of that state, others had been convicted on drug distribution and on wire fraud charges, and Clinton even pardoned long-time Chicago Democrat Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, who had been convicted in 1996 of mail fraud and who had been accused of using public money to pay people on his payroll who did little or no work. Rostenkowski had already served his 17-month sentence; the pardon was no less than a political slap at the jury who had convicted and the judge who had sentenced Rostenkowski.
But Clinton’s most egregious misuse of the presidential pardon power came on January 20, 2001–the final day of his presidency. He pardoned 140 and granted clemency to 36. Among those pardoned or granted clemency:
* Carlos A. Vignali had his sentence for cocaine trafficking commuted, after serving 6 of 15 years in federal prison.
* Almon Glenn Braswell was pardoned of his mail fraud and perjury convictions, even while a federal investigation was underway regarding additional money laundering and tax evasion charges. Braswell and Carlos Vignali each paid approximately $200,000 to Hillary Clinton’s brother, Hugh Rodham, to represent their respective cases for clemency. Hugh Rodham returned the payments after they were disclosed to the public. Braswell would later invoke the Fifth Amendment at a Senate Committee hearing in 2001, when questioned about allegations of his having systematically defrauded senior citizens of millions of dollars.
* Marc Rich, a fugitive, was pardoned of tax evasion, after clemency pleas from Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, among many other international luminaries. Denise Rich, Marc’s former wife, was a close friend of the Clintons and had made substantial donations to both Clinton’s library and Hillary’s Senate campaign. According to Paul Volcker’s independent investigation of Iraqi Oil-for-Food kickback schemes, Marc Rich was a middleman for several suspect Iraqi oil deals involving over 4 million barrels of oil.
* Susan McDougal, who had already completed her sentence, was pardoned for her role in the Whitewater scandal; McDougal had served 18 months on contempt charges for refusing to testify about Clinton’s role.
* Dan Rostenkowski, a former Democratic Congressman convicted in the Congressional Post Office Scandal. Rostenkowski had served his entire sentence.
* Melvin J. Reynolds, a Democratic Congressman from Illinois, who was convicted of bank fraud, 12 counts of sexual assault, obstruction of justice, and solicitation of child pornography had his sentence commuted on the bank fraud charged and was allowed to serve the final months under the auspices of a half way house. He had served his entire sentence on child sex abuse charges before the commutation of the later convictions.
* Roger Clinton, the president’s half-brother, on drug charges after having served the entire sentence more than a decade before. Roger Clinton would be charged with drunk driving and disorderly conduct in an unrelated incident within a year of the pardon. He was also briefly alleged to have been utilized in lobbying for the Braswell pardon, among others.
A sex offender, a corrupt congressman, an Oil-For-Food financier, cronies and his own half-brother the drug dealer. What a list.
But while January 20, 2001 was probably Clinton’s most flagrant slap at the rule of law, his most dangerous came back in 1999. On August 11, 1999, Cilnton commuted the sentences of 16 convicted terrorists. They belonged to the Puerto Rican terrorist group FALN, and had committed a string of attacks mostly in NYC in the 1970s, resulting in the deaths of 6 people. Law enforcement had recommended against the FALN pardons. The 16 Clinton pardoned were linked to Castro’s Cuba. The FBI said that they still posed a threat. Yet Clinton set them free anyway. An investigation ensued, and the Senate voted 95-2 to condemn Clinton’s action (the House also condemned the pardons, by a 311-41 vote). During the House Committee on Government Reform’s investigation of the pardons, the Clinton Justice Department prevented FBI agents from testifying, and that together with Clinton’s use of executive privilege effectively put a lid on the inquiry.
Bill Clinton freed terrorists, drug dealers, child molsters, cronies, his brother, and a man who may have helped Saddam Hussein build and buy international support for his murderous, terrorist-friendly regime. For Bill Clinton to come out now and condemn the single commutation of a single sentence is a bit, shall we say, rich.
Footnote: Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, will hold hearings on the Libby commutation this week. Conyers has been calling for Bush’s impeachment for quite a while now, and even held a moonbat dress-up impeachment hearing before the 2006 elections put him in the chairman slot. When Clinton commuted the FALN terrorists’ sentences in 1999, Conyers voted against condemning it and had this to say:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to what is clearly a politically motivated and totally senseless resolution. We are a Nation of laws, and if any matter is abundantly clear by our Constitution, it is that the President has the sole and unitary power to grant clemency. Is there any Member that does not understand that? Every President has the sole and unitary power to grant clemency…Now the reason that he has the power to grant clemency is that it is that the President is uniquely positioned to consider the law and the facts that apply in each request for clemency.”
Conyers was one of only 41 in the House to vote in support of Clinton’s FALN commutations, a move that freed convicted terrorists.