Bill Clinton pardons controversy

President Bill Clinton was widely criticized for some pardons and other acts of executive clemency; [ [ Presidential Pardons ] ] collectively, this controversy has sometimes been called Pardongate in the press. [Reaves, Jessica, [,8599,100795,00.html "Pardongate Play-by-Play":'s quick 'n' constantly updated account of the Clinton pardon scandals] , "TIME"] Federal prosecutor Mary Jo White was appointed to investigate the pardons. She was later replaced by James Comey. Comey found no grounds to indict Clinton.

FALN Commutation of 1999

On August 11 1999, Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 members of FALN, a violent Puerto Rican nationalist group that set off 120 bombs in the United States mostly in New York City and Chicago, convicted for conspiracies to commit robbery, bomb-making, and sedition, as well as for firearms and explosives violations. [ [ Press Release 1999 #352 News Advisory] , United States Department of Justice: " [ The Office of Public Affairs] ", 1999-08-11] None of the 16 were convicted of bombings or any crime which injured another person, though they were sentenced with terms ranging from 35 to 105 years in prison for the conviction of conspiracy and sedition. Congress, however, recognizes that the FALN is responsible for "6 deaths and the permanent maiming of dozens of others, including law enforcement officials." All of the 16 had served 19 years or longer in prison, which was a longer sentence than such crimes typically received, according to the White House. [Katharine Q. Seelye, The New York Times, [ Clinton to Commute Radicals' Sentences] , August 12, 1999. Retrieved January 13, 2008.] Clinton offered clemency, on condition that the prisoners renounce violence, at the appeal of 10 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, President Jimmy Carter, the cardinal of New York, and the archbishop of Puerto Rico. The commutation was opposed by U.S. Attorney's Office, the FBI, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons and criticized by many including former victims of FALN terrorist activities, the Fraternal Order of Police, [Press release: Gallegos, Gilbert G., [ "Letter to President William Jefferson Clinton"] , "Fraternal Order of Police Grand Lodge", 1999-08-18] members of Congress. Hillary Clinton, then campaigning for her first term in the Senate, initially supported the commutation, [ [ "White House responds to criticism of clemency offer"] , "CNN: AllPolitics", 1999-09-02] but later withdrew her support when the prisoners had refused to renounce violence more than three weeks after clemency was offered. [Black, Chris, [ "First lady opposes presidential clemency for Puerto Rican Nationalists"] , "CNN: AllPolitics", 1999-09-05] Congress condemned the action, with a vote of 95-2 in the Senate and 311-41 in the House. [ [ "Congressional Record — HOUSE" H8019] , "United States Government Printing Office", 1999-09-09] [ [ "Congressional Record — SENATE" S18018] , "United States Government Printing Office", 1999-09-14] The U.S. House Committee on Government Reform held an investigation on the matter, but the Justice Department prevented FBI officials from testifying. [Frieden, Terry, [ "Justice blocks FBI testimony at FALN clemency hearing"] , "CNN", 1999-09-14] President Clinton cited executive privilege for his refusal to turn over some documents to Congress related to his decision to offer clemency to members of the FALN terrorist group.

Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory pardons

In March 2000, Bill Clinton pardoned Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory, owners of the carnival company United Shows International, for charges of bank fraud from a 1982 conviction (the couple were already out of jail, but the prior conviction prevented them from doing business transactions in certain states). First Lady Hillary Clinton's youngest brother, Tony Rodham, was an acquaintance of the Gregorys, and had lobbied Clinton on their behalf. [ [ Larry King Live transcript] , March 2, 2001] In October 2006, the group Judicial Watch filed a request with the U.S. Justice Department for an investigation, alleging that Rodham had received $107,000 from the Gregorys for the pardons, in the form of loans that were never repaid, as part of a quid pro quo scheme. [ [ "JW Calls on Justice Department to Investigate Hillary Clinton’s Brother"] , October 11, 2006]

Pardons and commutations signed on final day in office

Clinton issued 140 pardons as well as several commutations on his last day of office (January 20, 2001). [ [ "Clinton Pardon's List"] , "Associated Press via The Washington Post", 2001-01-20] When a sentence is commuted, the conviction remains intact, but the sentence can be altered in a number of ways. Some controversial actions include the following:
* Peter MacDonald - The day before President Clinton left office,U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy lobbied the White House to commute the sentence of the former leader of the Navajo Nation. MacDonald was sentenced to 14 years at a Federal Prison in Texas for fraud, extortion, inciting riots, bribery, and corruption stemming from the Navajo purchase of the Big Boquillas Ranch in Northwestern Arizona. He was commuted after serving 10 years.
* 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. [Moss, Michael, [ "Officials Say Investigation Will Go On Despite Pardon"] , "The New York Times", 2001-02-08] 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. [Joan Walsh,, [ Unpardonable] , Feb. 23, 2001. Retrieved Jan. 13, 2008. CNN, [ Rodham says he has repaid fees for clemency cases] , February 24, 2001. Retrieved Jan. 13, 2008.] 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. [ [ "Owner takes Fifth in Senate 'miracles' probe"] , "CNN", 2001-09-10]
* Linda Sue Evans and Susan Rosenberg were pardoned. Weather Underground members, they were imprisoned on weapons and explosives charges. [Tommy Christopher, "Clinton has Bigger Weather Underground Problem," "Political Machine," in "AOL News," April 16, 2008] [Jay Nordlinger, National Review online, 2004]
* Marc Rich, a fugitive, was pardoned of tax evasion, after clemency pleas from Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, among many other international luminaries. He was required to pay a $100 million dollar fine and waive any use of the pardon as a defense against any future civil charges that were filed against him in the same case. Critics complained that Denise Rich, his former wife, had made substantial donations to the Clinton library and to Mrs. Clinton's senate campaign. Emails uncovered during the course of the investigation revealed that her final donation was provided a year before Scooter Libby requested that she approach Clinton for a pardon. 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. [Neisloss, Liz, [ "Probe: $1.8B diverted to Hussein regime"] , "CNN", 2005-10-27] But he was rewarded for his work in the intelligence community. More on this can be seen at

* 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. [ [ "Roger Clinton now target of pardon probe"] , "CNN", 2001-02-22] He was also briefly alleged to have been utilized in lobbying for the Braswell pardon, among others. However, no wrongdoing was uncovered.

On Feb. 18, 2001, Clinton wrote a New York Times column defending the 140 pardons. [cite web|url=|title=My Reasons for the Pardons|publisher=New York Times|date=February 18, 2001]

ee also

* List of scandals with "-gate" suffix
* List of people pardoned by Bill Clinton
* List of people pardoned by a United States president

External links

* [ "Justice Undone: Clemency Decision in the Clinton White House"] , Report of the House Committee on Government Reform
* [ "My Reasons for the Pardons"] , William Jefferson Clinton, New York Times, February 18, 2001
* See also [ "Clinton's Clemency Caper in Context."]
* See also [ "Last Minute Pardons: Fact and Fiction"]
* See also [ Clinton Administration Scandals]


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