February 13, 2001, - 1:18 am

Clinton’s Pardons Get Worse

By Debbie Schlussel

The pardons hit the fan fast and furious in the waning hours of the Clinton presidency.

“You’re not saying these people didn’t commit an offense,” Bill explained about his pardons in the Jan. 22 New York Times. “You’re saying they paid, they paid in full, and they’ve been out long enough after their sentence to show they are good citizens.”

Trouble is, these “good citizens” who “paid in full” keep getting worse:

Everybody knows about Marc Rich, the billionaire fugitive, who never served a day in jail and currently lives “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” in Switzerland. On the FBI’s most wanted list, he was the largest tax evader in U.S. history and sold out America by selling oil to the Iranians, while they held our hostages captive. Why the pardon? Could it be because ex-wife Denise gave millions in contributions to the Democratic National Committee, Hillary’s Senate campaign, Bill’s Presidential Library and the Clintons’ furniture spree?

Then there was Mel Reynolds — ex-congressman and child molester extraordinaire. Likening a prospective threesome with an underage Catholic schoolgirl to hitting the Lotto, he now works for Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH advising kids. Why did Clinton pardon Reynolds? Because the Rev. Jesse asked him to.

Carlos Vignali — a drug kingpin and one of the largest cocaine dealers in U.S. history — is the latest newsworthy Clinton pardonee. Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times detailed Vignali’s career as “the central player in a cocaine ring that stretched from California to Minnesota,” delivering more than 800 pounds of cocaine. Why did Clinton pardon Vignali, who served only six years of a 15-year sentence for convictions on three counts of federal narcotics violations? Maybe because his father, rich Los Angeles entrepreneur Horacio Vignali, a la Denise Rich, donated over $160,000 to mostly Democrat politicians who wrote to Clinton and then-Attorney General Janet Reno, asking for clemency for Vignali.

And since it’s Black History Month, here’s some black history about the white, Hispanic Vignali. In the game of “Clinton Monopoly,” this kingpin drew a “get out of jail free” card, while his 30 co-defendants — many of them poor blacks — are rotting away in the federal penal system. One of them, Todd Hopson, was described as “an uneducated Black kid with a noticeable stutter” whose mid-level role in a Minneapolis drug ring “was nothing compared to Vignali.” But don’t expect to hear the NAACP and other civil-rights businesses attack their hero Clinton over his racially-profiled pardons. They’re too busy attacking new President Bush.

The only one missing from Clinton’s pardon list is O.J. Simpson. Oh yeah, he wasn’t convicted.

And darn, Clinton just missed the chance at posthumously pardoning Billy the Kid. Descendants of BtK, among the most notorious outlaws and killers in the Old West, are asking New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson to pardon “the Kid.” Sentenced to hang for murdering then-Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady by shooting him in the back 16 times, BtK escaped from jail by murdering two deputies.

Why should BtK, a.k.a. Henry McCarty, a.k.a. William H. Bonney, be pardoned? Well, why not, with the types Bill Clinton has pardoned.

“The Kid’s” great-grandson, Elbert Garcia, and other family “just want to see if Billy could be pardoned,” said New Mexico State Rep. Ben Rios, who is helping BtK’s family in their bid for the pardon. With drug kingpins, child molesters, and billionaire tax-evaders who sold out U.S. hostages to terrorist nations on Clinton’s pardon list, BtK would make it a royal flush. President James Garfield, who occupied the White House at the time of the Kid’s crime and execution in 1881, had the good sense, unlike Clinton, never to grant such an outrageous pardon.

But, at least, in contrast to Clinton’s unconscionable pardons, the Kid’s relatives have the guts to admit their part in their ridiculous effort. The Vignali’s claim they “have no idea who” helped them or why, even though Vignali told his Minneapolis lawyer he got out because “word around prison was that it was the right time to approach the president.” And presidents send word to federal inmates every day, right?

When news of the Rich pardon swirled, Denise Rich, through her spokesman Bobby Zarem, said she “didn’t know about the pardon. She was completely and totally taken by surprise,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s not something she would have wanted.” Really? As it turns out, not only was it something she knew about and wanted, the pardon was the result solely of her aggressive campaign, including the large contributions to the Clintons. Congressman Dan Burton, who is investigating this, is trying to offer Ms. Rich immunity, in exchange for her testimony. Given her big lie from the beginning, how will he know she’s ever telling the truth?
And there are the allegations that Ms. Rich may be Monica, Part Deux. She visited the White House over 100 times last year, mostly while Hillary was out of town. Then, there’s Clinton’s description of her as one of his “closest friends” and statements of some sort of “relationship.” The New York Times wrote of Ms. Rich’s “certain direct charm,” and her friend, talk-show host Geraldo Rivera, speaks of her desire “to be a kind of Pamela Harriman,” the late Democratic Party fund-raiser, who charmed the wealthy Averill Harriman into marrying her and Clinton into naming her ambassador to France.

But how will we ever know? After all, Bill and Monica both lied and got away with it. And virtually everyone involved with Clinton’s pardons is lying. Take Hillary, please. She denies any role in the Rich pardon.

“I know nothing about that,” she told the New York Post.

“I do not believe that anyone ever approached Sen. Clinton,” Rich’s lead pardon lawyer, Jack Quinn, told House investigators, Thursday. But both Quinn and Hillary were at a fund-raiser at Ms. Rich’s New York penthouse apartment in October, raising money for Hillary. Why was Quinn there, if not for the pardon? What were they discussing — the price of tea in China?
Remember Bill Clinton’s promise, in 1992, that his would be the most ethical presidency in history. He signed executive orders in 1993, preventing former administration staffers from lobbying him. But, in December, he signed a new order revoking the 1993 ones, just in time for former staffer Quinn, a former White House counsel and Gore chief of staff, to lobby for Rich’s pardon.

On the last day of his presidency, after pardons were announced and Bush was inaugurated, Clinton went to a Chappaqua, N.Y., deli for a sandwich. The New York Times reports that Kathleen McAvoy asked her daughter, Siobhan, “Don’t you want to have a president’s signature?”

“He is not a president,” Siobhan replied firmly.

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