On January 20th, 2001, just a few hours before leaving office, President Bill Clinton delivered a presidential pardon to Marc Rich – a hedge fund manager and commodities trader indicted in 1983 on 65 criminal counts including tax evasion and illegal trading with Iran during the Iran hostage crisis.
The resulting investigation, spearheaded by James Comey, found no criminal activity on Clinton’s part.
The indictment, filed by US Federal Prosecutor and future New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, marked the biggest tax evasion case in American history. Although Rich’s charges would have earned him a lifetime sentence, the financier escaped to Switzerland and was never imprisoned for his crimes.
Marc Rich remained on the FBI’s Most-Wanted list for years to come, narrowly evading arrest in Germany, Britain, Jamaica, and Finland. He finally stopped running in 2001 when he received the news that Clinton had pardoned him. The pardon was highly controversial, however, and nearly all of Clinton’s advisers begged him not to do it.
Former President Jimmy Carter accused Clinton of taking bribes: “I don’t think there is any doubt that some of the factors in his pardon were attributable to his large gifts. In my opinion, that was disgraceful.”
Federal Prosecutor Mary Jo White was selected to investigate the case, but she stepped down before the ordeal was finished. She was replaced by James Comey, a Republican (at the time) known to be critical of President Clinton’s pardons.
Comey was also suspicious of Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, who had asked to circumvent “standard procedure” by submitting the pardon petition directly to the White House.
Holder was a longtime friend of Jack Quinn, the lawyer who just so happened to be defending Marc Rich. Quinn also had strong connections to the Clintons, having served as Bill Clinton’s White House Counsel and Chief of Staff to Vice President Al Gore.
Meanwhile, Bill Clinton’s top advisers – Bruce Lindsey, John Podesta, and Beth Nolan, testified that nearly all White House staff advising Clinton on the matter urged him not to grant Rich a pardon.
This part will sound hauntingly familiar:
Despite overwhelming evidence, both Marc Rich and President Clinton escaped without punishment when federal investigators found no evidence of criminal activity.