Latest question on Rich pardon: Was it valid?
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Only a few days after a House panel held a similar session, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a special hearing Wednesday into President Clinton's pardon of 18-year fugitive financier Marc Rich.
The hearing will be directed by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, who will temporarily take the panel chair from regular Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who said Tuesday he was content to let Specter run forward with the proceedings.
The House Government Reform Committee opened its own hearings into the matter last week.
Wednesday's hearing will consist of testimony from several witnesses, including Justice Department Pardons Attorney Roger Adams, who will likely be asked whether the controversial pardon was valid, given that Rich never served any sentence in the United States.
Specter on Tuesday released copies of the Rich pardon documents, including a memo from Adams dated January 20.
In that memo, Adams stated, "President Clinton granted Mr. Rich a full and unconditional pardon after completion of sentence." Since Rich has not been sentenced -- or even tried -- Specter questioned whether the pardon was properly granted.
"There may be a real issue as to whether a pardon has been granted here," Specter told reporters Tuesday.
Rich, who once was listed as an international fugitive by the Justice Department and was wanted on tax and fraud charges, was one of 140 people Clinton pardoned hours before he left office. He has lived in exile in Switzerland since 1983.
Hatch calls on Clinton to testify
Hatch suggested Tuesday that Clinton should consider testifying before Congress to "clear the air" on some of his more eyebrow-raising pardons.
The chairman said Clinton should not be forced to come to Capitol Hill to testify, but warned these questions will continue to brew and that the American people want answers.
"If I was President Clinton I would want to come and clear the air and answer these questions that are in the mind of the public. This is not going to go away easily, so the best way to answer this is to be straightforward and tell the truth," Hatch said.
On the House side, the Government Reform Committee sent out several subpoenas and letters Tuesday seeking to determine whether there was might link Clinton's pardon Rich to financial contributions he or his former wife, Denise Rich, may have made to the Clintons or other Democrats.
The House committee faxed subpoenas to Clinton's presidential library foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas, seeking the names and contribution amounts from donors who gave $5,000 or more to the foundation.
At the same time, the committee faxed a subpoena to the Democratic National Committee in Washington seeking information regarding contributions from Denise Rich or any members of her family.
The House committee is also expected to send a subpoena to an undisclosed bank seeking the records of two of Denise Rich's bank accounts.
The committee also sent letters to the National Archives and the Secret Service for White House entry logs, phone logs and e-mails related to Marc and Denise Rich, Jack Quinn, the former White House lawyer who worked for Marc Rich, and Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
The committee also asked the Defense Intelligence Agency for any information it may have gathered on Rich since he left the country in 1983.
Finally, the committee sent a letter to the Central Intelligence Agency asking it to declassify some information the agency turned over to the committee on Rich that the committee now wants to make public.
Leahy questions Clinton's judgment
In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, was skeptical that Clinton ever would be able to placate his critics no matter how much information he volunteered on whether there was any connection between the Rich pardon and political contributions by the financier's former wife, Denise Rich.
But Leahy questioned whether Clinton took his pardon power seriously enough.
"The bottom line is with that enormous power comes enormous responsibility and frankly I have not seen anything in the Rich pardon suggesting to me the responsibility was fully carried out," Leahy said.
Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said he thinks Congress should be looking towards the future.
"The American people are so weary and so tired of all of the charges and countercharges. I think what they want to do is close the book and move on," Daschle said.
But Sen. John Edwards, D-North Carolina, told CNN he does not understand why Clinton issued the Rich pardon and suggested he should provide an explanation.
"It doesn't make sense to me and it would be awfully helpful to a lot of people Republicans and Democrats alike and probably more importantly the American people to hear the president say why he did what he did," Edwards said.
Despite the controversy, Hatch maintained the presidential right to pardon is a "time-honored constitutional right," and Clinton should be given the benefit of the doubt unless "you can prove criminal activity."
"When you add the so-called money trail, it's causing people a lot of angst around the country whether there was a quid pro quo here or whether President Clinton responds to money, and, you know, I hope that isn't the case," Hatch said. "I'll give him the benefit of the doubt."
Hatch said he expects Specter to "go as far as he can" in the probe as part of the oversight role of Congress.
CNN producers Ted Barrett and Dana Bash and CNN.com editor Ian Christopher McCaleb contributed to this article.
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