Holder Says Justice Department Not to Blame For Rich Pardon

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Former Clinton Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder told a House committee on Thursday that he wasn't involved and the Justice Department is not to blame for former President Clinton's controversial last minute pardon of international fugitive Marc Rich.

"The career people in the [Justice] department worked very hard to process all of the pardon requests that came to them in the waning days and the hours of the Clinton administration. They are not to be faulted in this matter," Holder told the House Government Operations Committee.

Holder said he acted in the manner that was consistent with his duties as Deputy Attorney General under then Attorney General Janet Reno. However, he has had second thoughts about the Rich case.

"In hindsight, I wish that I had done some things differently with regard to the Marc Rich matter," Holder said.

One of those things Holder wishes had been done differently is that the Justice Department be more "fully informed and involved" in the pardon process.

As to his own role, Holder said, "Efforts to portray me as intimately involved or overly interested in this matter are simply avowed facts. Because the Marc Rich case did not stand out as one that was particularly notorious, because there was a very large number of cases that crossed my desk that similarly fit into this category, I never devoted a great deal of time to this matter, and it does not now stick in my memory."

Rich was charged with tax fraud and illegally buying oil from Iran back in 1983. After his indictment he fled to Switzerland, which does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

Holder concluded, "I have now ended a 25 year public service career. I have been angry, hurt and even somewhat disillusioned about what has transpired over the past two weeks with regard to this pardon."

Critics have blasted Clinton's pardon of Rich because his ex-wife Denise, has been a huge contributor to the Democratic Party and the Clintons' various campaigns. She has invoked her Fifth Amendment right to avoid testifying before the committee.

Denise urged President Clinton to pardon her ex-husband.

Denise Rich's lawyer, Carol Bruce said in a letter to the House committee that Denise had also given an "enormous sum of money" to the Clinton Presidential Library Fund, but Bruce did not specify the exact amount.

Before Holder testified, former Clinton White House counsel Jack Quinn told the committee that Rich was justifiably pardoned because his case was "fundamentally flawed."

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