IN THE NEWS #468 - Clinton Pardons

By George Grow

This is the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

American officials have begun investigating some of former President Clinton's last acts in office. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department are studying Mr. Clinton's decision to pardon businessman Marc Rich. They want to know if friends of Mr. Rich tried to buy the pardon.

Congressional committees have begun their own investigations of several of Mr. Clinton's pardons. Two committees are looking at the money given to the Democratic Party by Mr. Rich's former wife. Reports say Denise Rich has given about one-million dollars to Democratic candidates and causes in recent years. She also gave four-hundred-fifty-thousand dollars for a project to build a library to hold Mr. Clinton's presidential papers.

The former President denies any wrongdoing. Mr. Clinton says he approved the pardon based on what he thought was right.

Marc Rich fled the country in Nineteen-Eighty-Three to avoid arrest by federal officials. He has lived in Switzerland ever since. Mr. Rich was charged with cheating and failing to pay more than forty-eight-million dollars in taxes. He also was charged with taking part in illegal oil deals with Iran. The Presidential pardon means he cannot be tried on any of these charges.

Presidential pardons have been part of American history since the country was established. The United States Constitution gives Presidents the right to pardon people for crimes or possible wrongdoing.

In Seventeen-Ninety-Five, for example, President George Washington pardoned two leaders of what was called the Whiskey Rebellion. They had led a campaign by grain farmers who violently opposed a federal tax on whiskey products.

Perhaps the most famous pardon took place in Nineteen-Seventy-Four when President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon. Mr. Nixon had resigned from office after Congress threatened legal action against him.

Some historians say President Ford may have lost the presidential election of Nineteen-Seventy-Six because of the Nixon pardon. But they say the act helped to ease what was a tense American political situation.

In his last several days in office, Mr. Clinton gave pardons to about one-hundred forty people. Many people are questioning why some of the pardons were given. Congress or the courts cannot change a legal pardon.

Now, some members of Congress are suggesting the need for a constitutional amendment to restrain a President's right to offer pardons. Many other lawmakers and legal experts say it would be a mistake to try to limit the pardon power of the President.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS, was written by George Grow.

Voice of America Special English