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Bill Clinton's Marc Rich Pardon: The Tell-Tale Cable

Bill Clinton's Marc Rich Pardon: The Tell-Tale Cable

For years, there has been conjecture as to why Bill Clinton,in the waning moments of his presidency, suddenly and unexpectedly granted afull pardon to fugitive financier Marc Rich.

Even the New York Times, normally ashameless cheerleader for the Clintons, excoriated the President, saying, “BillClinton’s last-minute pardon of Marc Rich… was a shocking abuse ofpresidential power… Mr. Clinton’s irresponsible use of his pardoning authorityhas undermined the pursuit of justice.” Clinton himself laterdescribed the pardon as “terrible politics. It wasn’t worth the damage to myreputation.”

Questions about the scandal are resurfacing in light ofJudicial Watch’s obtaining a confidentialcable from the U.S. Department of State that had been undertight wraps since 1995. The cable – from Clinton’s ambassador to Israel to hishigh-ups at State – reveals high-level Israeli efforts to persuade StateDepartment officials to intercede with Department of Justice (DOJ) to enable Richto conduct Israeli business affairs worldwide directly relating toIsraeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Specifically, the cable, obtained through a Judicial Watch June2013 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, provides details of 1995efforts by apparently top Israeli officials to pressure their counterparts atthe State Department to intervene with the DOJ to withdraw outstanding arrestwarrants against Rich on charges he hadviolated America’s 1981 domestic oil-price alongwith 64 other crimes, including racketeering and “trading with the enemy.” Israel,it turns out, had recruited Rich, then living in Switzerland, to travelinternationally in order to raise funds to finance economic deals between theIsraeli government and the Palestinian Authority. Rich died on June 26, 2013, and Judicial Watchfiled a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about him with the Departmentof State on the same day.

While the Israeli official who interceded on Rich’s behalf isnot identified in the cable obtained by Judicial Watch, he or she was in asufficiently high-level position to confer directly with then-U.S. Ambassador MartinIndyk and Clinton administration Middle East convoy Dennis Ross. The officialwas also able to persuade Indyk to meet with Rich’s lawyer, Isaac Herzog, justthree days after requesting that he do so. The confidential classification ofthe cable was extended by the State Department on February 10, 2014 for anadditional fifteen years, following the Judicial Watch FOIA request, in an apparenteffort by the State Department to keep the names of the Israeli officialconfidential. Ambassador Indyk is now President Obama’s Special Envoyfor Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations.

In the cable, entitled “[REDACTED] REQUEST FOR INTERVENTIONWITH DOJ ON BEHALF OF MARK [sic] RICH,” Indyk writes:

  • During August 29 [1995] meeting with Dennis Ross and I, [REDACTED] raised the issue of Mark Rich, a wealthy businessman now resident in Switzerland, whom [REDACTED] has recruited to head up an effort to promote private sector involvement in Palestinian economic development. [REDACTED] asked me to see Rich’s lawyer, Isaac Herzog, to be briefed on the subject. He further requested that Dennis and I follow up in Washington to try to resolve the problem.

  • Rich paid a large fine and according to Herzog, DOJ is no longer pursuing the matter… Nevertheless, there are still international warrants outstanding for Rich’s arrest. This severely restricts his travel… [REDACTED] request is that State consider the project and, if it is regarded as worthwhile, contact DOJ and communicate its interests in enabling Rich to engage in these activities – specifically that:… The GOI [Government of Israel] has notified State that it is in the GOI’s interest to facilitate the travel on behalf of Mark Rich to advance the ‘Economic Solution’… The U.S. has a legitimate interest in fostering these objectives.

Interestingly, the Indyk confidential memo clams that theU.S. ambassador, who at the time had been a key figure in American-Israeliaffairs for more than a decade, had no knowledge of Rich or the activities thathad led to the commodities trader’s 1983 indictment. According to Indyk’s confidentialmemo, “We have never heard of Mark [sic] Rich and have no way of evaluating hisability to contribute to this effort by bringing in foreign investors.” Theambassador added, “However, [REDACTED] is pushing him hard.”

On January 20, 2001, just hours before leaving office,President Clinton granted Rich a highly controversial presidential pardon. Itwas widely alleged at the time that Rich’s pardon had been the result of Denise Richhaving given more than $1 million to the Democratic Party,including more than $100,000 to theSenate campaign of Hillary Clinton and $450,000 to the Clinton Libraryfoundation. As far back as 2009, journalist Joe Conason, writing in Salon, had conjectured,long been a financial and intelligence asset of the Jewish state…” Theconfidential cable obtained by Judicial Watch is the first solid evidence ofthe usually close ties between the Israeli government and the fugitivefinancier.

The bottom line is that the cable raises salient newquestions about the depth and breadth of the relationship between Marc Rich andthe Israeli government, and it suggests possible new insights into the motivationsbehind the scandalous last-minute pardon granted by Bill Clinton. AmbassadorIndyk should now disclose what he knows about the Rich pardon, as should JohnPodesta, Eric Holder, and Hillary Clinton – all high-level Obama appointeesembroiled in the Rich pardon scandal.

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