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Rich Aide Alluded to Pardon More Than a Year Ago

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By James V. Grimaldi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 1, 2001; 3:29 PM

A top aide to Marc Rich alluded more than a year ago to seeking a presidential pardon for the fugitive financier in correspondence with Rich's attorneys, calling it "the unconventional approach which has not yet been tried and which I have been proposing all along," according to one of dozens of documents made public today.

Attorneys for Rich have said that the earliest they began discussing a pardon was last fall. But congressional investigators believe they have found a reference to it in an e-mail from Avner Azulay, director of the Rich Foundation in Israel and the leading strategist for the pardon.

In February of last year, Azulay rejected the notion of Rich surrendering to authorities in New York in exchange for the dropping of racketeering charges in a 1983 indictment accusing Rich of failing to pay $48 million in taxes and trading with Iran while it held U.S. hostages.

"The present impasse leaves us with only one other option," Azulay said of the stalemate with the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan.

The e-mail appears among exhibits released today at the beginning of the fourth congressional hearing on the controversial pardons at the end of the Clinton administration. The House Government Reform Committee opened the hearing at noon, with the first witness being Beth Dozoretz, a Democratic fund-raiser who also pressed Clinton to pardon Rich and his business partner Pincus "Pinky" Green. Dozoretz pledged to raise $1 million for Clinton's library and helped secure a $450,000 donation from Denise Rich, the ex-wife of Marc Rich.

Dozoretz was asked by Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) if she had discussed donations in connection with pardons. At that point, she asserted her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, as had been expected. After brief comments by several committee members, including Rep. Robert L. Barr (R-Ga.), Dozoretz left the committee room.

Clinton's top three White House attorneys were expected to say that they told the president that the Rich pardon was a bad idea. The witnesses include John Podesta, Clinton's chief of staff, Beth Nolan, the White House counsel, and Bruce Lindsey, a long-time aide to Clinton.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), also has obtained information regarding Podesta's personal attorney, Peter Kadzik. Letters released by the committee today reveal that Kadzik lobbied his own client on behalf of Rich, who has been represented by other attorneys in his firm. Azulay's exchange with Rich attorney Robert Fink occurs in February last year. Fink wrote to Azulay that contacts with a prosecutor in New York and a phone call with Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder did not appear to be making any progress.

Fink reveals that New York prosecutors were willing to "drop the RICO [racketeering] charge if we wanted, if Marc came in. They would also agree in advance on bail, etc., so that he would not be incarcerated pending trial (although he would have to surrender his passport)." Fink also said that the prosecutors said they would talk to lawyers and Rich's tax professors and "do a full review before proceeding to a trial to make sure that upon careful examination they stood on the strength of their case."

This e-mail appears to contradict the testimony and pardon petition written by Jack Quinn, the former White House counsel in the case. Quinn told the House Government Reform Committee last month that the New York prosecutors were intransigent because of "their unwillingness to sit down and meet with the tax professors and review the case and try to come to a resolution of it, at any time in the last decade or so."

Meanwhile, Podesta's opposition to the Rich pardon could come under intense questioning. E-mails obtained by the committee indicate that Podesta might have been passing along information about the status of the Rich and Green pardon applications to his attorney, Kadzik.

Kadzik, who also is set to testify, works at Dickstein, Shapiro, Morin & Oshinsky, where Rich's longtime attorney Mike Green works. Kadzik has told the committee that he was retained to work on the Rich pardon and that he was involved in contacting his client, Podesta.

The committee today released a letter dated Dec. 15 to Podesta written by Kadzik. Kadzik refers to an earlier conversation and supplies additional information on the pardon applications of Rich, Green and James B. Coppinger, who was convicted of cocaine distribution and conspiracy to distribute cocaine in Illinois in 1981. Coppinger's primary attorney also works at the Dickstein, Shapiro firm, but Coppinger's pardon application is still pending and was not granted by Clinton.

In a Jan. 16 e-mail between Rich's attorneys, Robert Fink wrote Jack Quinn that Green called Fink after speaking with "Peter who spoke with Podesta: It seems that while staff are not supportive, they are not in veto mode, and that your efforts with POTUS [president of the United States] are being felt. It sounds like you are making headway and should keep at it as long as you can. We are definitely still in the game."

Earlier in the month, on Jan. 2, Fink writes in an e-mail about "Mike's friend," who is described as "the friend of the chief of staff." The committee is expected to ask if the "friend" of Podesta's is Kadzik.

"I learned from Mike Green today that our case is still pending and is part of a large group that may be considered," Fink wrote Jan. 2 to Rich and Quinn. "But his friend told him that we need a rabbi among the people in the counsel's office (it seems Mike's friend believes we do not have one yet)."

The next day, Fink wrote that "Mike's friend" said "we are still in the mix and that there are more pardons to come."

"What Mike was clearly telling me was that no effort should be spared this week to make sure we get consideration at the staff level as well as the POTUS level," Fink wrote.

Burton also revealed today information involving another Clinton pardon. Burton said today that he had learned this week that Holder declined to sign the Justice Department memo opposing the pardon of Carlos Vignali, who had been convicted of smuggling cocaine. "He was the deputy attorney general and he didn't want to oppose a pardon of a a major drug dealer. Why?"

© 2001 The Associated Press

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