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President Clinton Issues One Last Round of Pardons; Includes Susan McDougal, Patty Hearst

Aired January 20, 2001 - 10:01 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Clinton had said that he would work up until the last minutes of his presidency. About two hours left of the Clinton era, and apparently there are some presidential pardons being handed down.

With more on that, let's go to Kelly Wallace, who is at the White House -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly right, Daryn.

We have been waiting for those this morning. And CNN has learned of the final executive actions that Mr. Clinton will be taking. And those include these presidential pardons. We have been talking about two key Whitewater figures who had been out there requesting pardons. We understand and CNN has learned that President Clinton has granted a pardon for Susan McDougal. She was the Clinton business partner back in that Arkansas land venture called Whitewater.

She ended up serving some time for some felonies. She also served about 18 months in prison when she would not testify before a federal grand jury, which was impaneled by then independent counsel Kenneth Starr. As for the other Whitewater figure, Webster Hubbell, CNN has learn that Mr. Clinton has not -- not granted a pardon for him. He was Ms. Clinton's law partner back in Arkansas -- excuse me. He was convicted of a number of things, including tax evasion. He did serve about 15 months in prison -- again, though, not a pardon for him.

Other names that had been out there: Michael Milken, former junk- bond king. Democratic fund-raisers had been pushing for a pardon for him. CNN has learned he will not be granted a pardon. The same with Leonard Peltier: not a pardon for him, according to sources we've talked to. He of course has been convicted of murdering two FBI agents back in 1975. FBI groups actually protested outside the White House a couple of weeks ago, urging Mr. Clinton not to grant a pardon.

Other names that are interesting: Roger Clinton, the president's brother. He has been pardoned for some drug charges stemming from back in the 1980s. Also, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros pardoned: He had entered a plea agreement for some charges related to some payments to a girlfriend. And one other name, Patty Hearst, has been granted a pardon by President Clinton. President and Mrs. Carter -- former President and Mrs. Carter had been pushing a pardon for her.

We are told more than 100 pardons coming from the president -- and those just some of the names that are the most high-profile figures that we have for you -- Daryn.

KAGAN: So, Kelly, are all of the pardons the president is going to grant, are they all in, or this is just the beginning?

WALLACE: This is it. We are waiting for the paper with the list of names. Again, we are told more than 100 -- or well over 100. Many are not household names, not people that you or I have probably know about. A lot of them are people convicted of drug -- under drug charges, these mandatory minimums -- the president feeling that they have served their time, basically allowing them to go on and live their lives after serving their time. So again, not lot of names that you will be familiar with. We should get that list in about 10 minutes.

KAGAN: One name we were very familiar with, but I have to say surprised when we heard you say Patty Hearst has been granted a pardon. And we all up here on the set kind of looked at each and said -- that look of "really?" Do we even know that she was lobbying for a presidential pardon?

WALLACE: It is a surprise to me as well. I did not know. According to one person I talked to -- again, as I reported -- that apparently former President and Mrs. Carter had been pushing this, something that the president had granted. Obviously, president Clinton has nice relations, of course, with former President Carter -- really respects him and the role he has played as a former president -- not sure if that played any role.

White House officials are saying that the president, you know, really -- these were real heartfelt decisions for him. All were very weighty. They have big effects on people's lives and other people's lives, so not something he took lightly, again. But that is a decision that has come in now.

KAGAN: Kelly Wallace, thank you very much for that breaking news. Once again: President Clinton, in his final hours as president, granting pardons to Susan McDougal, Roger Clinton, his brother, Henry Cisneros and Patty Hearst as well. Thank you -- now to Bill.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: You mentioned Susan McDougal -- Webster Hubbell not pardoned today.

CNN's Bob Franken, both of these names go back to the Whitewater days. Your reaction now to what we are hearing out of the White House?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, first of all, Susan McDougal was found guilty in the first Whitewater trial. She and her late husband Jim McDougal were partners in that obscure real estate project: the Whitewater land development company, which was at the core of the investigation that spread all of way to the Monica Lewinsky matter before it was through. She, in fact, had refused -- refused -- to testify before a grand jury about conversations with President Clinton. For that, she served that 18 months in prison for contempt of court. So the president probably has warm feelings towards her. Her lawyer, Mark Geragos, has been lobbying very hard to try and get her pardoned -- was told last night that the president would sleep on it. Now Susan McDougal now will have her record cleared, in effect.

She is somebody who was very defiant as the independent counsel investigation went on. She had been convicted in that Whitewater trial of charges stemming from a fraudulent $300,000 loan taken from the federal government. President Clinton was implicated in that loan by some of the witnesses. But, in fact, the connection was never made. And she refused to testify about it. Now, Webster Hubbell: Webster Hubbell was a former law partner in the Rose Law Firm with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

He was really convicted of something that was quite peripheral to the Whitewater investigation. It had to do with his bilking clients while he was a member of that law firm. He was also under pressure from the independent counsel from day one to give information that might implicate President or Mrs. Clinton in wrongdoing. He absolutely refused. The independent counsel, for the longest time, operated on the premise that he was getting hush money. There was an investigation that led to other tax charges, tax charges that were eventually plea-bargained.

Webster Hubbell, who lives now in Washington, had been the number-three man at the Justice Department when he ran into the legal trouble. He was known to be seeking a pardon. Of course, he can not practice law now. That pardon has apparently not been granted. But it is interesting, at the end of the Clinton presidency, we are getting an end to some of the remaining questions that have to do with the investigations against Bill Clinton. Of course, yesterday, Bill Clinton, in effect, gave his bargain with the independent counsel, admitting wrongdoing in testimony in the Paula Jones case, which was all part of these investigations.

In return he got a guarantee that he would not be indicted. So, as the presidency closes, the headlines are about the various investigations.

HEMMER: Bob, quickly, let's go back to the issue of Susan McDougal. You referred to it. Some thought it was a quid pro quo: Susan McDougal stays quiet. And in return she protects the president. How is this to be perceived now that the slate is being which wiped clean for her legally?

FRANKEN: You know, I think people are tired of perceiving this. I think they really don't want to think about it anymore. That was really one of the factors that went into the arrangement between the independent counsel Bob Ray yesterday and the president. There is a general belief that people really want to put this to bed, that it is all over. So I think it is going to be something that's going to be met with a "That's interesting." And that's about it.

HEMMER: All right, Bob Franken with us in Washington. Bob, thanks. More coming up with you shortly, but now here is Daryn.

KAGAN: Yes, we continue our conversations about these pardons just handed down by President Clinton: Susan McDougal, Roger Clinton, Henry Cisneros and Patty Hearst. Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent John King.

John, any of the names on this list that you would think might bring a backlash?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, certainly there will be criticism. If you are the prosecutor who put Susan McDougal in jail, you will criticize that. If you are the prosecutor who ran the case against Henry Cisneros, the former housing secretary, you might criticize that.

But the ones that had been considered the most controversial by the White House, we do not see on this list: Mr. Peltier. He was convicted of killing FBI agents. There were protests by FBI agents outside the White House gates when they found out he was on the list of possible pardons. Senior aides tell us that was never seriously under consideration.

One other name we're not hearing on this list, apparently: Jonathan Pollard -- he convicted of spying for Israel. Jewish activists in this country had argued this president should give him Pollard a pardon. The Israeli government had argued in favor of a pardon -- Mr. Clinton deciding again -- once again not to pardon Mr. Pollard.

Those were the names that would have caused the most controversy. Some critics will say this is a president in the very end trying to help some of his friends out politically. But none of the names we hear today likely to cause much of a backlash, except for those involved in those specific cases.

KAGAN: John, thank you very much.



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