Bill Clinton pardon controversy

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President Bill Clinton was criticized for some of his pardons and acts of executive clemency.[1] While most presidents grant pardons on several days throughout their terms, Clinton chose to make most of them on January 20, 2001. Collectively, the controversy surrounding these actions has sometimes been called Pardongate in the press.[2] Federal prosecutor Mary Jo White was appointed to investigate the pardons. She was later replaced by James Comey, who found no wrongdoing on Clinton's part.


FALN Commutation of 1999

On August 11, 1999, Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 members of FALN, a violent Puerto Rican terrorist group that set off 120 bombs in the United States, mostly in New York City and Chicago. There were convictions for conspiracy to commit robbery, bomb-making, and sedition, as well as firearms and explosives violations.[3] The 16 were convicted of conspiracy and sedition and sentenced with terms ranging from 35 to 105 years in prison. Congress, however, recognizes that the FALN is responsible for "6 deaths and the permanent maiming of dozens of others, including law enforcement officials." Clinton offered clemency, on condition that the prisoners renounce violence seeing as none of the 16 had been convicted of harming anyone and they had already served 19 years in prison. This action was lobbied by ten Nobel Laureates, the Archbishop of Puerto Rico and the Cardinal of New York. [4] The commutation was opposed by U.S. Attorney's Office, the FBI, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons and criticized by many including former victims of FALN terrorist activities and the Fraternal Order of Police.[5] Hillary Clinton, then campaigning for her first term in the Senate, initially supported the commutation,[6] but later withdrew her support.[7]

Congress condemned this action by President Clinton, with votes of 95-2 in the Senate and 311-41 in the House.[8][9] The U.S. House Committee on Government Reform held an investigation on the matter, but the Justice Department prevented FBI officials from testifying.[10] President Clinton cited executive privilege for his refusal to turn over some documents to Congress related to his decision to offer clemency to members of the FALN terrorist group.

Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory pardons

In March 2000, Bill Clinton pardoned Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory, owners of the carnival company United Shows International, for charges of bank fraud from a 1982 conviction. Although the couple had already been released from prison, the prior conviction prevented them from doing business in certain American states. First Lady Hillary Clinton's youngest brother, Tony Rodham, was an acquaintance of the Gregorys, and had lobbied Clinton on their behalf.[11] In October 2006, the group Judicial Watch filed a request with the U.S. Justice Department for an investigation, alleging that Rodham had received $107,000 from the Gregorys for the pardons in the form of loans that were never repaid, as part of a quid pro quo scheme.[12]

Pardons and commutations signed on President Clinton's final day in office

Republican President Richard Nixon holds the record by pardoning 204 in one day on December 12, 1972 shortly before his term ended. [13] Clinton issued 140 pardons as well as several commutations on his last day of office, January 20, 2001.[14] When a sentence is commuted, the conviction remains intact, however, the sentence can be altered in a number of ways.

On February 18, 2001, Bill Clinton wrote a New York Times column defending the 140 pardons.[28]

See also

External links


  1. ^ Presidential Pardons
  2. ^ Reaves, Jessica, "Pardongate Play-by-Play":'s quick 'n' constantly updated account of the Clinton pardon scandals, TIME.
  3. ^ Press Release 1999 #352 News Advisory, United States Department of Justice: The Office of Public Affairs, 1999-08-11.
  4. ^ Rep. Dan Burton (December 12, 1999). "Findings of the committee on government reform". United States House of Representatives: Committee on Government Reform. Retrieved 2007-10-10.
  5. ^ Press release: Gallegos, Gilbert G., "Letter to President William Jefferson Clinton", Fraternal Order of Police Grand Lodge, 1999-08-18.
  6. ^ "White House responds to criticism of clemency offer", CNN: AllPolitics, 1999-09-02.
  7. ^ Black, Chris, "First lady opposes presidential clemency for Puerto Rican Nationalists", CNN: AllPolitics, 1999-09-05.
  8. ^ "Congressional Record — HOUSE" H8019, United States Government Printing Office, 1999-09-09.
  9. ^ "Congressional Record — SENATE" S18018, United States Government Printing Office, 1999-09-14.
  10. ^ Frieden, Terry, "Justice blocks FBI testimony at FALN clemency hearing", CNN, 1999-09-14.
  11. ^ Larry King Live transcript, March 2, 2001.
  12. ^ "JW Calls on Justice Department to Investigate Hillary Clinton’s Brother", October 11, 2006.
  13. ^ pardons, most people pardoned in one day, 1789-2001,
  14. ^ "Clinton Pardon's List", Associated Press via The Washington Post, 2001-01-20.
  15. ^ Stephen Barrett, MD. "Be Wary of Gero Vita, A. Glenn Braswell, and Braswell's 'Journal' of Longevity". Quackwatch. Retrieved 2007-02-12. 
  16. ^ Moss, Michael, "Officials Say Investigation Will Go On Despite Pardon", The New York Times, 2001-02-08.
  17. ^ Joan Walsh,, Unpardonable, Feb. 23, 2001. Retrieved Jan. 13, 2008. CNN, Rodham says he has repaid fees for clemency cases, February 24, 2001. Retrieved Jan. 13, 2008.
  18. ^ "Owner takes Fifth in Senate 'miracles' probe", CNN, 2001-09-10.
  19. ^ Tommy Christopher, "Clinton has Bigger Weather Underground Problem," "Political Machine," in "AOL News," April 16, 2008
  20. ^ Jay Nordlinger, National Review online, 2004
  21. ^ Neisloss, Liz, "Probe: $1.8B diverted to Hussein regime", CNN, 2005-10-27.
  22. ^ The Clinton Pardons: The Democrats; This Time, Clintons Find Their Support Buckling From Weight of New Woes
  23. ^ "Rostenkowski Is Released From Wisconsin Prison",, 1997-08-20
  24. ^ Clinton's pardons and commutations, U.S. Department of Justice
  25. ^ "Roger Clinton now target of pardon probe", CNN, 2001-02-22.
  26. ^ Shannon, Elaine; Viveca Novak (2001-02-17). "Bill, How Low Can You Go?". Time (Time Inc.).,8599,99807,00.html. Retrieved 2009-07-02. 
  27. ^ Weiser, Benjamin (2001-04-14). "SPECIAL PLEADING; A Felon's Well-Connected Path to Clemency". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-02. 
  28. ^ Clinton, William Jefferson (February 18, 2001). "My Reasons for the Pardons". New York Times.