Much is being made of the Marc Rich connection to Eric Holder, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee as attorney-general.
Holder handled President Clinton’s valedictory pardon of Rich, an alleged tax evader and racketeer who fled into exile rather than face trial. The controversy kept Rich from returning.
Advocating on Rich’s behalf were Ehud Barak, who was about to lose the Israeli premiership in a landslide to Ariel Sharon, and, stateside, ADL national chairman Abe Foxman. Rich had contributed to the ADL; his ex-wife, Denise, was a contributor to Clinton’s presidential library.
It’s never been made clear what the Israeli case for Rich was; this JTA story covers some of Barak’s elliptical explanations.
I found more persuasive, however, today’s Washington Post op-ed duet from two Republicans who note that pardons are a presidential prerogative – a fairly limitless one at that – and there was little Holder could have done to have stopped this one.
Calling Rich "one of the most unjustifiable pardons that an American president has ever granted" as George Lardner does in the link above, also overstates it, I think: It was not sedition (Washington’s Whiskey Rebellion pardons), it was not treason (Andrew Johnson’s post Civil War pardons), it was not subverting the constitution (Ford’s pardon of Nixon), it was not self-preservation (the first President Bush’s preemptive Iran-contra pardons deprived prosecutors of leverage that might have been used to implicate him in the scandal.)