Bill Clinton pardon controversy

President Bill Clinton was criticized for some of his pardons and acts of executive clemency.[1] Pardoning or commuting sentences is a power granted by the U.S. Constitution to all sitting United States Presidents.

While most presidents grant pardons throughout their terms, Clinton chose to make nearly a third of them on January 20, 2001, his last day in office. This came to be known as Pardongate.[2] While Clinton pardoned a large number (450)[3] of people compared with his immediate predecessor Republican George H. W. Bush, who only pardoned 75, the number of people pardoned by Clinton was comparable to Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Jimmy Carter, who pardoned 406 and 566 respectively.[4]

Federal prosecutor Mary Jo White was appointed to investigate the pardon of Marc Rich. She was later replaced by then-Republican James Comey, who found no illegality on Clinton's part.

FALN Commutation of 1999

On August 11, 1999, Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 members of FALN, which is a Puerto Rican paramilitary organization 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.[5] 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 the 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 for by ten Nobel Laureates and the Archbishop of Puerto Rico.[6] The commutation was opposed by the U.S. Attorney's Office, the FBI, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons and was criticized by many, including former victims of FALN terrorist activities and the Fraternal Order of Police.[7] Hillary Clinton, then campaigning for her first term in the Senate, initially supported the commutation,[8] but later withdrew her support.[9]

Congress condemned this action by President Clinton, with votes of 95–2 in the Senate and 311–41 in the House.[10][11] The U.S. House Committee on Government Reform held an investigation on the matter, but the Justice Department prevented FBI officials from testifying.[12] 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.

Among those who accepted clemency are:

Those who rejected clemency include:

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.[14] 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.[15]

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

Clinton issued 140 pardons as well as several commutations on his last day of office, January 20, 2001.[16] 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.[3]

See also


  1. Presidential Pardons
  2. Reaves, Jessica, "Pardongate Play-by-Play":'s quick 'n' constantly updated account of the Clinton pardon scandals, Time.
  3. 1 2 Clinton, William Jefferson (February 18, 2001). "My Reasons for the Pardons". The New York Times.
  4. "Presidential Clemency Actions by Administration: 1945 to Present". US Department of Justice – Office of the Pardon Attorney. 2011-03-07. Retrieved 2011-03-19.
  5. Press Release 1999 #352 News Advisory, United States Department of Justice: The Office of Public Affairs Archived August 2, 2006, at the Wayback Machine., 1999-08-11.
  6. 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.
  7. Press release: Gallegos, Gilbert G., "Letter to President William Jefferson Clinton", Fraternal Order of Police Grand Lodge, 1999-08-18.
  8. "White House responds to criticism of clemency offer", CNN: AllPolitics, 1999-09-02.
  9. Black, Chris, "First lady opposes presidential clemency for Puerto Rican Nationalists", CNN: AllPolitics, 1999-09-05.
  10. "Congressional Record — HOUSE" H8019, United States Government Printing Office, 1999-09-09.
  11. "Congressional Record — SENATE" S18018, United States Government Printing Office, 1999-09-14.
  12. Frieden, Terry, "Justice blocks FBI testimony at FALN clemency hearing", CNN, 1999-09-14.
  13. Hundreds Greet Nationalist Freed After 19 Years In Prison. Archived March 29, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Laura Rivera Melendez, Associated Press. 25 January 2004. Puerto Rico Herald. Retrieved 27 December 2011.
  14. Larry King Live transcript, March 2, 2001.
  15. "JW Calls on Justice Department to Investigate Hillary Clinton’s Brother" Archived November 16, 2006, at the Wayback Machine., October 11, 2006.
  16. "Clinton Pardon's List", Associated Press via The Washington Post, 2001-01-20.
  17. Stephen Barrett, MD. "Be Wary of Gero Vita, A. Glenn Braswell, and Braswell's 'Journal' of Longevity". Quackwatch. Archived from the original on 7 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
  18. Moss, Michael, "Officials Say Investigation Will Go On Despite Pardon", The New York Times, 2001-02-08.
  19. Joan Walsh, Salon, Unpardonable Archived January 31, 2008, at the Wayback Machine., Feb. 23, 2001. Retrieved Jan. 13, 2008. CNN, Rodham says he has repaid fees for clemency cases Archived December 19, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., February 24, 2001. Retrieved Jan. 13, 2008.
  20. "Owner takes Fifth in Senate 'miracles' probe" Archived December 16, 2006, at the Wayback Machine., CNN, 2001-09-10.
  21. Tommy Christopher, "Clinton has Bigger Weather Underground Problem," "Political Machine," in "AOL News," April 16, 2008
  22. Jay Nordlinger, National Review online, 2004
  23. Neisloss, Liz, "Probe: $1.8B diverted to Hussein regime", CNN, 2005-10-27.
  24. Berke, Richard L. (23 February 2001). "THE CLINTON PARDONS: THE DEMOCRATS; This Time, Clintons Find Their Support Buckling From Weight of New Woes". Retrieved 3 December 2016 via
  25. "Rostenkowski Is Released From Wisconsin Prison", The New York Times, 1997-08-20
  26. Clinton's pardons and commutations, U.S. Department of Justice
  27. Krassner, Paul (2014). Patty hearst & the twinkie murders. [S.l.]: Pm Pr. ISBN 9781629630380.
  28. "Roger Clinton now target of pardon probe" Archived February 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., CNN, 2001-02-22.
  29. Shannon, Elaine; Viveca Novak (2001-02-17). "Bill, How Low Can You Go?". Time. Retrieved 2009-07-02.
  30. Weiser, Benjamin (2001-04-14). "SPECIAL PLEADING; A Felon's Well-Connected Path to Clemency". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-02.

Further reading

External links

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