Remembering the Rich pardon

George Lardner, Jr. is the former Washington Post reporter who covered the story of the Clinton pardon of Marc Rich. He now works as an associate at the Center for the Study of the Presidency. In a New York Times op-ed column this past Saturday, Lardner drily recalled the facts leading to the pardon of Marc Rich and Eric Holder’s role in it. Lardner concludes: “[Holder] had the last word at Justice on clemency petitions and he saw to it that he had the only word. He brokered one of the most unjustifiable pardons that an American president has ever granted.”

Last week on Hannity & Colmes, Lanny Davis verged on hysteria denying Holder bore any responsibility for the Rich pardon. Former Assistant United States Attorney Andrew McCarthy was on the segment with Davis and promises to have more to say about it soon.

UPDATE: Mark Corallo writes:

Unlike many other reporters who were only looking for a sensational headline, George was interested in the pardon power and the potential for abuse. He did extensive research into past presidential pardons and commutations. He followed up on the leads we (committee staff) provided and never accepted any information without checking it for accuracy.

As the communications director for the Government Reform Committee at the time, I spent a few months dealing with the media storm that surrounded the eleventh hour Clinton pardons. George Lardner did the painstaking work of reading the thousands of pages of documents obtained through the committee’s investigation, analyzing the evidence and testimony and going to great lengths to tie it all together into a thorough and incredibly thoughtful narrative.

While we allowed reporters to come to the committee offices and read the documents, few took the time concentrating instead on the latest sensational tidbits. That’s not really on knock on them as they had hard deadlines and different media platforms and a more narrow focus. But nobody outside the committee staff, spent as much time – hour after hour, day after day – going through the evidence as did George Lardner.

His understanding of the whole story, and in particular, the role played by then Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, is unmatched. Holder was seeking to ingratiate himself to his political masters (both in the instance of the Rich pardon and in the matter of the previous and more reprehensible pardons of the FALN terrorists) so that he could be “promoted” to AG while avoiding the inevitable (and if I know anything about prosecutors), public outrage of the line prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.

Let’s face it, the New York City media megaphone is even louder than that of the “national press corps” here in DC. Had SDNY had advance warning, they would have let their disapproval be known…

Lardner’s work on the Rich pardon is an example of what real investigative journalism used to be – thorough, critical, relevant and unbiased. Those of us who had the privilege to work with George over the years miss having him call to harass us with questions that made us have at least attempt to know our own subject matter as well as he did

George Lardner, Jr., incidentally, is the grand-nephew of the great Ring Lardner.

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