Posted: 2/12/2001 11:55:47 AM EDT
Specter Hints at Clinton Impeachment
Updated: Sun, Feb 11 04:53 PM EST
By GREG TOPPO, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Former President Clinton could face a fresh impeachment inquiry as a result of his last-minute pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, a senior Republican said Sunday.
Sen. Arlen Specter, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee and a former Philadelphia prosecutor, did not specify what specific charges Clinton might face. But he said that based on his legal research, he believed a former president "technically could still be impeached."
Replied a Clinton spokeswoman: "Give me a break."
Legal experts were divided on whether the Constitution allows Congress to pursue an impeachment case - either over a president's use of his pardon power or against a president who has left office.
A Senate Republican leader, Oklahoma's Don Nickles, rejected the idea of a new impeachment case against Clinton, but raised the possibility of using other methods to reduce the former president's pension, office rent allowance and other administrative expenses.
Specter, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," said, "I'm not suggesting that it should be done, but President Clinton technically could still be impeached." He added, "I don't think that trial would take too long."
Specter said Clinton "avoided a conviction on impeachment the last time around because he had not lost the confidence of the American people, and we didn't want to shake up the government, but he's not in office anymore."
In impeachment proceedings, the House brings charges and the Senate tries the case. Specter said "someone" in the House could soon talk about possible articles of impeachment, but the senator added, "No, I don't have anybody in mind."
His spokesman, Bill Reynolds, declined comment on Specter's comments after the senator's nationally televised appearance and said he was trying to contact Specter for further details.
Clinton's spokeswoman, Julia Payne, said: "Give me a break - what's clear here, by the continued piling-on of the Republicans on President Clinton, is that what they'd like to impeach is the eight great years of progress and prosperity the American people enjoyed under him."
Clinton was impeached by the House in December 1998 on two articles of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. In February 1999, the Senate voted to acquit Clinton; Specter opposed removing the president from office.
Rich was among 140 Americans pardoned by Clinton two hours before he left office on Jan. 20.
Rich has lived in Switzerland since just before he was indicted in the United States in 1983 on charges of evading more than $48 million in taxes, fraud and participating in illegal oil deals with Iran.
Republicans have noted that Rich's former wife, Denise, was a major contributor to the Democratic Party and to Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign. Denise Rich also donated an estimated $450,000 to the former president's library foundation, a Democratic source has said.
Democrats have not defended Clinton's decision.
"I think either the president had an incredible lapse in memory or was brain-dead when he did that one," Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said on Fox of the Rich pardon.
Clinton has insisted that Rich deserved the pardon. "Once the facts are out there, people will understand what I did and why, even if they may not agree with it," he said last week.
Specter said Clinton could be stripped of "the emoluments of office, such as the substantial sums being spent on the library, such as the bodyguards, such as his pension."
At the Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Specter plans to try to build support for a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to overturn a presidential pardon by a two-thirds vote. The president's power to pardon is absolute under the Constitution.
Nickles, speaking on CNN's "Late Edition," answered, "No, I don't think so," when asked if he wanted to move ahead with impeachment.
"Now, whether or not the Senate or Congress would consider some changes in the financial arrangements ... maybe reducing his pension or taking some other step ... that can be done."
The issue raised by Specter divided legal scholars.
"You can't prosecute him for the pardon power," said Jerome Barron, a law professor and former dean of George Washington University Law School. "I do not think it is a well thought-out suggestion - and that's an understatement."
Yale University law professor Akhil Reed Amar said the Constitution gives Congress the power to address presidential abuses of power, such as bribery or treason - even after the president has left office.
"There are checks and balances even when it comes to ex-presidents," said Amar, who said he was contacted by Specter about testifying before the Judiciary Committee but cannot attend Wednesday's hearing.
Discussing the power to pardon, Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the William and Mary School, said, "It might be possible for a president to exercise it in such a way that it could be described as an abuse of power."
Impeachment will go nowhere. So will trying to reduce his pension or extravagent office rent. This socialist asshole gets away with everything and will continue to for some time. They can "probe" all they want but NOTHING will change nor will Klinton EVER be punished for anything. Congress blew their chance when they let him off with a 5 year law license suspension in trade for all the criminal acts he has committed. Like all criminals, if you give them half a chance they will ALWAYS commit more crimes.
I dont know what to think on that score. He clearly lied, cheated, and stole among a myriad of other charges this boy is accused of. They bring up charges and he comes out smelling like a ...a...a... well something the american people dont mind.
Either he`s a cat w/ 9 political lives or he`s the anti christ[sic].
I can just see him cashing those checks for public speaking, saying this is good pr, I am going to get book deal after book deal till I die.
What a raw deal.
Personally I don't think it's ever too late to disgrace a Clinton publicly.
Regardless, even if no action is taken, his crime spree in his last days in office will be a matter of clear public record instead of unclear speculation. I'd like future history books to reflect his "efforts" as detailed as possible.