Snow Falsely Claims ‘There Was Not Much Investigation’ Of Clinton’s Pardons

snowfile_150.jpgYesterday, White House spokesman Tony Snow was asked if the USA Today op-ed he wrote was an attempt to justify the President’s extraordinary clemency order with a “Clinton did it too” argument:

REPORTER: Tony, why do you … in your op-ed today you brought up the Clinton pardons, as well. Do two wrongs make a right? Is that the idea, like if Clinton did wrong …

SNOW: Well, this is … no, this is not a wrong, but I think what is interesting is perhaps it was just because he was on his way out, but while there was a small flurry, there was not much investigation of it.

Snow’s contention that “there was not much investigation” of Clinton’s pardons is an apparent attempt to preclude any congressional inquiry into Bush’s actions, particularly whether it was appropriate to extend clemency to an aide who has “knowledge that could incriminate his bosses in the White House.” The House Judiciary Committee has a hearing set for July 11 on the issue.

Furthermore, Snow is dishonestly distorting the facts when he says there “was not much investigation” of Clinton’s pardons. In fact, there was substantial investigation:

01/20/01: On his final morning in the White House, President Clinton grants 140 presidential pardons and 36 commutations.

2/08/01: The House Government Reform Committee, headed by Dan Burton, launches hearings into Clinton’s last-minute pardons.

2/14/01: Pardon hearings begin in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Republican Orrin Hatch.

2/15/01: Manhattan U.S. attorney Mary Jo White, in conjunction with the FBI, launches a criminal investigation into all the Clinton pardons.

2/23/01: Manhattan U.S. attorney Mary Jo White announces her office is investigating commutations Clinton granted to four Hasidic men from upstate New York.

2/27/01: Clinton waives his claim to executive privilege, saying three of his former aides are free to testify before the House Government Reform Committee.

3/01/01: Former aides John Podesta, Beth Nolan and Bruce Lindsey testify for an entire day before the House Government Reform Committee.

3/11/01: Pledging continued investigations into the pardons, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott says Congress must not “walk away” from the work of pursuing Clinton.

3/13/01: Attorney General John Ashcroft asks White to expand her current investigation into some of President Clinton’s pardons to include all 177 of the last-minute clemencies and commutations.

In total, the investigations into Clinton’s issuances of executive clemency took over a year to conclude. The House Government Reform Committee didn’t release its final report until March 2002, well over a year after President Clinton left office. The Justice Department didn’t close its investigation, in which it concluded “it wasn’t appropriate to bring charges against anybody,” until June 2002.

It’s hard to see how over a year of multiple inquires could be characterized as “not much investigation,” but then again, Tony Snow has never appeared too concerned with getting his facts right when it comes to defending his boss.

UPDATE: Jeralyn has more on the congressional hearings into Clinton’s pardons here.

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