US Attorney General Eric Holder has an interesting standard for clemency. Last week Holder said he was open to having a discussion on giving the whistleblower Edward Snowden a reduced sentence but that full clemency was “going too far.” And to some degree it would be inconsistent given the Obama Administration’s wild and outrageous attack on whistleblowers and journalists for Holder to say anything different.
But while Holder has become notorious for going soft on Wall Street as Attorney General, as Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Administration he was part of one of the most controversial pardons in American history. A pardon so odious many thought it would disqualify Holder from becoming AG in the first place.
Rich became internationally notorious in 2001, when, as a fugitive from justice, he was pardoned by Bill Clinton in the last hours of his administration. What many don’t recall is that Attorney General Eric Holder, who was then a deputy attorney general, was instrumental in securing Rich’s pardon…
Eric Holder was the key man. As deputy AG, Holder was in charge of advising the president on the merits of various petitions for pardon. Jack Quinn, a lawyer for Rich, approached Holder about clemency for his client. Quinn was a confidant of Al Gore, then a candidate for president; Holder had ambitions of being named attorney general in a Gore administration.
That was the conclusion anyway of the House Committee on Government Reform’s Report on the pardon, that Holder wanted to ingratiate himself with Quinn in hopes of a political reward in a future Gore Administration. So maybe if Edward Snowden was represented by a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton there would be some more consideration given to “no harm, no foul”?
It is also worth pointing out that Marc Rich was a fugitive due to tax evasion and oil trading with Iran while the country was under sanctions. His motives for both crimes were personal and financial. Rich had asylum in Switzerland because the country ruled what Rich did were not crimes under Swiss law.
Edward Snowden, on the other hand, is a fugitive for blowing the whistle on crimes being committed by the US government. His motives were to act for the public interest. Snowden has political asylum in Russia for fear of being persecuted.
So what exactly is Attorney General Holder’s standard for clemency?