March 9, 2002
Plea to Clinton Long Weighed for Fugitive, E-Mail Shows
By ALISON LEIGH COWAN
MARC Rich's advisers debated whether to seek a presidential pardon as early as February 2000 but deliberately held off lobbying the White House until "the closing days" of the Clinton administration, their private e-mail messages show.
The messages, among documents recently shared with prosecutors, shed further light on the months leading up to President Bill Clinton's last-minute decision to pardon Mr. Rich, a financier who had long been a fugitive from justice.
For the last year, Mr. Rich's lawyers had resisted sharing these e- mail messages with investigators on the grounds that they were protected by attorney-client privilege. But in a strongly worded decision on Dec. 13 , Judge Denny Chin of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Mr. Rich's advisers, among them the former White House counsel Jack Quinn, were hired more for their lobbying than their lawyering, and had to honor government subpoenas.
Those subpoenas had been issued as part of a federal grand jury investigation in New York into whether improper influence was exerted on the White House when it issued scores of last-minute pardons and commutations.
Mr. Rich, who fled the United States in 1983 rather than face charges of tax fraud and racketeering, was pardoned by Mr. Clinton on Jan. 20, 2001, his last day in office.
The e-mail messages contain further proof that Mr. Rich's advisers began considering a pardon almost immediately after receiving a Feb. 2, 2000, letter from Shirah Neiman, a top prosecutor in the office of the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, notifying them that her office had no interest in negotiating with a fugitive.
One week later, on Feb. 9, 2000, Mr. Rich's longtime lawyer, Robert Fink, e-mailed Mr. Quinn, whom Mr. Rich had added to the team in July 1999, saying that he would talk to Mr. Rich about "the second option" and alert him that "you would not work on it unless you thought there was some possibility of success."
Handwritten notes by Mr. Fink also show he made a notation on Feb. 14, 2000, listing Mr. Rich's options, including "pardon - mid to late Nov." Later that month, on Feb. 29, Mr. Fink also advised Mr. Rich in an e-mail message that they should find a way to pay Mr. Quinn for "what he has done and may continue to do" even if they "decide not to investigate the pardon."
But for all the talk of a pardon, Mr. Rich's advisers seemed to conclude they had to wait until the fall. In June 6, 2000, Mr. Fink e-mailed Mr. Rich after chatting with Mr. Quinn. "He has not forgotten you or what we set out to do," wrote Mr. Fink, "but has pretty much concluded that there is nothing to do until we get closer to (or even passed) the election, or as he put, the closing days of the current administration."
Mr. Rich's paid advisers have maintained publicly that the idea to seek a pardon came about only in late summer or fall, though one friend, Abraham H. Foxman, [director of the Anti-Defamation League of the B'Nai Brith], acknowledged floating the idea as early as February over dinner with one of Mr. Rich's underlings.
The documents also raise fresh questions about how much Mr. Quinn may have been paid for helping Mr. Rich. In a July 7, 2000, e-mail message, Mr. Fink reminded Mr. Rich that Mr. Quinn and an associate, Kitty Behan, had obtained a six- month, $55,000-a-month retainer in the summer of 1999.
In Congressional hearings in February 2001, Mr. Quinn maintained that he had "not received any further fees" from Mr. Rich, would not bill him and would "not accept any further compensation for work done on the pardon."
But in an e-mail message on March 5, 2001, Mr. Quinn told Mr. Rich that he needed to fax him "a new retainer agreement" that he had drafted. Within a day, Mr. Rich replied, also by e-mail, "Please go ahead and send me the new retainer agreement." Nothing in the messages indicates whether a deal was signed and if so, for how much.
Neither Mr. Quinn nor Mr. Fink returned phone calls seeking comment. Mr. Rich's lawyer in this matter, Laurence A. Urgenson, was traveling yesterday and was not available for comment.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company