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Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 16:04 GMT
Q&A: Clinton pardon row

Since leaving office on 20 January, Bill Clinton has been mired in controversy. BBC News Online looks at the accusations.

What is Mr Clinton supposed to have done wrong?

Mr Clinton has been accused of abusing his presidential right of pardon by granting clemency to a fugitive from US justice, Marc Rich. It is alleged that the pardon was in return for numerous donations to the Democrat Party by Mr Rich's former wife, Denise. Mr Clinton denies this.

Who are Marc and Denise Rich?

He is a billionaire commodities trader who fled to Switzerland from the US in 1983, after being indicted on charges of racketeering, tax evasion and illegal oil trading. He was also accused of failing to pay $48m in taxes.

Denise Rich has contributed more than $1m to the Democrat Party, $450,000 to Mr Clinton's presidential library fund, and also gave money to Hillary Clinton's campaign to be elected senator for New York.

Why is there so much controversy over Mr Clinton's decision to pardon Mr Rich?

Under the US constitution, the president has unlimited authority to grant pardons. But Mr Clinton's accusers say his decision to pardon a fugitive has undermined the dignity of the presidential office.

Who is investigating Mr Clinton?

The US attorney in New York, Mary Jo White, has opened a criminal investigation into whether anyone acting on Mr Rich's behalf sought to buy or influence his pardon.

Inquiries are also under way by two congressional committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate to establish the exact circumstances of the pardon.

The politicians say they do not want to limit the presidential authority, but to ensure that in future proper use is made of pardons.

Will this affair do any long-term damage to Mr Clinton's reputation?

Mr Clinton has survived past scandals and is unlikely to fade willingly into the background. But his actions since leaving office have angered even his most ardent supporters. Democrat senators have been particularly vocal in condemning his pardon for Mr Rich.

The former president has money as well as image problems, and he could suffer if high-profile companies or people decide not to hire him on the lucrative speaking circuit.

See also:

15 Feb 01 | Americas
Clinton comes out fighting
15 Feb 01 | Americas
Cloud follows Clinton
15 Feb 01 | Americas
Clinton faces criminal inquiry
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