Sen. Orin Hatch recently recommended a presidential pardon for Bill Clinton regarding the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Smelling a rat, some have suggested this would leave a cloud over Clinton’s legacy by suggesting there was something to pardon while shortcutting a legal process which would probably again backfire on the Republicans, all the while making W look like a bighearted bipartisan softie.
My question: could Clinton respectfully decline a presidential pardon and duke it out or, as is more likely, gamble that it will never go to court at all.
Not going to happen unless Clinton asks for a pardon. According the the news, there’s nothing to indicate he will do that. Frankly, I don’t think there’s an offense to pardon. Only politicians care; I would think most voters don’t.
For a very interesting article on the history of presidential pardons, see.
Jimmy Hoffa got a pardon? George Steinbrenner?
The author cites Burdick v. United States. Burdick was a newpaper editor who refused to answer questions concerning his sources of information for certain articles.
‘In an effort to compel his testimony, the United States attorney obtained a full and unconditional pardon from President Wilson for Burdick for “all offenses against the United States which he . . . has committed or may have committed, or taken part in, in connection with the securing, writing about, or assisting in the publication of the information so incorporated in the aforementioned article, . . . thereby absolving him from the consequences of every such criminal act.” When Burdick declined to
accept the pardon and again refused to testify, the district court found him in contempt of court.’
‘Upon a writ of error, the Supreme Court reversed the contempt conviction and dismissed the proceedings against Burdick. The Court ruled that Burdick did not have to accept the pardon, rejecting the notion that “a pardon by its mere issue has automatic effect resistless by him to whom it is tendered, forcing upon him by mere executive power whatever consequences it may have.” Instead, the Court noted that “the grace of a pardon, though good its intention, may be
only in pretense or seeming; . . . involving consequences of even greater disgrace than those from which it purports to relieve.” Furthermore, the Court acknowledged the “confession of guilt implied in the acceptance of a pardon.” Therefore, the Court reasoned, it was Burdick’s right to refuse to accept the pardon and assert his constitutional right to decline to testify.’
So it looks like if Bill still wants to tussle legally, he would have precedent for refusal of a pardon.
I imagine it will really boil down to the question, “Was a crime committed?” While Adultery is grounds for divorce in most areas, it is not a criminal offense, anymore than it is a criminal offense to accept performance of sexual acts in a government building, which would have the entire congress and most of the supreme court clamming up I guess.
The only real “Lewinsky Scandal” crime left is Perjury. Ok, let’s just agree that he lied under oath when initially asked about fooling around with the intern of the month. We all know it. The point is, would that be admissable in a criminal proceeding? My guess would be no, and the evidence would be suppressed. Why? Because it was an inquiry pursuant to a criminal proceeding, but was irrelevant to any crime. One could argue that if it was irrelevant then they should have objected rather than allow him to answer. One could argue that by answering he waived his fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination. Both of those arguments lead to a Clinton claim of incompetent counsel, and a motion to suppress the evidence. I’m sure he’d be happy to offer to allow them to “retry” the case, since he knows he hasn’t committed any criminal offense other than the perjury he would want suppressed, so he could now go under oath, out of public office, and say, “Yeah, I did her! Want to see the tape?”