Comey, Clintons and Clemency
The FBI director's connections to Hillary.
Hillary Clinton’s email problems, going back to her time as Secretary of State, have not drawn heavy coverage from the old-line establishment media. As the investigation nears its final stages, FBI director James Comey’s past dealings with the Clintons may prove of interest.
Detail on those dealings emerged in American Evita: Hillary Clinton’s Path to Power, a 2004 book by Christopher Andersen, a former contributing editor to Time magazine who has written for Life, the New York Times, and Vanity Fair. None could be described as conservative but Andersen is candid about Hillary’s political past.
Hillary’s friends Robert Treuhaft and wife Jessica Mitford were “avowed Stalinists” who opposed the Hungarian uprising of 1956 and remained committed to the Communist cause. American Evita charts Hillary’s admiration for Marxist theoretician Carl Oglesby and Rules for Radicals author Saul Alinsky, from whom Hillary learned that “the only way to make a real difference is to acquire power.”
After Bill Clinton left the White House, one staffer told Andersen, the entire focus was on “getting Hillary back in.” The road led through New York, where Hillary took aim at the Senate seat vacated by Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Hillary was not from New York and had never spent more than a few days there, so she needed creative ways to attract votes.
New Square, a Hasidic enclave 30 miles northwest of Manhattan, had voted as a bloc in previous elections and campaign workers urged Hillary urged to stop there. In New Square, four members of the Skver sect had been convicted in 1999 of bilking government aid programs for some $30 million. During her visit, Hillary denied that any pardon was discussed.
The day before the election, in a letter to New Square’s main synagogue, president Bill Clinton said he looked forward to visiting the village. As Andersen noted, New Square delivered Hillary’s biggest victory margin of any community in New York state, 1,359 votes to only 10 for her opponent Rick Lazio.
During the final days of his presidency, Bill Clinton opted to reduce the prison terms of the New Square offenders, and after 9⁄11 that sparked an investigation. As Anderson notes, “Hillary received an unexpected gift in late June when, without explanation, U.S. Attorney James B. Comey closed the New Square clemency case.”
Clinton’s pardon of fugitive Marc Rich also drew an investigation and Andersen finds it odd that the Bush administration would “help the Clinton’s out” by refusing to release documents related to the pardons. And “in accordance with his boss’s wishes, U.S Attorney James Comey gave Bill and Hillary a pass.”
On September 4, 2013, James Comey became director of the FBI. In that role, Comey oversees the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified material on her private email and server. Whether she gets a pass this time is uncertain, but Comey’s history with the Clintons is worth media attention. So is Hillary’s history on the subject of terrorism.
“At Hillary’s urging,” Andersen writes, “the President granted clemency to 16 Puerto Rican terrorists who have been sentenced to prison following a wave of bombings from 1974 to 1983 that took the lives of six Americans and wounded scores of others. Incredibly, the terrorists had not even asked for clemency.” The worst attack was the January 24, 1975 bombing of Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan. The Puerto Rican FALN exploded a bomb during the lunch hour, “hurling body parts into the street and killing four people.”
The terrorists accepted President Clinton’s offer of clemency but expressed no regret for their actions. Former U.S. Attorney Joseph Di Genova went on record that “the Puerto Rican terrorists were pardoned because they were a political benefit to the president’s wife. Make no mistake about it.” As Anderson notes, FBI director Louis Freeh opposed the pardons, as did New York major Rudy Giuliani, senator Charles Schumer and former Puerto Rico governor Carlos Romero Barcelo who, says Andersen, “pleaded with the president not to release the bombers.”
Stories on the Clinton pardons have not been a staple of the current campaign, in which Republicans have been the targets of choice on the terrorism issue. Perhaps a bit more balance is in order. Reporters, meanwhile, will find American Evita: Hillary Clinton’s Path to Power a worthy refresher course on the Democratic frontrunner.