Larry King Guests All Conduct Love Fest for Eric Holder Despite Marc Rich Pardon Role

November 19th, 2008 7:48 AM

Last night, Larry King had four guests on his show to discuss the nomination of Eric Holder to become Attorney General. Even though Holder's role in the pardon of fugitive Marc Rich by Bill Clinton was highly controversial, not one of the guests had any real problem with that. Somehow Larry King couldn't find a single guest who would offer arguments against the appointment of Eric Holder. To get you up to speed on Holder's role in the Marc Rich pardon, here is an Associated Press story on this subject from last June:

The last time Washington attorney Eric Holder participated in a high-profile vetting, it was for fugitive financier Marc Rich.

The episode in 2001 became the final scandal of the Clinton administration and landed Holder, at the time the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, in the middle of a congressional investigation.

Now Holder, a co-chairman of Barack Obama's campaign, is one of three big names who will lead the search for a potential running mate for the presumed Democratic presidential nominee.

...In the Clinton pardon scandal, Holder was deputy attorney general when his duties intersected with the efforts of Rich's lawyer, Jack Quinn, who had been White House counsel earlier in the Clinton administration.

The entire matter was handled in an unorthodox manner - on a straight line from Rich's lawyer to the White House, with a consulting role for Holder.

Later, Holder said he told White House counsel Beth Nolan the day before the pardon was issued that he was "neutral, leaning toward favorable" in regard to the pardon. He said he and Nolan "never had a prolonged conversation about the matter."

To make matters worse, Holder had asked Quinn for his help in becoming attorney general in the event then-Vice President Al Gore won the 2000 election.

Rich did not even qualify for a pardon under Justice Department guidelines, which say no pardons can be requested until five years after completion of a sentence in a criminal case.

Prosecutors on the Rich case testified that no one consulted with them before a recommendation went to the president on the Rich pardon.

Rich has been based in Switzerland since 1983, just before he was indicted in the United States, accused of tax evasion on more than $100 million in income, fraud and participating in illegal oil deals with Iran.

Members of Congress pointed out that Rich's ex-wife, Denise, visited the White House more than a dozen times during Clinton's presidency and contributed an estimated $450,000 to the president's library foundation, $1.1 million to the Democratic Party and at least $109,000 to Hillary Rodham Clinton's bid for the Senate.

"Everything about it seems sleazy," Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., said at the time.

Rep. Henry Waxman, then senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and now its chairman, called the Rich pardon an end run around the judicial process.

Okay, so do you get the idea that many had big problems with Holder's role in the Marc Rich pardon? So why did King find it impossible to locate even one such person on his show? Instead, as you can see from the following transcript, none of his guests including Michael Isikoff of Newsweek, Lanny Davis, Jesse Jackson, or David Gergen had any real problems with Eric Holder. Instead of a guest providing some ethical reservations about Holder, the show came close to being a big love fest for him (emphasis mine):

LARRY KING: We start with a panel that includes, in Chicago, Reverend Jesse Jackson, the founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

In Washington, Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Clinton. He's known, by the way, Eric Holder for several years.

Also in Washington, Michael Isikoff, the investigative correspondent with "Newsweek" who broke the Eric Holder story today.

And in Boston, our old friend David Gergen, the CNN senior political analyst.

Michael, how did you get this?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, "NEWSWEEK": Well, through reporting, Larry. But, basically, look, I don't think this is a shock to anybody in Washington. Eric Holder has been on the shortest of short lists for attorney general all along. He was deputy attorney general under Janet Reno during the Clinton administration, a former U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia, widely respected in Washington, widely respected within the Justice Department. And he had forged a relationship with Barack Obama, having served as the co-chief of the vice presidential selection process that ended up picking Joe Biden. It was Eric Holder who vetted the candidates for vice president.

KING: All right...

ISIKOFF: So everybody was expecting and looking at Eric Holder to begin with as the obvious choice. There was one question, which I'm sure we will get to. And that was the reservations...


ISIKOFF: ...that Holder himself had about going through a confirmation process that was going to bring up the Mark Rich pardon. But the Obama people and Holder and his advisers looked at that closely and concluded, especially with the increased Democratic margin in the Senate, that that was not likely to be an obstacle to confirmation.

So because of their numbers, the Democrats can just ram an Eric Holder confirmation through the Senate despite Holder's role in the Rich pardon. 

KING: I'll bring that up with Lanny in a minute.

But, Jesse, as a long time civil rights leader, what does -- how does it feel to have a black attorney general?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER/PRESIDENT, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION: You know, his blackness is really self-evident. What he really is, he has experience in the Department of Justice. He has integrity. He's smart and he's fair.

While he may be concerned that he will be about, say, enforcing, voting rights laws and fair lending laws, coal miners who are trapped without -- without protection in those mines, that's an Eric Holder issue, too. The kind of corporate thievery -- that is an Eric Holder issue, too.

So he brings to this issue a body of experience that makes him fit for the national job.

KING: All right.

Lanny, what about the pardon, the Mark Rich story?

LANNY DAVIS, FRIEND, FORMER ASSOCIATE, ERIC HOLDER: Well, I know, as a matter of fact, that Eric Holder did not have responsibility for that pardon. At the time that he was asked one question, the night before the last day of the Clinton presidency. He gave an answer in the context of knowing that the prime minister of Israel had called the president of the United States to ask for that pardon.

He stepped up to the line at a public hearing and took responsibility for saying I'm neutral to leaning favorable, in the context of knowing about that call from the prime minister of Israel.

But he had nothing do with that pardon. And if that is the only thing that you can hold against a man who is a judge, a prosecutor, a person at the Justice Department, highly respected and one of the nicest people I've known in all my years in this city, then he'll get by without any problems.

And if Larry King had a guest opposed to the Eric Holder nomination for AG, he could have challenged Lanny Davis over his assertion that Holder had "nothing to do with that pardon."

KING: And the Israeli involvement in many things, including Mark Rich -- who I spoke to right after that pardon. He was in Switzerland. He is Orthodox Jew.

David Gergen, is this going to be a problem?

Don't worry about Gergen. He will keep up this love fest atmosphere for Holder as you shall see.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I don't think it will be much of a problem, Larry. And I think the point that was made that the Congress being so heavily Democratic is going to really make a difference here in these hearings for everyone. And that is you've got a lot of friendly faces there asking the questions. And it's hard for the Republicans to push an issue when they're not controlling the committee. That's the price you pay when you lose the Senate.

And beyond that, Eric Holder does have this reputation as a very high quality individual. He knows -- he knows Obama, which is very important with an attorney general. They've had a relationship stretching back now some four years. And obviously Obama trusted him or he wouldn't have asked him to be the co-chair of the transition.

But because he's also a -- he knows the Justice Department system so well, he's been trained in it, he's been a prosecutor, he's also not only on the issue of civil rights at home, as Jesse Jackson just suggested, he's also going to be strong on some of these international criminal issues about Guantanamo, about torture, you know, executive orders -- all the kind of questions that go to America's reputation abroad.

The attorney general's office has had an awful lot to do with shaping the culture of the Bush administration on those issues.

KING: Yes.

GERGEN: And Eric Holder will take it in a very different direction.

KING: Michael, we know about the problems that Alberto Gonzales had.

Do you see these as two entirely different people?

ISIKOFF: Oh, they are. I mean, in fact, you couldn't find somebody more different than Alberto Gonzales than Eric Holder. Eric Holder comes out of the Justice Department. He is steeped in the culture of the Justice Department. When he graduated Columbia Law School in 1976, he went into the Justice Department. He served for years in the Public Integrity Section of the criminal division prosecuting -- trying cases against Republicans and Democrats.

He understands and has a feel for how politics isn't -- doesn't play a role in prosecutorial -- decisions. And that's something that the Justice Department, during the last four years, has not fully appreciated.


ISIKOFF: They didn't understand that culture.

So I think that's a very big difference. And that's one reason why I think he's going to be welcomed by a lot of people at the Justice Department.

Larry, would it have killed you to have just ONE guest on who would have provided a bit of contrast to this Eric Holder love fest atmosphere by questioning Holder's prominent role (sorry Lanny)  in the Marc Rich pardon?