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Clinton Rejects Idea of Pardon For Crimes Committed in Office

By Art Pine
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

President Clinton said Thursday that he neither wants nor would seek a pardon for any crimes he may have committed in office, despite signs that new independent counsel Robert W. Ray is actively considering seeking an indictment against him after the president steps down.

“The answer is, I don’t have any interest in it (a pardon) -- I wouldn’t ask for it,” Clinton said at a meeting of newspaper editors here. “I am prepared to stand before any bar of justice I have to stand before.”

His comments marked the first time that Clinton has personally forsworn a possible pardon since Ray disclosed in March that he plans to revisit the case. Vice President Al Gore outlined the president’s view on pardons in a speech to the same editors’ group on Wednesday.

But Republicans saw a loophole. “Clinton said today that he would never ask for or want a pardon,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson. “The real question, perhaps the question of the year, is whether or not he will accept a pardon. Once again, Clintonian-speak rears its ugly head.”

Clinton also told the American Society of Newspaper Editors that he is “glad (that) I didn’t quit” the presidency when he was impeached by the House 16 months ago. “I’m not ashamed of the fact that they impeached me,” he said of the GOP-led House. “That was their decision ... and it was wrong.”

And he insisted that any move to revive the Whitewater and Monica S. Lewinsky scandals would be punishing him unnecessarily. He said that an independent counsel already has cleared him in the Whitewater case and that he had “paid for” the Lewinsky affair in personal travail.

Ray’s disclosure that he is considering indicting Clinton after the president leaves office came as a surprise. His predecessor, Kenneth W. Starr, said he had found credible evidence that Clinton had committed perjury but had not yet decided whether a jury might convict him.