Let's be blunt here: The Marc Rich pardon was one of the most disgraceful chapters in the history of the Justice Department. Not the modern history, the entire history. Rich was accused of mega-crimes: millions in fraud, tax-evasion, and trading with the America's enemies. In 2000, he was a fugitive. He had been one for nearly two decades, during which the government had expended immense resources in a futile attempt to apprehend him.
Mind you, flitting from country to country to avoid prosecution, as Rich was doing, is itself a felony. When Eric Holder aided and abetted Rich's pardon effort, he was not only grossly violating the Justice Department policy it was his job to uphold; he was dealing with the agents of someone who was actively committing a serious federal crime. That's why, when prosecutors deal with a fugitive's representatives, the appropriate question is: "When is he going to turn himself in?" It's not, as Holder essentially asked, "What can I do to help?"
Holder, then Clinton administration deputy attorney general, steered the fugitive toward a friendly Clinton insider: former White House Counsel Jack Quinn. That enabled the most-wanted fugitive to lobby the President directly — and in violation of an executive order barring lobbying by recently departed White House staffers — without nettlesome interference from the Justice Department's long-established, procedurally rigorous pardon process. In order to protect the public, that process called for input from the case prosecutors and investigators. As Holder well knew, following it would have demonstrated beyond cavil that pardoning Rich would be an outrage, in violation of every DOJ guideline.
Moreover, Holder extended his helping hand with the crassest of motives: the careerist was hoping the influential Quinn would look favorably on Holder's quest to become attorney general in a Gore administration. That is, Holder was actively soliciting help from Quinn (Vice President Gore's former counsel and friend) at the very time he was providing invaluable help to Quinn's fugitive client — first in unsuccessfully pushing Rich's preposterous effort to settle the case without jail time with prosecutors in New York, then in overcoming the uniform objections of White House staffers to a Rich pardon.
And the cherry on top: The scenario in which Holder's sell-out of Justice Department principle took place was scummy in every particular; multi-millionaire Rich's ex-wife and staunchest supporter, Denise Rich, was making mega-bucks donations to Clinton causes (according to Time, $400,000 to the Clinton Library Fund, $10,000 to the Clinton Legal Defense Fund, and over $1 million to Democrat campaigns during the Clinton era — including $70,000 for the 2000 Senate campaign of Hillary Clinton, now Obama's pick for secretary of State).