NewsHour: Pardon Probe – February 22, 2001

JIM LEHRER: Now how all of this looks tonight to four columnists. Stuart Taylor of The National Journal and Newsweek; Tom Oliphant of The Boston Globe; David Brooks of The Weekly Standard; and Joe Conason of The New York Observer. First on the Hugh Rodham matter, Stuart, is there anything illegal in what he did?

STUART TAYLOR: Not from what meets the eye immediately. It’s legal for the brother of the First Lady to lobby the president. It’s legal for him to get a huge fee for a small effort, as seems to have been the case in the Braswell case. However, I think… I hope we’re getting to the point in this country where something doesn’t have to be illegal to be recognized as inappropriate and smelly.

JIM LEHRER: We’ll get to that part of it in a moment. Joe Conason, have you discovered anything about what Hugh Rodham did or did not do that’s against the law?

JOE CONASON: Well, I’m not a lawyer, Jim, so I’d be hesitant to offer an opinion about that. But on the face of it, there was nothing illegal, as Stuart said, in his representing someone or collecting an exorbitant fee for it either.

JIM LEHRER: David, Tom, either of you come down differently on that?

TOM OLIPHANT: No, not at all at that point.


JIM LEHRER: All right, then, back to Stuart, to your point, if it wasn’t illegal, what’s wrong with what he did?