The LA Times reports that Eric Holder actively sought to blunt opposition to President Clinton's pardon of members of two pro-Puerto Rican independence terrorist groups.
New interviews and an examination of previously undisclosed documents indicate that Holder played an active role in changing the position of the Justice Department on the commutations.
Holder instructed his staff at Justice's Office of the Pardon Attorney to effectively replace the department's original report recommending against any commutations, which had been sent to the White House in 1996, with one that favored clemency for at least half the prisoners, according to these interviews and documents. . . .
The 16 members of the FALN (the Spanish acronym for Armed Forces of National Liberation) and Los Macheteros had been convicted in Chicago and Hartford variously of bank robbery, possession of explosives and participating in a seditious conspiracy. Overall, the two groups had been linked by the FBI to more than 130 bombings, several armed robberies, six slayings and hundreds of injuries.
None of the 16 whose sentences were commuted had been convicted of murder, and most had already served lengthy prison terms.
A spokesman for the Obama transition, Nick Shapiro, confirmed that Holder asked for the "options memo" that preceded the clemency. . . .
George Terwilliger, who served as deputy attorney general under President George H. W. Bush and was asked by the Obama transition team to comment, said that although he disagreed with the FALN clemency, Holder's conduct in the case was appropriate. . . .
When Clinton issued the commutations on Aug. 11, 1999, the House and the Senate passed resolutions condemning his decision. . . .
Holder was called to testify on the case by the Senate Judiciary Committee but, invoking Clinton's claim of executive privilege, declined to say whether the Justice Department had changed its position on the commutations. Asked what happened after the 1996 report opposing any commutations, he told the senators: "There were subsequent communications with the White House in the months after that recommendation."
Given the concerns raised by GOP Senators over the Holder nomination, this story could be significant.