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Clinton Won’t Ask for a Pardon

April 13, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton said today he did not want and would not ask for any pardon from his successor for any possible crimes committed while in office.

``I don’t have any interest in that,″ Clinton told the American Society of Newspaper Editors. ``I don’t want one and I am prepared to stand before any bar of justice I have to stand before.″

He also said, ``I’m glad I didn’t quit″ when faced with impeachment by the House and removal by the Senate _ a battle he won after a historic trial that concluded last year.

Later, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart sharply criticized the editors for asking Clinton about pardons and impeachment.

``These are purportedly reasonably intelligent people but I think it demonstrates just how isolated some newspaper editors are from the rest of the country,″ Lockhart told The Associated Press. ``They get a chance to ask the president about anything, any challenges that face America and ... the best they can come up with is two questions about impeachment. The country has moved past this. Unfortunately many major newspaper editors haven’t. It may be some reason for declining circulation.″

The president spoke a day after Vice President Al Gore addressed the same gathering and said that Clinton would not request or accept any pardon from a successor. Gore told the group that Clinton said ``publicly some time ago that he would neither request nor accept a pardon, so that’s the answer to your question.″

When the same question was posed to Clinton today, the president said, ``The answer is, I have no interest in it. I wouldn’t ask for it. I don’t think it would be necessary.″

However, despite his acquittal by the Senate, Clinton still faces a continuing investigation by Independent Counsel Robert Ray, who has said he has hired additional prosecutors and is considering whether to indict Clinton after he leaves office.

Clinton said that ``I wouldn’t be surprised by anything that happens but I’m not interested in being pardoned.″

In reply to another question, Clinton said his presidential library would not ignore his impeachment by the House and trial and acquittal in the Senate. ``We have to deal with it, it is an important part″ of his presidency, Clinton said.

He appeared irritated by the line of questioning, responding in clipped sentences.

Speaking of his impeachment battle, Clinton said, ``Let me tell you I am proud of what we did there. Because I think we saved the Constitution of the United States.″

Clinton was impeached by the House on perjury and obstruction charges, then acquitted by the Senate a year ago.

``I’m not ashamed of the fact they impeached me,″ Clinton said. ``That was their decision, not mine. And it was wrong. As a matter of law, Constitution and history, it was wrong. And I’m glad I didn’t quit and I am glad we fought it and the American people stuck with me. And I am profoundly grateful.″

Clinton acknowledged that he had made ``a terrible mistake″ in behavior in his affair with one-time White House intern Monica Lewinsky. He said he was ``deeply regretful.″

``But I think that an average, ordinary person reviewing the wreckage left in that would say I paid for that. And should have paid for it. We all pay for our mistakes.″

Clinton likened his impeachment struggle to his battle against the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. He said that if the Republican agenda had prevailed, it would have ``changed the Constitution forever in a way that would have been very destructive for the American people.″

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