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National briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 2001


Inquiry into Rich pardon widens

WASHINGTON -- Delving further into former President Clinton's controversial pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, the chairman of a House investigative committee said Sunday he will seek to subpoena bank records from Rich's ex-wife and documents from the Clinton presidential library.

Congressional Republicans also considered the possibility of calling the former president to Capitol Hill to explain his much-criticized act of clemency, though they acknowledged it was a step they would not take lightly.

Rep. Dan Burton, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said he would ask the Justice Department today to provide immunity for Denise Rich in an effort to compel her to talk about her role in securing the pardon.

Rich, who has contributed more than $1-million to Democratic causes in the last decade, last week refused to answer questions posed by the committee, citing her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Burton and other GOP lawmakers have questioned whether the pardon was pay back for Rich's campaign contributions and her donation to the Clinton library -- a charge she and Clinton have forcefully denied.

CLINTON SPEECH CALLED MISTAKE: The chairman of Morgan Stanley has told clients that the Wall Street investment company "clearly made a mistake" by having Clinton speak at a conference in Florida on Monday, saying the firm understood their unhappiness in light of "Mr. Clinton's personal behavior as president."

In an e-mail message to clients, the company's chairman, Philip J. Purcell, acknowledged what he called an error. The message was sent on Thursday and Friday to Morgan Stanley customers who had expressed outrage over reports that Clinton was paid $100,000 or more for the appearance in Boca Raton, his first speech since leaving office.

A spokesman for Morgan Stanley, Ray O'Rourke, said the firm had received dozens of complaints from clients, with some threatening to take their business elsewhere.

Former press secretary Joe Lockhart, who attended the conference, said Clinton was given a warm reception.

"I think they (Morgan Stanley) worked very hard to be the first group to have the president speak," Lockhart said. "To come out now and make a comment like that lacks class."

Astronauts open door to new science laboratory

CAPE CANAVERAL -- Wearing goggles and red, white and blue socks, two space commanders opened the door Sunday to Destiny, the American-made science laboratory and the newest and priciest addition to the international space station.

The moment the hatch was raised by astronauts Bill Shepherd and Kenneth Cockrell, space station Alpha became the largest orbiting outpost in terms of habitable volume.

Destiny -- 28 feet long and 14 feet in diameter -- was a brilliant white inside. Its shelves and wall compartments were covered with strips of protective cloth. Underneath were spotless white walls running the length of the module and a bright blue wall on one end and matching blue handrails.

On one of the wall covers were a couple hundred signatures of those who had prepared Destiny for flight, along with these words: "Dreams are like stars; You choose them as your guides, and following them, you reach your Destiny."

Astronaut Marsha Ivins promised to bring the signed sheet back for display.

Army sergeant fatally shot in training exercise

FORT BENNING, Ga. -- An Army sergeant was killed when he was fired on at close range by a soldier who was mistakenly given live ammunition during a training exercise, officials said.

Sgt. Richard M. Robak Jr., 25, of Vona, Colo., died Friday after a soldier fired two rounds on him during routine "blank-fire" night training, Fort Benning spokeswoman Elsie Jackson said Saturday. Military police ruled out criminal intent.

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