In what may be an unprecedented step, President Bush on Wednesday revoked a pardon he granted just a day earlier to a man whose family contributed heavily to Republicans this year.
The White House said Mr. Bush now has questions about whether Isaac Robert Toussie deserved the pardon and wants to avoid the appearance of political conflict. Mr. Bush has told the Justice Department pardon attorney not to issue the man a grant of clemency.
“The president believes that the pardon attorney should have an opportunity to review this case before a decision on clemency is made,” said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.
A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity so as not to upstage Mrs. Perino’s official statement, said they learned more after the pardon had been announced about Mr. Toussie’s past criminal history and that Mr. Toussie’s family had contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans.
The official said the appearance alone caused Mr. Bush to rescind the pardon, which the official said “may be unprecedented.”
“There are some questions about it on the merits and there are certainly questions about the appearance of impropriety because of political contributions by his father,” the official said. “We didn’t know about the political contributions, political contributions played no role” in the pardon.
Mr. Toussie, a real estate developer in Brooklyn, N.Y., was convicted of making false statements to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and of mail fraud. He was sentenced Sept. 22, 2003, to five months in prison, with further time on home detention and probation and a $10,000 fine.
Campaign finance records show his family gave more than $40,000 to Republican candidates and to the McCain Victory Committee this year. The family was not active in contributing before this year.
Mrs. Perino said Mr. Bush approved the application - one of 19 pardons he issued Tuesday - on the say-so of White House Counsel Fred Fielding.
“The counsel to the president reviewed the application and believed, based on the information known to him at the time, that it was a meritorious application. He so advised the president, who accepted the recommendation,” Mrs. Perino said.
When Mr. Bush decides to pardon someone he signs an order telling the Justice Department’s pardon attorney to begin clemency proceedings. Mr. Bush’s revocation Wednesday means that process has now been halted.
Last-minute pardons bedeviled Mr. Bush’s predecessor, President Bill Clinton, as well. Mr. Clinton pardoned a fugitive, Marc Rich, after his ex-wife, Denise, contributed heavily to both Democratic causes and to Mr. Clinton’s foundation, which was in the process of building his presidential library.
Eight years later Republicans say the questions over that and other pardons could hurt Eric H. Holder Jr., who was involved in clearing the pardons and who President-elect Barack Obama has tapped to be his attorney general.
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