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FBI releases 129 pages of documents related to Marc Rich investigation

Former President Bill Clinton speaks as he campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, on Tuesday in Florida City, Florida. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Undaunted by a barrage of criticism from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her surrogates about Director James Comey's decision to notify Congress that he had reopened the investigation into her use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State — or perhaps because of it — the FBI has released information pertaining to its investigation into former President Bill Clinton's pardon of billionaire financier Marc Rich.

The materials are heavily redacted and contain almost no decipherable substantive information. It is not clear why the FBI released the documents, and they have not responded to inquiries from numerous media outlets. However, the fact of their release ensured that one of the low points of Bill Clinton's presidency once again entered the limelight during the last week of the election season.

Bill Clinton's pardon of Rich — who was at the time a fugitive from justice — on his final day of office drew round, bipartisan condemnation, and allegations that Rich had purchased the pardon from Clinton. It was condemned publicly by such Democratic stalwarts as former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who called it a "betrayal" that was "unjustified" and "contemptuous." Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) likewise condemned the pardon on the basis that it set a bad precedent to pardon a fugitive from justice:

To me there is no excuse for pardoning a fugitive from justice. You can't let somebody opt out of the system by running away, and opt into the system by being pardoned. Doesn't matter how weak the case might have been, doesn't matter how much charitable work the man did after he fled the country. He should be tried by the rules and play by the rules.

Bill Clinton himself openly admitted that the Rich pardon has been extremely damaging to his reputation and that it was "terrible politics."

The FBI closed the investigation into the Rich pardon in 2005 without filing charges against anyone, and they have not issued any statement indicating the matter is under any further investigation. The decision to release these documents, without any apparent legal reason for doing so, drew swift criticism from Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon.

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