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Reno's Future Uncertain; Could Weld Be In?

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Nov. 14) -- Janet Reno, whose continued service as U.S. Attorney General during the next administration is still uncertain, said Thursday that President Bill Clinton needs time to make important staff decisions and that the media should stop "picking fights."

During the Justice Department's weekly press conference, Reno was asked to comment on today's front-page New York Times article that said her star had faded with the president and quoted complaints from White House officials who would only speak anonymously.


The unnamed sources accused Reno of not being a team player, citing her willingness to appoint four independent counsels to investigate Clinton associates and later to expand the jurisdiction of Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's probe.

"I think until you find some substantial sources that are willing to put their name on the line, you should end all this fuss and let [Clinton] be about his business," Reno said of the report.

Reno also dismissed the Times headline that said the White House has left her "twisting in the wind." She said, "The most important thing is, the president is in the process of forming his administration for the next four years. He's been through a long election. He needs to have time to do that and do it the right way."

Reno has previously said that she likes her job at the Justice Department and would stay if asked. But the president passed on an opportunity to endorse his Attorney General in a press conference last Friday, saying only, "I should have no comment on any personnel decision until I have had a chance to meet with the cabinet members in question and work through all the decisions."

Reno said today that she has not talked with the White House about her status yet and does not know when such a conversation will take place. Outgoing White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta has indicated that the question of Reno's future would only be resolved toward the end of the president's cabinet decisions, and might not come until December.


But some predict that Clinton will have to extend Reno's tenure because she is currently deciding whether to authorize a fifth independent investigation, this one into questionable campaign contributions made to the Democratic National Committee. Two requests have already been rejected as too vague, but a more detailed third from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is pending. Republicans would cry foul if the president tried to oust the Attorney General while evaluating that petition.

Massachusetts' Republican governor William Weld, who lost his Senate bid in last week's election, has emerged as a possible alternative for the post. Weld's fiscally conservative but socially liberal politics would give Clinton his desired GOP Cabinet member without having an ideological opponent on staff.

As a Republican, Weld could neutralize his party's complaints that Reno was replaced to avoid further White House probes. And his track record both as a former top Justice Department official and as U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts have proved Weld to be a tough prosecutor.

Weld called the rumor pure "conjecture" Wednesday, but the governor has made it clear that he is eager for the job. Despite the two years remaining on his term in the Boston statehouse, Weld said, "Oh, if Bill Clinton called me up and said, 'Would you like to be attorney general?' I would start Monday."

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