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Top Story: Reno Spurns Demands For Special Prosecutor

Reno's Letter: Text Of Rejection Letter

Reaction: Republicans Denounce Reno's Decision

In Focus: Fund-Raising Flap: Cast of characters, timeline, background

'Toons: Reno Evil.

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Take A Stand: Is an independent counsel warranted to probe Democratic fund-raising? You decide.

Counterpoint: A disagreement on an independent counsel.

Related Stories

CQ Special Report: Campaign Finance (4/9/97)

Reno Calls White House-FBI Dispute A Misunderstanding (3/12/97)

Reno: Independent Counsel Not Needed Yet (2/27/97)

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Republicans Denounce Reno's Decision

She may be called to Capitol Hill to testify

armey gingrich lott

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 15) -- Republican reaction was fast and furious following Attorney General Janet Reno's refusal to turn over a Justice Department probe of questionable campaign fund-raising to an independent counsel. It was the fourth time in five months Reno has said no.

"Inexcusable," Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said of Reno's decision, which came in a letter to lawmakers Monday night. In specific detail, the attorney general rebutted claims that the inquiry presents her with a conflict of interest, and that there are credible allegations of misconduct by top administration officials.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), told reporters, "I think Janet Reno has conducted herself up to now with finesse and good grace and honesty, and that's going to be in question from this day forward. Did she take a dive for the administration? I'd hate to think she did." (128K WAV)

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The White House was quick to issue low-key support for Reno's decision, implying Republicans were simply motivated by politics. "Our views on this are well-known," said spokesman Barry Toiv. "We believe that the decision on this ought to be based on the law."

But House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) said Reno had "misread both the letter and spirit" of the independent counsel law, and "failed to recognize, at the very least, the obvious political conflict these allegations of wrongdoing create for her and other political appointees withing the Justice Department."

At least one Democrat, Wisconsin Sen. Russell Feingold, the co-sponsor of a leading campaign finance reform bill, sided with Republicans, saying the "weight of the evidence supports the conclusion that such appointment is both appropriate and necessary."

If the decision is primarily an affirmation of the status quo (two congressional committees and a small army of Justice Department lawyers will continue probes), the main effect of Reno's decision was to ratchet up the political heat on herself.

Over the weekend, House Speaker Newt Gingrich had already suggested calling her to testify under oath should she decide against an independent counsel. This morning, House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) told NBC-TV he seconded the idea because "it is imperative that we get to the truth of this." (224K WAV)

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"My heart goes out to her," Armey said. "I think she's an honest, decent person. But she's caught in web where everything ends up getting dumped on her. She feels compelled to try to protect the White House."

"I do think it would be wise if she would come in front of the Congress and explain why she has taken the route she has and the inaction that she has taken during this period of time," Sen. Sam Brownbeck (R-Kan.), said Monday night on CNN's "Crossfire." "We have allegations of national security, and we really need those things vetted in a way that people can have credible trust."

Coming to Reno's defense on "Crossfire" was Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), who said, "Janet Reno is a professional prosecutor. She isn't going to be pushed around either by Newt Gingrich or by anybody who is sympathetic to the Clinton-Gore campaign. She is going to call it based on the career prosecutors in her office ... I trust her political judgment and her professional judgment and I think she has made the right decision."


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