Reno Shakes Up Justice Probe (9/16/97)
Senior FBI Official To Head Justice Probe
White-collar crime specialist will lead probe, after Reno's shake-up
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Sep. 17) -- A senior FBI executive has been tapped by Attorney General Janet Reno to reinvigorate the Justice Department's probe of alleged campaign fund-raising abuses.
In a statement, Reno announced her choice of Charles La Bella, U.S. attorney in San Diego and a veteran white-collar crime investigator. He replaces Laura Ingersoll. Reno also plans to beef up her team of fund-raising investigators, which now numbers about 90.
The shake-up came after the attorney general reacted angrily to revelations her staff had not thoroughly investigated Vice President Al Gore's White House fund-raising calls. Reno said earlier that she first learned that the vice president had raised so-called "hard money" from his office from a story in The Washington Post.
FBI Director Louis Freeh also conceded to senators last week that his agency didn't realize it had intelligence that a campaign donor, California businessman Ted Sioeng, might be an agent for China.
"The Department of Justice is very, very embarrassed today," Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania who sits on the Senate committee investigating fund-raising, told reporters.
Specter and other congressional Republicans are seizing on the development as further evidence Reno will soon appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the fund-raising controversy. By law, such prosecutors are appointed when a top administration official is implicated in a possible crime.
"I do not think this forestalls an independent counsel. It is another step in the road," Specter said. "The attorney general is much more likely to support an independent counsel."
Reno recently announced a preliminary 30-day period to assess whether an independent counsel is warranted. That review ends Oct. 3, and if it finds "specific and credible" evidence of wrongdoing by top officials, by law the attorney general must order a 90-day preliminary investigation. Following that, Reno would have to decide whether to seek appointment of a special prosecutor.
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Wednesday Sept. 17, 1997
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