Reno Won't Comment On Gore Inquiry (10/2/97)
Gore Calls Netted $695,000 (8/27/97)
Reno Expands Gore Inquiry
Attorney general opts for a 60-day probe into Gore's fund-raising calls; veep vows his full cooperation
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Oct. 3) -- Attorney General Janet Reno announced today she has decided to expand a Justice Department inquiry into whether Vice President Al Gore broke the law by making campaign fund-raising phone calls from his White House office.
In a statement to the Court of Appeals, Reno indicated it will take more time to review the factual and legal issues behind Gore's fund-raising calls.
"Because the initial inquiry period is limited to 30 days and because of the complexity of the factual and legal issues presented by this matter, I have been unable to determine whether there is sufficient specific and credible evidence to suggest a violation of federal criminal law," Reno wrote. "As a result I am required to commence a preliminary investigation." That preliminary probe will last 60 days.
Gore, traveling in Florida, said it was inevitable the Justice Department review would extend longer than 30 days because the amount of paperwork to review.
Gore said Reno's decision was "not surprising" and he would "continue to cooperate fully and completely."
"I remain totally confident that what I did was legal and proper," Gore told reporters. (320K wav sound)
Sources said FBI agents could begin interviewing people associated with the fund-raising calls, possibly including the vice president himself, as early as next week.
This latest phase of the Justice Department's review could lead to appointment of an independent counsel, which in turn could mean a long and politically damaging review of Gore's activities.
Reno will undertake a 60-day probe in keeping with the terms of a request by Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. At the end of that period, Reno must determine whether to seek appointment of an independent counsel.
At issue are 46 telephone calls that Gore has acknowledged making to prospective Democratic donors, and whether what he did violated an 1883 law that forbids political fund-raising on government property. There is disagreement within the Justice Department about whether the law applies to the president and vice president.
Also at issue is whether Democratic officials broke the law by routing some of the money Gore raised into so-called "hard-money" accounts, subject to federal election law.
Separately, Reno has until Oct. 15 to decide whether to open a similar preliminary probe of President Bill Clinton's fund-raising calls.
Gore, in anticipation of the expanded probe, already has hired two defense attorneys. One of them, longtime Gore friend James Neal, has said he would donate his services.
CNN's Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.
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Friday Oct. 3, 1997
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