Reno Wants More Time For Clinton Probe (10/14/97)
FBI Investigators Question Clinton, Gore
Sources tell CNN the two men weren't under oath during their separate interviews
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Nov. 12) -- FBI investigators interviewed President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore on Tuesday, in the Justice Department's continuing probe into questionable campaign fund-raising.
White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said the interviews were conducted separately, in the private residences of Clinton and Gore. Their private attorneys were present.
Sources told CNN that Clinton and Gore were not under oath when questioned by the investigators. The sources said the FBI asked both the president and vice president a series of questions about 1996 fund-raising, focusing predominantly on telephone calls Clinton and Gore made to raise money for the Democratic National Committee.
One source said Clinton's interview lasted "a couple of hours, less than three" and was almost entirely about telephone solicitations. The source said of Clinton, "He was fine with it." The Associated Press reported that two FBI agents and four Justice Department attorneys conducted the interview with Clinton.
In a telephone interview, Gore attorney James F. Neal said, "The FBI conducted a very professional interview. They asked every question they wanted to ask and the vice president answered them." Neal declined further comment.
Clinton's attorney, David Kendall, said, "We answered all of their questions," but he too declined to comment further.
Other sources said neither the president nor vice president were questioned under oath, in accordance with the FBI's routine for most investigations.
The Gore interview was conducted during the afternoon at the vice president's residence at the Naval Observatory in northwest Washington. On hand were Gore's personal attorneys, George Frampton and Neal. No Gore staff members were present.
The sources declined to say how long the Gore interview took. But one said it touched on whether Gore was aware the Democratic National Committee was skimming the first $20,000 off most unregulated "soft-money" contributions and putting it into federally regulated "hard money" accounts.
That distinction could be important because some interpretations of campaign law allow "soft money" to be raised from government office buildings but not hard money. It is a gray area of the law, though, and no one has ever been prosecuted for telephoning for contributions from a federal building.
The Justice Department is deciding whether to request an independent prosecutor to investigate the fund-raising practices of Clinton and Gore. Congressional critics have accused the president and vice-president of breaking federal law by soliciting political donations from the White House.
Gore has admitted he did solicit donations from his White House office; Clinton said he cannot recall whether he did or not. They both say such calls are not illegal.
Dec. 2 is the deadline for the Justice Department to determine whether a more extensive probe is justified.
Kendall, Clinton's attorney, and Gore attorney Frampton issued a statement about the interviews.
"The subject of the interviews was the telephonic solicitation of contributions in the 1994-1996 time period," the statement said. "As both the president and vice president have previously announced, they are cooperating fully with this investigation and voluntarily agreed when interviews were requested.
"Consistent with past practice, no further statement about the content of the interviews will be made at this time," the two attorneys said.CNN's Eileen O'Connor and John King contributed to this report.
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