Text of Janet Reno's written submissions to the special three-judge panel that appoints the independent counsel:
Gore's Reaction (12/2/97)
Reno's Decision Expected Next Week (11/25/97)
Reno Says 'No' On Independent Counsels
By Thomas H. Moore/AllPolitics
WASHINGTON (Dec. 2) -- In a move that sparked immediate, intense criticism, Attorney General Janet Reno announced today she has decided not to seek independent counsels to investigate campaign fund-raising by President Bill Clinton or Vice President Al Gore. (576K wav sound)
Reno followed the recommendations of her campaign-finance task force, which said there was no evidence the president or vice president broke the law by making fund-raising calls from the White House. (352K wav sound)
Also off the hook is former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, who had been accused of trading access for contributions to charitable groups she favored. (288K wav sound)
"I have determined there are no reasonable grounds to believe that further investigation is warranted of allegations that the president violated federal law by making fund-raising telephone calls from the White House," Reno told a special three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
If the Clinton Administration was excited about the decision, it didn't let on in public. The president issued a terse, low-key statement that read in its entirety, "The attorney general made her decision based on a careful review of the law and the facts, and that's as it should be."
Gore also expressed relief. "Well, obviously I'm very pleased by the decision today of the Justice Department," he said in Middletown, Conn. "Now that there's been a full and independent review, we can put this issue of the phone calls behind us once and for all." (224K wav sound)
Reno explained her actions to reporters late this afternoon. She said the Justice Department's investigation had found that none of Clinton's fund-raising phone calls had been made from official areas, and that Gore had no knowledge that those calls he did make resulted in money going into Democratic Party hard-money accounts. (288K wav sound)
In addition, she said, "The independent counsel statute prohibits me from asking for an independent counsel to investigate allegations that the Justice Department would not prosecute under its existing standards. Congress inserted this provision into the law so that government officials would not be subject to a different application of the law than other citizens.
"In this case," Reno said, "the department's clear, long-standing policy is not to prosecute under 18 U.S.C. Section 607 unless certain aggravating factors are present, such as coercion, knowing disregard of the law, a substantial number of violations, or a significant disruption of government functions. The investigation uncovered no evidence of any of these aggravating factors."
Investigation will continue
Reno said the investigation would continue into whether the Democratic National Committee's practice of skimming part of soft-money contributions into hard-money accounts is legal. (320K wav sound)
Reno stressed the Justice Department's investigation of campaign finance was not closing up shop. "Our investigation continues, and no allegation will go unexamined," she said. "I have referred matters to independent counsels no fewer than six times, and I will not hesitate to do so again when the facts and the law justify it." She said the 120 investigators looking into campaign finance would stay on the job. (352K wav sound)
Reno praised the "outstanding investigative job" of the FBI and its director, Louis Freeh, but declined to characterize her discussions of the issue with Freeh. "I think it is important that people feel free to talk to me, and so I don't think I should discuss my conversations with them," she said. (384K wav sound)
She added she didn't think Freeh had spoken out of turn on the issue. "I think Director Freeh has been very professional in all of his conduct with me, and I don't think that he has voiced anything publicly," she said. "I think he has given me the benefit of his best advice and counsel, and I value that a very great deal."
After Reno's announcement, Freeh said in a statement, "Lawyers and investigators can and often do disagree. I and all of my colleagues in the FBI respect her decision and understand fully that it is the Attorney General's by law to make."
House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Dan Burton said he plans to call Reno and Freeh on Tuesday to testify about Reno's decision, and Freeh's disagreement with it.
Earlier today, at a ceremony to nominate Army Secretary Togo West as Veterans Secretary, the president said he was looking forward to getting the independent counsel matter behind him and his administration.
"We should let [Reno] make the decision," Clinton said, "and then whatever the decision is, we should get on with the business of America, and the Justice Department should get on with the business of protecting the people of America."
Clinton said that once the decision is made, "whatever the decision is," he expects that "things will return to normal, because we'll go back to work. I just want everybody to go back to work here.
"We've got serious law-enforcement challenges, both beyond our borders and within our country. And the most important thing is that everyone does the people's work up here, that we get back to the business of protecting the American people and dealing with those challenges," he said. (480K wav sound)
Clinton decried the pressure that others have tried to apply on Reno, which has included calls for her impeachment. "It should be a decision based strictly on the law, and not outside political pressure," Clinton said, "and I have scrupulously avoided saying anything one way or the other, publicly or privately, that would be that kind of thing. (256K wav sound)
"There's a statute here," Clinton said. "And we cannot get in the position in this country of basically bringing politics to bear on every legal decision that has to be made. That's not the right way to do this." (416K wav sound)
In Other News:
Tuesday Dec. 2, 1997
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