Gore's Reaction (12/2/97)
Reno Mulls Independent Counsel Decision (11/30/97)
Predictably, Republicans Blast Reno's Decision
Democrats defend attorney general, saying there is no legal case
By Kathleen Hayden/AllPolitics
WASHINGTON (Dec. 2) -- Attorney General Janet Reno's announcement that she will not appoint an independent counsel to investigate fund-raising by President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore sparked swift but predictable congressional reaction: Republicans are blasting the decision while Democrats defend it.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said it was "tragic" that Reno decided against an independent investigation in the campaign fund-raising case. In a written statement, he said the decision was "pre-ordained" because the Justice Department investigation focused on a "minute aspect" of the case, rather than "the whole pattern of patently illegal actions."
The GOP vows the money trail investigation isn't over yet. The next battleground will be in Rep. Dan Burton's House Government Reform and Oversight Committee next week, when the Indiana Republican plans to grill Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh, who advised Reno to continue the probe.
"We anticipate next Tuesday that we will have both Louis Freeh and the attorney general come before our committee to explain their differences so that we can understand why they have these differences and also the American people will know," said Burton.
Saying he was "disappointed" with Reno and calling her decision a "tragic mistake," Burton said, "The American people have a right to know why they have this blanket of secrecy over the White House, and I intend to get to the bottom of it." (192K wav sound)
Senator Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) suggested that legislative and legal action may follow. "I think you may have a response by Congress in a couple of directions. I think we may amend the independent statute to authorize the appointing court to put an independent counsel in, even if you have an attorney general who just overlooks the law and the facts," Specter said.
Specter also said an 'abuse of discretion' case could be made in court "to get an independent counsel appointed even though she refuses to do so."
'A further blow to public confidence'
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said the highly publicized differences between Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh was a "public spectacle...(that) is a further blow to public confidence."
"There are no winners in this matter," Grassley said in a written statement. "As I see it, a pox on both their houses."
Republicans also continue to question Reno's ability to make an impartial decision on this matter. "It is no surprise what [Reno] has done," Specter said. "You have to recognize that she owes her job to the president and she serves at his pleasure."
Democrats are defending Reno against attacks on her professional integrity, arguing that the GOP is simply playing politics.
Said Rep. Bob Torricelli (D-N.J.): "Janet Reno has been threatened with impeachment, censure, or to be brought before congressional committees if she did not name an independent counsel. The most important quality for any professional prosecutor is to make clear that they can't be intimidated. If Janet Reno had allowed herself to be intimidated by members of Congress who threatened her with impeachment of censure, she would have lost all credibility." (288K wav sound)
Torricelli said Reno had come to the only logical conclusion. "I believe that Janet Reno has both reached the inevitable result of this process and is largely reaching conclusions similiar to those reached by the Governmental Affairs Committee," he said.
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Tuesday Dec. 2, 1997
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