Text of Janet Reno's written submissions to the special three-judge panel that appoints the independent counsel:
Reno Says 'No' On Independent Counsels (12/2/97)
Republicans Blast Reno's Decision (12/2/97)
Reno Defends Independent Counsel Decision
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Dec. 4) -- "I try to do one thing: what's right," Attorney General Janet Reno said this morning of her decision not to appoint independent counsels to investigate fund-raising activities by President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. (352K wav sound)
In her weekly press briefing, one of her first public statements since announcing the controversial decision Tuesday, Reno reiterated that the facts and the law were behind her choice, not politics or protecting the president.
Under the law as it's written, Reno said she had no alternative but to decide against an independent counsel. When asked if she thought she had the authority to seek one, Reno said, "I don't think I had the authority to go the other way."
Under Congress' independent counsel statute, Reno explained, the attorney general does not have the authority to appoint an outside prosecutor until there is specific and credible evidence of illegal activity by a covered person.
"I am trying to follow the independent counsel statute as it has been framed by Congress," she said. "If you had a lower threshold, then any time somebody said 'boo' about a covered person, you'd trigger the independent counsel statute.
"Congress has provided for a threshold and has presumed a conflict when that threshold is met," Reno said. (512K wav sound)
The attorney general defended herself against critics who have said that she has a conflict of interest or took too narrow a focus on the law. "In this process, I have tried to listen, to read, to understand, to apply the law, to make sure I understand the evidence, and that's what I know that I've tried to do," she said.
"And those that say otherwise haven't been with me every step of the way of these last several weeks," Reno said. (512K wav sound)
Reno stressed that the Justice Department investigation into campaign finance is still ongoing. "What we're trying to do is to make sure that we look at the evidence and the law in the broadest possible fashion to make sure that we leave no stone unturned, and we will continue to do that," Reno said.
When asked if the investigation would adopt a new investigative strategy, Reno said, "I'm not trying not to foreclose and put blinders on when people write about new suggestions or new ways that the law can be construed. I want to make sure that I consider everything, that I move carefully, thoroughly and appropriately in considering how we proceed. No investigation remains static. It is always in a state of flux." (512K wav sound)
Despite her public disagreement with FBI Director Louis Freeh over the independent counsel decision, Reno downplayed their conflict, saying she continues to seek and value his advice. (320K wav sound)
House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Dan Burton has called for both Reno and Freeh to appear before his panel to discuss the decision process. Despite previous engagements on Tuesday with the justice ministers from the G8 nations, Reno said she hoped to be able to appear before the committee. "I very much appreciate and respect the oversight function of Congress and want very much to be there. I expect that I will."
In Other News:
Thursday Dec. 4, 1997
White House Takes Jab At Freeh
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