Justice Staffers Recommend Independent Counsel For Babbitt
By Pierre Thomas/CNN
WASHINGTON (Feb. 9) -- Attorney General Janet Reno's senior staff has formally recommended that she seek the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, CNN has learned.
At issue is whether Babbitt misled Congress about the role the White House and Democratic Party officials may have played in the decision to reject the application of a Wisconsin Indian tribe for a casino gambling license.
But sources tell CNN the recomendation calls for giving any independent counsel a relatively narrow scope instead of wide-ranging authority to investigate potential campaign finance irregularities during the 1996 election.
Reno can either accept or amend the recommendation, though she normally follows her staff's advice. Her final decision could come as early as Tuesday but, more than likely will come Wednesday.
Babbitt rejected the bid by the tribe to build a casino, even though regional officials of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, part of the Interior Department, recommended approval. The casino was opposed by three other Indian tribes in the area which already have gambling operations and which donated money to the Democratic Party.
Babbitt has insisted the casino was turned down because of local opposition to the plan, not because of any pressure by White House or Democratic officials to help campaign contributors.