Reno, Holder Expected To Face Tough Questions On Call For Independent Counsel
By Pierre Thomas/CNN
WASHINGTON (July 14) -- Attorney General Janet Reno and Deputy Attorney
General Eric Holder are scheduled to make a rare joint appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday in a hearing expected to touch upon some of the most sensitive issues before the Justice Department.
While the oversight hearing will cover a variety of law enforcement issues, Congressional and Justice Department sources tell CNN they expect intensive
- If there is a need for another independent counsel.
- Secret Service protection privilege in connection with the Monica
- Government attorney-client privilege.
Law enforcement sources say they expect Republicans to zero in on the independent counsel issue, to see if Holder shares Reno's views on the subject. Reno has repeatedly rejected calls for an independent counsel to investigate various campaign fund raising issues.
"We've been told the independent counsel is going to be a primary focus," said one senior Justice official.
Another law enforcement source said, "Republicans want to know who has what opinion" on whether there is a need for an independent counsel.
Wednesday's hearing comes as some Justice officials perceive growing pressure to name an independent counsel. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) called Tuesday for an outside investigation of alleged Chinese attempts to influence U.S. politics.
The outgoing head of the Justice campaign task force is preparing a final report, which a number of law enforcement sources say, they suspect, will call for an independent counsel.
A committee source said Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has prepared an opening statement which will address a number of concerns he has about recent Justice Department decisions. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the ranking minority on the committee, is also expected to have an opening statement.
Another committee source says Democrats plan to ask questions about the cost of Independent Counsel Ken Starr's investigation and allegations of misconduct by prosecutors on Starr's staff, particularly questions about leaks.
"You will see partisanship on both sides," the source said.