Hatch: Reno To Decide On Fund-Raising Probe By End Of August
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, August 2) -- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said Sunday that Attorney General Janet Reno has asked for three additional weeks to consider whether to initiate appointment of an independent counsel to investigate allegations of campaign finance irregularities during the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign.
In an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet The Press," Hatch said he met with Reno late last week to discuss a report sent to her by Charles LaBella, the outgoing head of the Justice Department's task force investigating possible campaign finance abuses.
LaBella has reportedly recommended appointment of an independent counsel, something Reno has, to this point, resisted, despite a similar recommendation from FBI Director Louis Freeh.
Republicans in Congress have been highly critical of Reno's reluctance to push for a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton, the man who appointed her.
"She wants about three weeks to really review the 100-page document from Mr. LaBella," Hatch said. "I believe that she'll do the right thing in the end, but I told her that I'd be happy to give her that time.
"She's agreed to sit down with [House Judiciary Committee] Chairman [Henry] Hyde and me sometime near the end of this month and discuss what her position will be," said Hatch, who said Reno has indicated that she has not ruled out asking for appointment of an independent counsel.
However, Hatch reiterated his earlier statements that if Reno refuses to ask for an independent counsel, she should resign.
Meanwhile, another Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) said Sunday that he has contacted other independent counsels that are already operating, trying to see if they might possibly try to expand the scope of their investigations to include the campaign fund-raising allegations.
He did not identify which of the existing independent counsels he contacted.
"I've been talking to some of the independent counsels on other matters to see if they might expand their jurisdiction, which can be done under some circumstances without the approval of the attorney general," Specter said on "Fox News Sunday."
"They're all sympathetic. They acknowledge the tremendous strain that her conduct has put [on the Justice Department's credibility]," he said.
Specter also said he and Hyde have talked about the possibility of Congress going to court to request appointment of an independent counsel over Reno's objections. However, he admitted that would be a long shot.
Also on Sunday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat on the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which held hearings last year into allegations of campaign finance irregularities, said that he might change his position on whether an independent counsel is needed, based on LaBella's report.
To this point, Lieberman said he has not been in favor of a special prosecutor. But he said that LaBella "probably knows more about what happened in 1996 ... than anyone else in the country."
"[If] he is now recommending an independent counsel, that would give me pause and make me want to reconsider my position, if I could see the report," he said. "And I expect that it will have the same effect on [Reno]."