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Independent counsel decision intensifies pressure on Reno

Specter wants Judiciary Committee to take attorney general to court

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, November 25) -- Janet Reno's decision Tuesday not to seek an outside investigation of Vice President Al Gore has intensified the political heat that Republicans were already applying to the attorney general.

Reno
Attorney General Janet Reno  

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) is urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to take Reno to court for her failure to seek a special prosecutor to investigate Democratic fund-raising irregularities.

In a letter Wednesday to committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Specter suggests the committee file a petition for writ of mandamus in a federal court, compelling Reno to seek an independent probe.

Accusing the attorney general of "delaying tactics," Specter said, "While there is no doubt that there are legal hurdles to be overcome, this action is certainly worth a major effort," Specter writes. He adds the complaint has been prepared for months.

For more than a year, GOP members of Congress have pushed hard for the attorney general to appoint an independent counsel to investigate allegations of Democratic fund-raising abuses during the 1996 campaign.

Despite twice ordering preliminary investigations of Gore and President Bill Clinton, Reno has steadfastly refused to seek an independent probe of the White House.

Hatch
Sen. Orrin Hatch  

"The facts are the facts. The law is the law and she's not abiding by the law," said Hatch following Reno's latest decision announcement.

Specter Wednesday also called for prompt committee hearings on Reno's failure to seek an independent counsel, and for her to be held in contempt of Congress if she continues to evade the panel's questions.

The political pressure on Reno will only increase in the next two weeks as the attorney general faces two more deadlines over whether to seek independent counsels to investigate the fund-raising roles of former White House aide Harold Ickes and Clinton.

But Democrats say Reno's integrity cannot be assailed.

Roy Romer, governor of Colorado and general chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Reno "has been very evenhanded. She's appointed seven or eight special investigators. I think she has great credibility."

Romer
Gov. Roy Romer  

But that credibility is on the line with the Republican Congress. When asked if he thinks the attorney general is engaged in a coverup, Hatch said, "Well, I've never been willing to go that far, but I'm very disturbed by it, and a lot depends on the next two referrals."

Tuesday's decision focused on whether Gore lied to the FBI about possibly illegal fund-raising phone calls he made from his office during the 1996 campaign.

Specter additionally wants the Judiciary Committee to look into whether Reno was motivated by vindictiveness for passing over Charles La Bella for appointment as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Los Angeles. La Bella helped write a memo to Reno recommending she seek an independent counsel in the fund-raising flap.

Justice sources told CNN Reno is unaffected by the criticism. One source said she has been through it all before.

CNN's Pierre Thomas and John Bisney contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES

No independent counsel for Gore (11-24-98)

Reno faces decisions on campaign finance investigations (11-23-98)

Clinton interviewed by Justice investigators (11-09-98)

Clinton's fund-raising under 90-day investigation (09-08-98)

Reno triggers 90-day probe of Ickes' fund-raising (09-01-98)

Reno approves 90-day investigation of Gore (08-26-98)

Reno says 'no' on independent counsels (12-02-97)

Reno launches Clinton fund-raising probe (9-20-97)



RELATED SITES

Department of Justice Web site

Federal Election Commission Web site



VIDEO

Reno sees no need for new investigation of Gore (11-25-98)
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Campaign finance probes



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Wednesday, November 25, 1998

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