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When it comes to Elian Gonzalez, Hatch says Justice Department has time for media, but not Congress

May 2, 2000
Web posted at: 3:44 p.m. EDT (1944 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Justice Department is more interested in media appearances than producing the documents the Senate Judiciary Committee needs for its investigation into last month's raid to seize 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez from his Miami relatives, panel Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Tuesday.

Hatch
Sen. Orrin Hatch  

Hatch had postponed a hearing previously scheduled for Wednesday because he said the Justice Department could not provide necessary documents in time.

"To date, the Department of Justice has still not provided to the committee most of the documents requested, nor has the department indicated when those documents will be provided to the committee," Hatch said in a statement released Tuesday.

"My concern about this matter is highlighted by the fact that the Department of Justice, claiming not to have time to respond to congressional oversight requests, appears to have time to prepare the Attorney General for several appearances on television news and entertainment programs."

A spokeswoman for Hatch said the chairman released the statement because of Attorney General Janet Reno's appearance on Oprah Winfrey's talk show Tuesday.

"Apparently the Department of Justice is more concerned with meeting the demands of the media and other public relations avenues then it is in cooperating with congressional oversight," he said.

The committee has received some documents, but the majority of documents they requested have not been turned over by the Justice Department.

Last Tuesday, Hatch requested a wide range of documents relating to the Easter weekend raid, and gave the Justice Department 24 hours to produce them.

Hatch's spokeswoman maintains he still wants to reschedule the hearing once he receives the necessary documents, despite speculation that public support for the raid could make the congressional hearing strategy politically risky.

A Justice Department official reacting to Hatch's statement said: "The attorney general has wanted to be sure the public understood the reasons for the actions undertaken, and thank them for their support. That in no way impairs our ability to collect the documents requested."

Reno's Oprah debut

Meanwhile, Reno said during Tuesday's taping of Oprah Winfrey's talk show that she had no regrets about the raid, which resulted in the reunification of the Cuban boy with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

"I've been over and over it and I don't know any other way we could have done it," she said.

"I have no regrets, but what I always do is to try to keep an open mind and listen and learn for the future," she said.

Reno, a Miami native, also said her "Cuban friends are furious ... they feel betrayed and hurt."

Elian remains secluded on Maryland's eastern shore with his father, stepmother and younger half brother. They will likely remain there as the appeals process in case continues.

CNN's Dana Bash and Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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