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Reno Gives No Ground

Republicans try in vain to rattle her on decision not to request a fund-raising counsel

reno

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 30) -- Attorney General Janet Reno is giving no ground to Republican senators questioning her decision not to seek an independent probe of Democratic fund-raising abuses.

Orrin Hatch, the Senate Judiciary Committee's chairman, called Reno on the carpet today to explain her decision. The Republican effort to rattle Reno is about all they've got; they cannot force her to ask for a counsel. That decision is purely up to her.

So far, it's no dice. Reno's mantra: "I have no specific and credible evidence against any covered person." (384K wav sound)

"If at any time I find that the requirements of the independent counsel act have been met, I will not hesitate to invoke it, as I have in the past," Reno said.

"But I want to be clear about something: I'm not going to violate any oath in this matter because of any pressure from any quarter. Not from the media, not from Congress, not from anywhere else. And I'm not going to do things based on polls; I'm going to do things based on the evidence and the law."

hatch

Hatch said he sympathized with the "difficult, unenviable position" Reno is in, but added, "If ever there was a case where public confidence in the integrity of an investigation, and in the Justice Department itself, required a prosecutor who is not a political appointee of the president, it is here." (576K wav sound)

"I don't do things based on just suspicions," Reno replied. "What we want to try to do is look at every piece of evidence. I can't comment on the evidence that we have, but I can tell you that I have no specific and creditable evidence against any covered person."

Reno opened her part of the hearing with a laundry list of things the Justice Department is doing well, and recalled the history of bipartisan cooperation she has enjoyed with the committee. She addressed the independent counsel issue last, almost as an afterthought.

leahy

In his opening statement, Hatch professed his respect for Reno. But the Utah Republican cited her decisions to seek independent counsels in other circumstances, where, he says, she took a broad view of her mandate under the independent counsel law, and said he was concerned she was taking such a narrow view now.

A common Democratic refrain got its first hearing early on from the committee's ranking Democrat, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who suggested that congressional Republicans wanted Reno to abort her department's investigation because its scope included Republicans as well as Democrats. (288K wav sound)

The session is an "oversight hearing," meaning senators can ask about the full range of issues surrounding the Justice Department. Other topics brought up include the large number of vacancies in the federal judiciary, and the large number of top-level vacancies in Reno's own department.


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