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President Bill Clinton -- Dec. 2, 1997

QUESTION: Mr. President, have you already been informed of Janet Reno's decision on whether to recommend that an independent counsel be named?


QUESTION: Well, if you could tell us how you feel in these hours before you're officially informed over this apparent rift between two of your appointees -- Janet Reno and the FBI Director Louis Freeh -- who seem to be disagreeing strongly on whether or not there should be an independent counsel?

CLINTON: I don't have any particular feelings about it. I know -- all I know about it is what I've seen in the press.

I think what I would like to emphasize to you is what I have said all along here. This is a decision of law, vested in the attorney general, which should be made based on the law. I don't believe people outside the department should attempt to influence the decision, and I have not.

And I think that the attorney general just has to make the decision consulting with anyone, including the FBI director, whom she chooses, and then making the decision she believes is right. That's what a lot of these jobs involve.

I've made a lot of decisions that not everybody that works for me agrees with. That's part of life. And I think we should let her make the decision, and then whatever the decision is, we should get on with the business of America and the Justice Department should get on with the business of protecting the people of America. ...

QUESTION: Mr. President, when you said you didn't think that any outsider should impact on the -- on Attorney General Reno's decision, who were you referring to? Were you referring to Freeh or to (OFF- MIKE)?

CLINTON: No, no. He's an insider. I mean, he -- and of course there is the Justice Department division, there's a whole division of professionals who deal with these kinds of cases all the time. And I'm sure that they -- I assume that they've made recommendations to her as well. They should all make their recommendations, and then she has to decide.

But I believe it should be a decision based strictly on the law and not outside political pressure. And I have scrupulously avoided saying anything one way or the other, publicly or privately, that would be that kind of thing.

I just don't think the rest of us should be involved in this. This is a legal question.

QUESTION: Are you still uncertain on whether you made any calls from the White House, fund-raising?

CLINTON: I met with the Justice Department, as you know. I've answered them all. I don't have anything to add to what I've already said on that.

(UNKNOWN): Thank you, Mr. President.

QUESTION: Mr. President, can I just elaborate, and despite Mike McCurry's suggestion that I...



QUESTION: On this relationship that you have with Louie Freeh and with Janet Reno, you've in the past suggested that the strains resulting from all these investigations have hampered your ability as president to deal with the other chief law enforcement authorities in the country. Has this become a real problem, and how will it play out irrespective of Janet Reno's decision?

CLINTON: Well, after the decision is over, when she makes a decision, whatever the decision is, I would expect that we will -- things will return to normal, because we'll go back to work. I just want everybody to go back to work here.

We've got serious law enforcement challenges, both beyond our borders and within our country's.

And the most important thing is that everybody does the people's work up here, that we give back to the business of protecting the American people and dealing with those challenges. And I think that that's what we were expected to do, that's what we got hired to do and we shouldn't let anything interfere with that, and I don't intend to let anything interfere with my efforts there.

But I thought it was appropriate to limit any personal contacts I had during this period of time because I didn't even want the appearance to be out there that there would be any attempt to influence a decision. I don't think that's right.

This is a legal decision. It ought to be made on the facts. And a lot of the political rhetoric that's been in the press in the last several months I think is entirely inappropriate, because there is a legal -- there's a statute here and we cannot get in the position in this country of basically bringing politics to bear on every legal decision that has to be made. That's not the right way to do this.

Copyright © 1997 Federal Document Clearing House

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