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Reno Oks 90-Day Probe Of Gore's Fund-Raising

By Terry Frieden/CNN

Attorney General Janet Reno

WASHINGTON (Aug. 27) -- Attorney General Janet Reno formally announced Thursday she has begun a 90-day preliminary investigation of Vice President Al Gore "to consider statements Vice President Gore made in the course of another preliminary investigation last year concerning political fund-raising calls he placed from the White House."

Reno released a court document in which she informed the panel which oversees the Independent Counsel process, "I have commenced a preliminary investigation ... involving Vice President of the United States Albert Gore, Jr."

Reno provided no further details of the inquiry in her written statement.

Reno said she had ordered a 30-day initial inquiry into the issue July 27 and now has taken the next step under the Independent Counsel law.

Reno's statement recalled that the Justice Department conducted a preliminary investigation of 1995 fund-raising calls made by the vice president and concluded there were not sufficient grounds to seek the appointment of an independent counsel. The statement said that based on "new information," she opened the initial phase last month. She did not elaborate.

However, sources say the new probe was prompted by an interview in which the vice president told FBI agents he believed only so-called "soft money" was used to finance a media campaign. A recently disclosed memo from Gore's office raised questions whether some "hard money" political contributions may have been also used. Soft money for general issue ads and political party building is largely unregulated. Hard money raised for specific campaigns is closely regulated.

Vice President Al Gore

A Gore spokesman, Christopher Lehane, said the vice president "will continue to cooperate fully with the Department of Justice during its preliminary review. While we understand the need for the Justice Department to complete its preliminary review, we are confident it will once again conclude that everything the vice president did was legal and proper."

Gore's lawyer also issued a statement Wednesday following news leaks about the 90-day probe. "I am totally satisfied that Vice President Gore has fully, completely and honestly answered every question asked of him," said Gore attorney James Neal. "I am confident that when this investigation is completed, the Department of Justice will reach the same conclusion."

Justice Department officials said the decision to proceed to a 90-day probe does not necessarily mean Reno will decide to seek appointment of an independent counsel.

"During the preliminary investigation I will consider the facts and I will consider the law, but I will consider nothing else," Reno said in her statement. The attorney general has previously vowed not to bend to political pressure in the case.

Charles LaBella

Reno said the Justice Department continues to review developments in the campaign finance investigation "including issues discussed in the memo prepared by Charles LaBella."

That memo by LaBella, the outgoing supervising prosecutor of the Justice Department's campaign finance task force, calls for Reno to seek appointment of an independent counsel in the investigation. Key Republican lawmakers have demanded Reno produce the memo.

Wednesday night Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said he is scheduled to receive a briefing from Reno Tuesday. Hatch said he expects LaBella to be present.

Thursday morning, when Reno was asked about the meeting said, "I don't know who will be there. We'll see what happens."

Hatch, possibly his House counterpart Henry Hyde, and perhaps the ranking Democrats on their committees, will meet with Reno. The Republicans want Reno to inform them of LaBella's legal reasoning and whether she will seek an independent counsel. Reno aides say her briefing is unrelated to any decision on requesting an outside counsel.

In another development on the Gore probe, President Bill Clinton issued a statement of support.

"I am confident that all of the vice president's actions were legal and proper, and that any review will conclude that," the statement said.

In Other News

Thursday, August 27, 1998

Clinton Back To Work Pushing Legislative Agenda
Poll: People In Other Countries Say Clinton Doing Fine
Health Concerns Force Hawaii Candidate Out of House Race
Lindsey Expected To Appear Before Grand Jury Friday
Reno Oks 90-Day Probe Of Gore's Fund-Raising

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