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CNN Today

Reno Still Quiet on Special Counsel for Gore

Aired June 23, 2000 - 2:19 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Attorney General Janet Reno refused to tip her hand today to a new round of questions concerning Vice President Al Gore's fund-raising efforts. Janet Reno's being urged by a Justice Department investigator to hand the matter over to a special counsel. The questions involve the vice president's well-known trip to the Buddhist temple, which led to money-laundering charges against a Democratic fund-raiser.

Last spring, Gore was confronted about his account of the event, as well as his explanations of fund-raising phone calls and other related matters. The advice to name a special counsel followed that interview held in April. Reno says she's taking her time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The worst thing you can do in an investigation is dribble it out piece by piece without presenting the whole and without completing the whole. And that's what I'm determined to do. I don't want to present half-facts. I don't want to present a piece here and a piece there that may not be subsequently corroborated. I want to do it the right way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATERS: The recommendation to Reno: name a special counsel to investigate Gore. And that recommendation came to light yesterday. Reno reportedly has launched an investigation to determine how word leaked out.

This is not the greatest timing for Al Gore given his run for president. Senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins us now from Washington.

Bill, I was watching on a back channel the Gore news conference in Minnesota with Jesse Ventura yesterday when the question was put to Al Gore and he said he didn't know anything about it.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this of course came as a surprise to Mr. Gore. The memo was leaked. Senator Specter said that he had gotten the information, Arlen Specter, a Republican of Pennsylvania, to indicate that yet for the third time someone has recommended that either an independent or a special counsel be appointed to investigate Vice President Gore. This appears to have caught him by surprise. WATERS: Well bring us up to speed. Now Janet Reno has brushed this aside twice before. Why has she done that, and what's she likely to do this time?

SCHNEIDER: I wouldn't say brushed it aside. She's considered the case. She indicates very carefully and decided there wasn't enough evidence to appoint an independent counsel.

The independent counsel statute has expired. Now it has to be a special count, an attorney appointed by the attorney general, responsible to her, the attorney general, answerable to her.

This is the third time it's happened. She has to decide, do the facts of this case -- is there anything new in this case that's been uncovered by the new head of the campaign fund-raising task force -- that's Mr. Conrad -- to justify changing her mind and allowing -- appointing a special counsel.

We don't know what new was said. We know that Mr. Conrad was apparently bothered by Al Gore, the vice president's, answers to question about that fund-raising event at the Buddhist temple that he claims he -- at first he said he didn't know it was a fund-raising event, that it was a financial event. We don't know exactly what he said in response to that interview, but something about it clearly bothered the new head of the task force to make him urge the attorney general to appoint a special counsel.

WATERS: Do you know about what answers were troublesome?

SCHNEIDER: No, we don't know. We've heard from our Justice Department correspondent Pierre Thomas, who has said that some people in the Justice Department believe there really wasn't anything new, it was simply new to Mr. Conrad, who is new to the case. But we really can't answer that with any certainty because the files are still closed.

WATERS: All right, we'll have to wait for developments. Bill Schneider in Washington on the Gore controversy on fund raising from '96.

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