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CNN Today

Reno Faces Congress Over Gore Fund-Raising Investigation

Aired June 27, 2000 - 2:01 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: A summer storm is possible in Washington today and Attorney General Janet Reno may discover that she's a lightning rod. On Capitol Hill this hour, Republicans are breathing down her neck about a renewed call for a special counsel to look into Vice President Gore's 1996 fund-raising activities. And special counsel is about the last thing Al Gore wants on voters' minds when summer fades into the fall campaign season.

CNN's Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas is in Washington. He's closely following this story.

What are we going to hear this afternoon, Pierre?

PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, you can expect the Republicans to ask about this latest call for an independent counsel investigation or a special counsel investigation. Also, I must tell you that the attorney general can also expect to hear from Republicans on previous calls for an independent counsel investigation. FBI director Louis Freeh called for an investigation -- Chuck LaBella, the former head of the Campaign Task Force -- both called for investigations.

Freeh, in fact, also pointed out some misgivings that he had about how the investigation was being conducted. Expect the Republicans to hit all those issues to try to find out just why Reno has been so reluctant to call for a special counsel or independent counsel investigation.

WATERS: And the attorney general, as you say, has rejected this call for an investigation twice before. Why should this time be any different?

THOMAS: Well, some of her aids are already pointing out that there's essentially nothing new. But again, this is the new man she brought in, brought in, in January to take over the investigation. So, she has to pay attention to his recommendation, obviously. But some of her staff are saying: Look, this is nothing new. There should not be a special counsel investigation.

Again, it comes on the eve of an investigation -- excuse me, eve of an election. So there is some debate going on at the Justice Department. Reno, I'm told, is prepared to take tough questions. And she'll respond that she's the person that's called for repeated independent counsel investigations. She's the person that called for the investigation -- or allowed the investigation of President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

So, she'll try to build on her track record of the past say, look, when she sees a need for an independent counsel investigation, she calls for one. When she doesn't, she simply won't.

WATERS: For those not following this as closely as we are, Pierre, independent counsel statute has gone away. Special counsel is a different animal. Explain that.

THOMAS: Well, the primary difference between the two, Lou, is that in the independent counsel, what Reno would have had to do would be to go to a three-judge panel located here in Washington and request an independent counsel. In the case of a special counsel, it's at her pleasure that she can call or appoint a special counsel. And the thresholds are pretty similar in terms of when you enact an investigation. Again, the issue is: Is there enough evidence to warrant further investigation by an outside counsel because of a potential conflict of interest at the Justice Department? That's the underlying issue that Reno has to resolve here.

WATERS: And we have seen the pictures...

That's Pierre Thomas in Washington. We will hear from you again.

... where Janet Reno is sitting in the committee room. So far, only the chairman, Orrin Hatch, is at the table. When that grilling of Janet Reno begins, we'll bring that to you live.

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