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FBI Director Freeh to Resign in June

Aired May 1, 2001 - 12:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to check in on our other story which is developing out of Washington, D.C. -- and that concerns FBI director Louis Freeh -- soon to make an announcement about future plans.

For more on that, let's go to Jeanne Meserve in Washington. Jeanne, hello once again.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn.

The FBI director, Louis Freeh, will be stepping down in June at the end of the school year. I've just been handed a press release from the Web site of the U.S. Department of Justice, spelling out his plans, indicating he is going to be leaving.

I'm scanning this quickly to see if it tells me where he is going. I don't believe I see it right here, but it had been spoken about that he would be exploring job options outside of government because he was interested in making more money. He is 51 years old and has a number of children.

CNN's John King reporting from the White House that officials there are telling him that Freeh came to the White House yesterday and met with Chief of Staff Andrew Card and informed him of his plans. Card then walked Mr. Freeh down the hall to meet with President Bush, who thanked him for his 10 years of service -- less than 10 years of service at the FBI.

John King is being told that this came as a surprise to the White House. And, at this point, they have not given any thought as to who might replace him at the helm of the FBI.

I understand that John King is now on the lawn of the White House to fill us in with more information.

John, over to you.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jeanne, as you mentioned, the FBI director, Mr. Freeh, who was a thorn in the president's side during the Clinton administration, had a relatively low profile in the early days of the Bush administration.

But early on, there were some rumblings that Mr. Freeh would leave the government. He has several school-aged children. It's said he needs to get out and make more money. He came over here yesterday, we're told, requested a meeting with the Chief of Staff Andy Card -- at that point, informed him of his plans to resign.

And, as you mentioned, Mr. Card brought down for an audience, if you will, with President Bush. We're told that was a brief -- a very pleasant meeting and that Mr. Freeh asked the people here at the White House to keep his plans a secret, until he could get home and inform his family that he had indeed made a final decision.

Now, as to who will be the new FBI director, senior government officials telling us that search just beginning now -- that while there had been talk of Mr. Freeh leaving -- the White House was a bit caught off-guard by the timing of this announcement. He will be in place, though, through the end of the school year in June. The White House personnel process will now kick up and look for a replacement.

There will, of course, be speculation. The former Oklaho -- the current Oklahoma governor -- excuse me -- Frank Keating, a former FBI agent, a former top official at the Justice Department -- his name has come up in the past, when there have been stories about Mr. Freeh possibly leaving.

But senior White House officials telling us any speculation, at this point, would be just that -- that the process to replace Mr. Freeh: just beginning -- Jeanne.

MESERVE: John, he had a rather checkered experience at the FBI, but politically, support remained very strong for him, did it not?

KING: Support remained very strong on Capitol Hill for Mr. Freeh. He's former federal judge. He had very good relations, especially with the Republicans and the Judiciary Committees in both the House and the Senate. He had a very difficult relationship with President Clinton, and at times, with the former Attorney General Janet Reno in the prior administration.

Mr. Freeh, of course, known as a very aggressive public advocate for more independent counsel investigations of the fund-raising from the 1996 Clinton re-election campaign -- more specifically, the Democratic National Committee's fund-raising as part of that campaign. He sparred with the Attorney General, Ms. Reno, over whether there should be an independent counsel's review -- was quite public. And, of course, as all the investigations took place on Capitol Hill, many of the documents -- the memos, in which urged the administration -- the Justice Department -- to be more aggressive, were made public. So there was quite a public feud between the president and the FBI director in the prior administration.

Again Mr. Freeh's name has not been heard much in the current administration, as John Ashcroft has taken over as Attorney General. But it has been widely anticipated, from the beginning of this administration, that he would ultimately step down. His decision to come over here yesterday and inform the chief of staff and then the president though, did catch the administration a bit off-guard.

MESERVE: John King at the White House, thank you -- I've had a chance to read this press release at more leisure. It does not mention where Mr. Freeh will be going. He does extends thanks to many people, though, including President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Chief of Staff Andrew Card, John Ashcroft, President Clinton and also Attorney General Janet Reno, with whom he sometimes sparred.

Leon, back to you.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks Jeanne.

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