10/13/97 - 12:04 AM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Gingrich turns up heat on Reno

ROSWELL, Ga. - House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Attorney General Janet Reno "looks like a fool" for rejecting an independent counsel probe of White House coffees for Democratic donors.

"I am very disappointed in Attorney General Reno's failure to appoint an independent counsel," Gingrich said Saturday at a Republican Party breakfast in his district north of Atlanta.

"She looks like a fool. I mean let's be honest. This is a nice lady. I've given her the benefit of 700 doubts."

Reno herself has expressed anger about the Clinton administration's delay in producing the videotapes, which show the president chatting with donors during the White House coffees.

The Justice Department has long sought the tapes during its investigation into alleged Democratic fund-raising improprieties, but the White House said it did not discover them until earlier this month. Reno has said the episode strained her relationship with the White House and has suggested she could reverse her decision and seek an independent prosecutor to scrutinize Clinton's role in the coffees.

Gingrich said if Reno is going to let her loyalty to Clinton take precedence over enforcing the law, she should resign.

"There's a point where she ought to say enough already," he said. "The attorney general's not the political patronage appointee of the president. The attorney general's the top law enforcement officer of the U.S."

Gingrich wasn't the only prominent Republican condemning Reno on Saturday. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., reiterated statements he made earlier this week accusing Reno of "not telling the truth" and suggesting that Clinton remove her.

"When I feel strongly about something, I state it strongly," Domenici said on CNN's Evans & Novak, taped Saturday for weekend broadcast.

"I've said publicly since I commented about Janet Reno ... that I don't believe she will appoint a special prosecutor," he said. "And I don't."

By The Associated Press



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