10/12/97 - 11:06 PM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Reno: No incriminating evidence on tapes

WASHINGTON - Attorney General Janet Reno said Sunday she has found nothing in videotapes of White House coffees to incriminate President Clinton or other officials covered by the post-Watergate independent counsel law.

But she promised to keep investigating and said she ignores "name calling" by Republican critics who have demanded she resign.

"Nothing has been closed, and nobody has been exonerated," including Clinton, Reno told NBC's Meet the Press. Claims that the Justice Department is winding down its investigation into suspect campaign fund-raising activities at the White House are mistaken, she said.

Republicans have pounded Reno in recent weeks, saying she should resign or face impeachment for failing to seek an independent counsel to investigate White House fund-raising practices.

"We believe, many of us, that she is trying to stand in the way of a good investigation. ... She is fighting for the president of the United States instead of doing her job," Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the House committee holding hearings on fund-raising violations, said on CNN's Late Edition.

Reno said this month that, while continuing to investigate fund-raising phone calls Vice President Al Gore made from the White House, she had found no evidence that President Clinton had violated the law in inviting wealthy donors to the White House for coffees or sleepovers.

She has until Wednesday to decide whether to push ahead with an inquiry into phone calls the president apparently made from the White House.

On Sunday she said that after reviewing newly released videotapes of the coffees, "we do not have any evidence of criminal activity" among the president or other senior government officials covered by the Independent Counsel Act.

She emphasized there will be no pause in "one of the most complex investigations in this nation's history." She also has no plans to resign, she said.

Asked about comments Saturday by House Speaker Newt Gingrich that she "looks like a fool" for not seeking an independent counsel, she said, "When the speaker calls names I don't pay too much attention. What I try to do is listen to people who have constructive ideas and keep an open mind.

"I follow the evidence. I follow the law. I don't follow innuendo. I don't follow shrill accusations."

Reno said she was angered by the White House's failure to notify her immediately about the existence of the videotapes. White House officials again apologized for delays but insisted there were no ulterior motives.

"I deeply regret that we did not get those tapes off earlier," White House lawyer Lanny Breuer said on CBS' Face the Nation. But he said the White House has a "proud record" of providing more than 100,000 documents to Congress and the Justice Department.

White House chief counsel Charles F.C. Ruff said on ABC's This Week that he made a mistake in not telling Reno of the tapes at a meeting the day after they were discovered. But "it had nothing to do with any effort to conceal the information," Ruff said. "We would never do that to the Department of Justice or to anyone else."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who sits on the Senate committee investigating fund-raising irregularities, told CBS the delay in releasing the tapes was "part of a whole pattern of noncompliance. ... Whether it's malfeasance or it's simply incompetence, it's inexcusable."

A Democratic member of the Senate committee, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, said on Fox News Sunday that while the tapes "turned out to be yawners," it was "a clumsy episode, and the White House failure to produce these videotapes on time was an embarrassment to everyone."

By The Associated Press



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