Excerpts from fund-raising hearing - Dec. 9, 1996

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., committee chairman: The attorney general is still resisting an independent counsel. Unlike President Reagan, President Clinton has not called for an independent counsel. He has remained silent. This has all the appearances of an attorney general protecting the president. ...

By focusing on the narrow issue of phone calls from the White House, Ms. Reno guaranteed the result of her preliminary inquiry. By apparently avoiding key witnesses and stifling attempts by FBI agents to interview key people, the attorney general continues to allow her investigation to drag on with few results.

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Burton: We're trying to find out why that decision was made and --

Reno: I'll tell you why the decision was made.

Burton: Well, but why -- you -- there's this difference between you and the attorney -- or the FBI director, and whether or not you thought his recommendation was unconstitutional.

Reno: I'll tell you why the decision was made.

Burton: Because you wanted to make it and you made it.

Reno: No. I made the decision because the Congress of the United States provides that it is the attorney general who will make the decision. I considered the information from everyone. And the reason I made the decision is contained in the notification filed with the Special Division.

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Reno: Louis Freeh is one of the most dedicated public servants I know. ... We do not always agree. As he will tell you in his statement today, we disagree on the issue of whether I should apply for the appointment of an independent counsel. But I'd be upset if I found that the director of the FBI was agreeing with me all the time, and I wouldn't think he was doing his job.

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Burton: And you, as attorney general, if you're relying upon the judgment of people who have a political interest in the decisions, then we're concerned that your decision might be swayed, one way or the other, by politics and not by legal issues.

Reno: I have relied on senior officials in the Department of Justice, both politically appointed and otherwise. I have relied on decisions made by a number of people. But it is my decision with respect to the independent counsel, and I am the one that has to explain it.

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Reno: Again, what I would suggest to you, Mr. Chairman, is that I want the people who advise me to make sure that they can talk, without having to disclose their thought process, since I am the one that is responsible for this decision --

Burton: Well, OK --

Reno: -- and I am the one where the buck stops.

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Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif.: But I think it was important to underscore these items because the sickeningly persistent innuendo, Madame Attorney General, that you are protecting your old friend Bill Clinton, and your old friend Al Gore, because of your close personal relationship with them or because of your political aspirations in the future, have to be put to rest. You are, without question, one of the most nonpartisan, nonpolitical public servants in a highly politicized city. And we are all enormously fortunate to have you in the position as attorney general.

By The Associated Press



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