Freeh to provide details on memo to House panel

WASHINGTON - The FBI agreed Wednesday to share with Congress the contents of Director Louis Freeh's memo recommending an independent counsel to investigate Clinton administration campaign fund raising, the chairman of a House committee said.

The FBI agreed officials would read the memo to House investigators, omitting portions that reveal details of the criminal investigation, said Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee.

Burton said he is more interested in learning the contents of the memo than having actual possession of the document. Burton said that if he is not satisfied with the deal after hearing the contents, he would still subpoena the memo.

But the agreement appeared to defuse a confrontation between Burton's committee and the Justice Department over the memo. Several Republican committee members threatened to support a contempt of Congress citation if the department did not provide a copy of the memo.

Attorney General Janet Reno did not accept Freeh's recommendation that she seek an independent counsel to investigate fund-raising telephone calls by President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. She and Freeh testified last week before Burton's committee about their differences, with both insisting the disagreement has not hurt their working relationship.

In another development, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt is expected to be called to testify when the House campaign fund-raising inquiry turns to the Clinton administration's Indian casino decision, Burton said.

The announcement Tuesday came one day after Reno rejected Republican requests to include Clinton in her investigation of the casino ruling.

Meanwhile, Babbitt told The Washington Post he "was out of the loop" and "not involved in the decision-making process at all" regarding the casino decision. He said White House inquiries about the case were handled by subordinates and were not brought to his attention.

"The decision-making process was clear. I wasn't involved in this. I wasn't involved with the White House or anybody," he told the Post in an interview appearing in Wednesday's editions.

Babbitt's first media interview on his role in the casino matter appeared in Sunday's editions of The Arizona Republic.

Burton's committee, meanwhile, has obtained an undated Interior Department memo written in June 1995 endorsing the Chippewa casino proposal.

The 22-page draft report was written over the name of George T. Skibine, then director of the Indian Gaming Management Staff at Interior, and said the casino would have "no detrimental impact." Skibine told the Post the memo was written by an aide and that he viewed it only as a draft and never signed it.

Skibine said he had decided by June 29, 1995, to recommend against the casino license. The Chippewa application was denied on July 14, 1995.

Republicans have accused Clinton and his aides of engineering the Interior Department's denial of a casino license to three Chippewa tribes who wanted to compete with a nearby Indian gambling operation.

Tribes opposing the casino donated $300,000 to the Democratic National Committee and other Democrats. Reno said the Republicans failed to cite evidence of any crime by the president.

Burton also is disputing a decision by the Justice Department to withhold documents involving the proposed casino.

By The Associated Press

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