Panel Letter Presses Reno for Probe

Article excerpt

The House Judiciary Committee said yesterday there is "overwhelming and widely available" evidence to suggest that President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore violated federal law in their solicitation and receipt of campaign donations during the 1996 election.

In a 25-page letter to Attorney General Janet Reno, the committee said the "credible evidence" against Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore "continued to mount" and urged Miss Reno to seek the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate campaign-finance abuses, including the involvement of Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore.

"Before any conclusions are reached, a fair and thorough investigation must be conducted," wrote the committee's 20 Republicans. "However, if the evidence proves the worst of what now appears on the surface, the misconduct threatens the very foundation of our democracy."

The Justice Department said it is considering a preliminary investigation to determine if an outside prosecutor should be named to probe campaign abuses by Mr. Gore.

Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore have denied any wrongdoing.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, said the independent counsel statute requires Miss Reno to ask a federal appeals court panel to appoint an independent counsel if there is specific and credible evidence that a person covered under the statute "may have violated any federal law." The act covers both the president and vice president.

In the letter, the committee said Mr. Clinton may have received campaign contributions in return for official government actions he took on behalf of contributors, including Democratic fund-raisers Johnny Chung, Ernest Green and Charles Yah Lin Trie. …