Reno May Seek Clinton Interview: `No One Exonerated' in Finance Probe
Price, Joyce, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Attorney General Janet Reno says she may interview President Clinton as part of the Justice Department's probe into campaign fund-raising.
Miss Reno acknowledged that possibility yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press," declaring that "nothing" in the probe has been "closed down" and that "no one," including Mr. Clinton, "has been exonerated."
"We're going to continue to take this investigation wherever it leads, and if it triggers the independent counsel statute, we will do so, just as we already have in at least three instances," she said.
White House Press Secretary Michael McCurry said Mr. Clinton would cooperate in the attorney general's probe and the White House would consider an interview of the president if Miss Reno asked for one.
"I think it would depend on whether she does. . . . We would certainly consider it," said the spokesman, who was traveling with Mr. Clinton in Caracas, Venezuela.
"If she did [want to pursue an interview], the president, through his attorney, David Kendall, would respond consistent with the cooperation we've extended to the Justice Department in pursuing this matter," Mr. McCurry said.
Some Republicans, who've been pounding Miss Reno for weeks for her failure to seek an independent counsel to investigate 1996 campaign-finance practices, were encouraged by her remarks yesterday.
"It's a start," Sen. Arlen Specter, a member of the Governmental Affairs Committee investigating fund-raising irregularities, said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Even so, the Pennsylvania Republican said he believes there "really is a lack of sincere interest" by the attorney general "to get to the bottom of what's going on."
Because of that, he said, "I have filed legislation which will give the court which appoints independent counsels authorization to appoint an independent counsel without the attorney general's request."
Miss Reno said yesterday that after reviewing videotapes of coffees Mr. Clinton hosted for Democratic donors at the White House in 1995 and 1996, "we do not have any evidence of criminal activity" by the president or other senior government officials covered by the independent counsel statute.
On ABC's "This Week," White House counsel Charles F.C. Ruff said he erred in not telling Miss Reno about the tapes at a meeting he had with her on Oct. 2, the day after they were discovered.
As for why the tapes - which had been subpoenaed by investigators months ago - were not discovered until recently, Mr. Ruff responded, "This is a matter of good, solid career people who pushed the wrong button or asked the wrong question of the computer" when White House lawyers inquired as to whether there were such tapes after receiving the subpoenas.
White House officials indicated that by tomorrow they may hand over to congressional investigators additional videotapes of Mr. Clinton appearing at political events. The administration missed a Friday deadline from a House panel to turn over all the tapes it has.
Mr. Ruff said yesterday there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing on any of them.
In the NBC interview yesterday, Miss Reno was asked about a tape of one of the coffees that shows Arief Wiriadinata, an Indonesian national who has since left the United States, telling Mr. Clinton, "James Riady sent me."