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President Defends His, Gore's Calls

September 23, 1997|ELIZABETH SHOGREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — Echoing a sentiment that he has repeated frequently in recent months, President Clinton said Monday that he and Vice President Al Gore believed that they acted "firmly within the letter of the law" when they raised money for their 1996 reelection campaign.

"I believe what the vice president did and what I did was legal and I'm absolutely certain that we believed we were acting within the letter of the law," Clinton said in response to questions from reporters in New York, where he spoke to the United Nations.

Clinton said he would cooperate with investigators looking into alleged campaign fund-raising improprieties to help them "establish the facts."

Clinton's comments came after it was announced last weekend that the Justice Department is engaged in 30-day reviews of Clinton and Gore to determine whether evidence of possible wrongdoing is strong enough to persuade Atty. Gen. Janet Reno to appoint an independent counsel to investigate.

In both cases, the focus of the inquiries is phone calls made from the White House to solicit campaign contributions.

Clinton has said repeatedly that although he does not rule out the possibility that he made fund-raising calls from the White House, he has no memory of doing so. Gore, by contrast, has admitted making more than 40 such calls, but argues that he broke no law in doing so.

There are differences of opinion on whether the law makes it illegal to make phone calls soliciting campaign funds from the White House and other federal buildings.

Under federal law, it is illegal to solicit campaign funds in federal workplaces. However, lawyers disagree over whether the law applies only to soliciting a subordinate on federal property or whether soliciting by phone to outside individuals not employed by the government would also be prohibited.

It also is unclear whether the law applies to the president and vice president.

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