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CAMPAIGN 2000

Reno Defends Her Refusal in Gore Probe

March 17, 2000|From Times Staff and Wire Services

WASHINGTON — Atty. Gen. Janet Reno defended her refusal to order an independent counsel investigation of Vice President Al Gore in 1998 and refused Thursday to release an internal memo critical of her advisors for retaining control of the campaign finance investigation.

Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, has subpoenaed the memo for a second time. It was written in late 1998 by the department's campaign finance task force chief, Charles G. LaBella, who has long been publicly known to have advocated an independent counsel for campaign finance activities.

Burton subpoenaed the memo earlier but settled for being allowed to read an excised copy of it after Reno argued that release could imperil pending investigations. He renewed his subpoena after the Los Angeles Times gained access to the memo and other previously undisclosed documents. The Times reported earlier this month that LaBella's report accused top Reno advisors of using "gamesmanship," "contortions" and "intellectually dishonest" double standards to avoid an independent counsel.

Reno said the department was reviewing whether circumstances had changed enough to allow release now but that she had not received a recommendation yet.

In December 1998, Reno rejected an independent counsel to look into whether Gore lied about knowing that money he raised during office telephone calls was spent on the Clinton-Gore reelection.

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