|POLITICS AND PROSECUTION
The Attorney General comes under
fire from congressional Republicans
August 12, 1998
in this forum:
Is the problem with Janet Reno or with the wording of the independent counsel statute? How could Reno be accused of protecting the president? Why is it so difficult for Reno to provide Congress the Justice Department's internal memo about appointing an independent counsel? Is there any credible reason why Janet Reno would not appoint an independent prosecutor? Is the move to cite the attorney general for contempt justifiable?
Mike Gatone of Chicago, IL, asks: How could Reno be accused of protecting the president? Hasn't she appointed independent counsels to investigate 5 members of his cabinet, including the President?
Professor Doug Kmiec of Pepperdine Law School responds:
Yes, and of course, that reveals the inconsistency. The investigations into the late Ron Brown, Henry Cisneros, and so forth, were all triggered by no less evidence of wrongdoing than that alleged to implicate the president and vice-president in campaign finance impropriety. Janet Reno came to Justice as the president's third choice. She was saddled with Webster Hubbell in the first term who was de facto attorney general by virtue of friendship with the president until he went to jail in disgrace.
Without a solid political connection to the Clintons, Janet Reno was widely rumored to be likely replaced in the second term. Given the widespread distaste for the independent counsel statute inside the Justice Department, it would have been comfortable for Ms. Reno to make at least an implicit promise not to be inclined to farm out any more matters, especially of those higher up the food chain.
Michael Carvin, former Justice Department official during the Reagan administration, responds:The only time she appointed an independent counsel for the president -- for Whitewater -- was after the president decided that the independent counsel was politically necessary. Applying the same standard used for Secretary of Labor Herman's independent counsel would clearly lead to an independent counsel for campaign finance scandals.