SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 1997,
House of Representatives,
Committee on the Judiciary,
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 9:32 a.m., in room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Henry J. Hyde (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Henry J. Hyde, F. James Sensenbrenner, Bill McCollum, George W. Gekas, Howard Coble, Lamar S. Smith of Texas, Elton Gallegly, Charles T. Canady, Bob Goodlatte, Stephen E. Buyer, Ed Bryant, Steve Chabot, Bob Barr, Asa Hutchinson, Edward A. Pease, John Conyers, Jr., Barney Frank, Melvin L. Watt, Sheila Jackson Lee, Maxine Waters, William D. Delahunt, Robert Wexler, and Steven R. Rothman.
Also present: Thomas E. Mooney, general counsel; Jon Dudas, staff director and deputy general counsel; Joseph Gibson, chief antitrust counsel; Rick Filkins, counsel; Sharee Freeman, counsel; Dan Freeman, parliamentarian; Sam Stratman, press secretary; and Michelle Pelletier, clerk.
OPENING STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN HYDE
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HYDE. The committee will come to order.
The purpose of this morning's hearings is to conduct oversight over the activities of the Department of Justice. Our only witness will be the Attorney General. Oral opening statements will be limited to the Chair and the ranking Minority member. Other members' opening statements may be submitted for the record. Without objection, each member will be given 10 minutes, rather than the usual 5, for questions.
Prior to these opening statements and the Attorney General's testimony, the committee will view a videotape of the Attorney General's appearance before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in 1993 on the subject of the independent counsel statute.
Will you hit the tape, please.
[The videotape showed Attorney General Reno testifying in favor of reauthorization of the independent counsel statute before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on May 14, 1993. Her statement is set forth below:]
INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 1 TO 5 HERE
Mr. HYDE. The Rules of the House of Representatives require us to perform ongoing oversight of the agencies under our jurisdiction. Today we fulfill that requirement by performing general oversight over the Department of Justice. We take our oversight responsibility seriously. Even though we are imperfect instruments, we do represent the people who elected us. We, too, are public servants and we are the conduits through which they can exercise the consent of the governed.
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Democracy thrives only if people have confidence in the integrity of their public servants and institutions. In particular, the public must have confidence in the institution that enforces the criminal law. The people must know their leaders are not above the law nor below it.
The Department's failure to request the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate numerous allegations that high officials participated in illegal fund-raising activities continues to damage that public confidence.
On September 30, a CNN/USA Today poll showed 73 percent of the American people believe an independent counsel should be appointed to investigate these matters. On October 8, the same poll showed 76 percent wanted an independent counsel to investigate illegal foreign contributions, 69 percent want an independent counsel to investigate whether government policy was sold for campaign contributions, and 69 percent want an independent counsel to investigate the allegations about the Teamsters Union.
By overwhelming margins, the American people continue to indicate a lack of confidence in the Department of Justice's ability to investigate the administration fairly.
Now I know the Attorney General has said she will not do her job according to the polls, and I agree with her when she is talking about how to conduct the investigation. But when it comes to who should conduct it or whether there should be one, the Department has to look at whether the public will have confidence in the outcome, and these numbers show they will not.
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We can equivocate, split hairs, and rationalize as much as we wish, but the simple fact is that the Americanthe average American wants an independent counsel.
Now the Attorney General has asserted her confidence in the special task force she created to conduct this investigation, yet day after day the newspapers report a series of errors, omissions, and in what one commentator has called ''organized bungling'' so as to destroy any confidence that a credible investigation is under way.
First, the Attorney General told us she could not investigate Vice President Gore's phone calls because he only solicited soft money. She maintained this position for months. Unfortunately, the task force never discovered what the Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward discovered, that some of the money was hard money. The Attorney General said publicly she learned about this when she read Mr. Woodward's story. Thereafter, she changed the leadership and some of the personnel of the task force.
That new leadership produced the October 3rd letter to this committee, refusing to appoint an independent counsel, based on a number of dubious conclusions, which we will discuss today.
That same day, we read in the Washington Post that the task force lawyers have instructed FBI agents not to investigate fully allegations against covered persons; that is, the President and the Vice President.
Over the following weekend, we learned that the task force failed to uncover numerous videotapes of White House coffees. Thus, the October 3rd letter to this committee was really unresponsive in that it wasn't based on review of all the relevant evidence.
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The Attorney General, in her press conference of October 9, said she was upset and mad at the withholding of this important information for several days after its discovery, even though she and the White House counsel, who knew of the tapes on Wednesday, met on Thursday, but she was not told of the tapes' existence until Saturday, the day after she released her letter to this committee. I wonder if Congress and the American people don't have a right to be upset and mad.
While the Woodward revelations and the delayed appearance of the tapes, reminiscent of the magical appearance of Rose Law Firm records in the White House living quarters, are troubling enough, more troubling are the large areas that have been left completely uninvestigated even though the task force has been in business for nearly a year.
Phone calls and coffees in the White House, while troublesome, are the least of it. Specific credible evidence set forth at length in our letter strongly suggests that foreign money came into the DNC coffers and was intended to influence policy, yet critical witnesses like Charlie Trie, Arief Wiriadinata, and Pauline Kanchanalak have fled the country and we are in the dark as to what is being done to get them back.
According to the Washington Post, other key witnesses like former White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes and Democratic National Committee finance director Richard Sullivan were not even interviewed until a few weeks ago. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of pages of documents sit unreviewed.
And just to maintain the glacial progress, the Department has taken the narrowest possible interpretations of the law to justify limiting its investigation.
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Well, many legal scholars question the Attorney General's interpretation of the law, and, with respect, I question her apparent view that the independent counsel statute requires investigators to stop asking questions as soon as they find any shred of evidence implicating covered persons.
I question her view that soft money is not covered under criminal laws. I question her notion that the White House belongs to the President to use as he pleases. I find her belief that she has no conflict of interest, frankly, astounding. I am not alone in believing her situation fairly bristles with conflicts of interest.
The standard response that this matter is under investigation and that it cannot be discussed has some merit. And we don't want to compromise any ongoing investigation, but at some point questions must be answered, if only to build confidence that a rigorous investigation is under way and that justice isn't merely circling the wagons to defend the White House.
The Attorney General well expressed this idea in her October 9 press conference where she stated, and I quote: My statement really is addressed to the American people, because I think they're the people that count in this whole equation. I think they have got to understand what is being done. . . . And I think it's important that we understand this in the context of history and that we do everything we can to let the American people know what the process is and what we're trying to do, closed quote. That says it well.
In her October 3rd letter to this committee, the Attorney General discounts the extensive leads we provided as mere press reports. Well, mere press reports ripped the lid off the Watergate scandal. Moreover, mere press reports informed her about the solicitation of hard money when her task force failed to do so.
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Now let me just take a minute to say, although we frequently complain about the press, in this instance, as in so many others, the free press is an essential element of our functioning democracy. We are not Republicans trying to embarrass the Attorney General or the Department, and we do not seek to put anyone in jail. We are here more in sorrow than in anger. We are deeply troubled by what is going on within the Department of Justice, and we must fulfill our constitutional responsibility to exercise oversight. The time to provide answers to the American people is now.
And I now yield to the ranking Minority Member of Congress for an opening statement, Mr. Conyers.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hyde follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HENRY J. HYDE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ILLINOIS AND CHAIRMAN, COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
The Committee will come to order. The purpose of this morning's hearing is to conduct oversight over the activities of the Department of Justice. Our only witness will be the Attorney General. Oral opening statements will be limited to the chair and the ranking minority Member. Other Members' opening statements may be submitted for the record.
The Rules of the House of Representatives require us to perform ongoing oversight of the agencies under our jurisdiction. Today we fulfill that requirement by performing general oversight of the Department of Justice.
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We take our oversight responsibility seriously. Even though we are imperfect instruments, we do represent the people who elected uswe too are public servants and we are the conduits through which they can exercise the consent of the governed.
A democracy thrives only if the people have confidence in the integrity of their public servants and institutions. In particular, the public must have confidence in the institution that enforces the criminal law. The people must know that their leaders are not above the law, nor beneath it.
The Department's failure to request the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate numerous allegations that high officials participated in illegal fundraising continues to damage that public confidence. On September 30, a CNN/USA Today poll showed that 73% of the American people believe that an independent counsel should be appointed to investigate these matters. On October 8, the same poll showed that 76% wanted an independent counsel to investigate illegal foreign contributions, 69% want an independent counsel to investigate whether government policy was sold for campaign contributions, and 69% want an independent counsel to investigate the allegations about the Teamsters Union. By overwhelming margins, the American people continue to indicate a lack of confidence in the Department of Justice's ability to investigate the Administration fairly.
I know that the Attorney General has said that she will not do her job according to the polls, and I agree with her when she is talking about how to conduct the investigation. But when it comes to who should conduct it or whether there should be one, the Department has to look at whether the public will have confidence in the outcome, and these numbers show that they will not. We can equivocate, split hairs, and rationalize as much as we want, but the simple fact is that the average American wants an independent counsel.
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The Attorney General has asserted her confidence in the special task force she created to conduct this investigation. Yet day after day, the newspapers report a series of errors, omissions and, what one commentator has called ''organized bungling'' so as to destroy any confidence that a credible investigation is underway. First, the Attorney General told us that she could not investigate Vice-President Gore's phone calls because he only solicited ''soft money.'' She maintained this position for months. Unfortunately, the task force never discovered what Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward discoveredthat some of the money was ''hard money.'' The Attorney General said publicly that she learned about this when she read Mr. Woodward's story.
Thereafter, she changed the leadership and some personnel of the task force. That new leadership produced the October 3 letter to this Committee refusing to appoint an independent counsel based on a number of dubious conclusions that we will discuss today. That same day, we read in the Washington Post that the task force lawyers have instructed FBI agents not to investigate fully allegations against covered personsi.e. the President and the Vice-President. Over the following weekend, we learned that the task force failed to uncover numerous videotapes of White House coffees. Thus, the October 3 letter to this Committee was unresponsive in that it was not based on a review of all the relevant evidence.
The Attorney General in her press conference of October 9 said she was upset and mad at the withholding of this important information for several days after its discovery, even though she and the White House counsel (who knew of the tapes on Wednesday) met on Thursday, but she was not told of the tapes' existence until Saturday, the day after she had released her letter to this Committee. I wonder if Congress and the American people don't have a right to be upset and mad as well.
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While the Woodward revelations and the delayed appearance of the tapes (reminiscent of the magical appearance of Rose Law firm records in the White House living quarters) are troubling enough, what is most troubling are the large areas that have been left completely uninvestigated even though the task force has been in business for nearly a year. Phone calls and coffees in the White House, while troublesome, are the least of it. Specific, credible evidence set forth at length in our letter strongly suggests that foreign money came into the DNC coffers and that it was intended to influence policy. Yet critical witnesses like Charlie Trie, Arief Wiriadinata, and Pauline Kanchanalak have fled the country, and we are in the dark as to what is being done to get them back. According to the Washington Post, other key witnesses like former White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes and Democratic National Committee finance director Richard Sullivan were not even interviewed until a few weeks ago. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of pages of documents sat unreviewed.
And just to maintain the glacial progress, the Department has taken the narrowest possible interpretations of the law to justify limiting its investigation. Well, many legal scholars question the Attorney General's interpretation of the law. With respect, I question her apparent view that the independent counsel statute requires investigators to stop asking questions as soon as they find any shred of evidence implicating covered persons. I question her view that soft money is not covered under criminal laws. I question her notion that the White House belongs to the President to use as he pleases. I find her belief that she has no conflict of interest frankly astounding. I am not alone in believing her situation fairly bristles with conflicts of interest.
The standard response that this matter is ''under investigation,'' and that it cannot be discussed has some merit, and we don't want to compromise any investigation. But at some point, questions must be answered, if only to build confidence that a rigorous investigation is underway and that Justice isn't merely circling the wagons to defend the White House.
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The Attorney General well expressed this idea in her October 9 press conference. She stated: ''My statement really is addressed to the American people, because I think they're the people that count in this whole equation. I think they have got to understand what is being done. . . . And I think it's important that we understand this in the context of history and that we do everything we can to let the American people know what the process is and what we're trying to do.'' That says it well.
In her October 3 letter to this Committee, the Attorney General discounts the extensive leads we provided as mere press reports. Well, mere press reports ripped the lid off the Watergate scandal. Moreover, mere press reports informed her about the solicitation of hard money when her task force failed to do so. And let me just take a minute to say that although we frequently complain about the press, in this instance, as in so many others, the free press is an essential element of our functioning democracy.
We are not just Republicans trying to embarrass the Attorney General or the Department, and we are not trying to put people in jail. We are here more in sorrow than in anger. We are deeply troubled by what is going on within the Department of Justice, and we must fulfill our constitutional responsibility to exercise oversight. The time to provide answers to the American people is now.
Mr. CONYERS. Good morning, Chairman Hyde.
Good morning, Attorney General Reno.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Good morning, members of the Judiciary Committee.
I am delighted to be here. And this is an oversight hearing. I don't know if it is an oversight hearing covering a wide range of activities that are found under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice or if this is an oversight hearing over whether an independent counsel should be appointed. It is a small distinction but, still, a relevant one.
The fact of the matter is, we haven't had an oversight hearing on the Attorney General in this committee, we have had her here for specific purposes. This sounds like another specific purpose, which is okay, too. Timing is a little important here, as a matter of fact, maybe crucial. The Attorney General has just extended the time limit of the preliminary investigation.
But before I go too much further, Chairman Hyde, on a note of procedureand I would be pleased to yield to the chairmanmight other members of the committee, besides me and you, have an opening comment? Would that be permissible, sir? I yield to the Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
We have a very long day ahead of us. We are giving each member 10 minutes to ask questions. If during the 10 minutes the member wishes to read an opening statement, that is fine. But to move this hearing along, I have confined opening statements to myself and yourself. Each member will have 10 minutes, and we hope to have more than one round. Various opening statements will be submitted for the record, without objection.
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Ms. WATERS. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. But the answer to your question is no. It will be limited to you and me.
Does the gentlelady from California have a point of order?
Ms. WATERS. Yes. On the point that is being made by the ranking member, many of us have traveled long hours, under some very difficult circumstances and short notice, to get back here to this hearing. This hearing, as I understand it, was organized because the Chair and
Mr. HYDE. Does the gentlelady have a point of order? Because we are in the middle of Mr. Conyers' opening statement.
Ms. WATERS. The gentlelady does have a point, and that is, after having traveled all night to get back here on a red-eye special, I do have an opening statement, and I do wish to make it, and I do wish to further the point of the ranking member that all members should be allowed to have an opening statement.
Mr. HYDE. I would say to the gentlelady, if we did that, we would never get to the questioning of Janet Reno. Therefore, that will not be allowed.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I have a point of order.
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Mr. HYDE. Who is speaking?
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I am.
Mr. HYDE. Ms. Jackson Lee, please state your point.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I think one of the issues with regard to my desire to have an opening statement is to reflect upon one of the points that the ranking member was beginning to make, and I assume that he will continue to make the point. As I look at the
Mr. HYDE. He will if you let him continue his statement.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I realize that, but I have an inquiry that I would like to have addressed. I notice that the mandate for this hearing is review and study, continuing basis, of the administration of the Department of Justice, with all of its agencies therein.
Certainly in our opening statements, even if we had the 10 minutes, we would be allowed to lay out our interests, other than what seems to be the interests of the national media, and I am not sure if the chairman is, of course, led by that. But it would at least
Mr. HYDE. The Chair would tell the gentlelady he is not.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. And I appreciate that. But the idea of an opening statement, Mr. Chairman, would allow members to depart, or to suggest and put in the record issues that the Attorney General has oversight over and, therefore, allow those issues to be on the table, pursuant to the call of this hearing.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Jackson Lee follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF SHEILA JACKSON LEE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. Chairman, I would like to lend my voice in welcoming Attorney General Reno and in thanking her for joining us this morning. Attorney General, I look forward to hearing from you and to discussing with you your vision for the Department of Justicewhere it has come from, what it has accomplished, and where you see the Department moving in the future.
I suspect, however, that much of the attention today, both from my friends across the aisle and from the media, will he focused away from these questions and instead will focus on the Administration's fundraising controversy and the Attorney General's deliberations about whether or not to call for the appointment of a special prosecutor. I am concerned that in the rush to critique Attorney General Reno for her careful deliberation with respect to the calling of an Independent Counsel, we will lose sight of the tremendous accomplishments of the Justice Department over which she has presided. These accomplishments are not partisan concerns. They are the concerns of all Americansto make our streets safer, eliminate the scourge of drugs, reduce youth violence, strengthen our borders against illegal immigration, protect our environment, ensure our civil rights, combat violence against women, and ensure equal justice for all.
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For example, last year, the national violent crime rate dropped for the fifth year in a row, marking the longest period of decline in 25 years and between 1994 and 1995, violent crime dropped 12.4 percentthe largest drop since the Department's survey of such statistics began in 1973. Additionally, the juvenile violent crime arrest rate increased 69 percent between 1987 and 1994. Between 1994 and 1996, the violent crime rate decreased by 11.9 percent.
The COPS program has awarded grants to increase the number of police on the streets by 57,500, more than halfway to the goal of 100,000 community police officers by the year 2000 and the Department of Justice awarded grants totalling $184.6 million for Violence Against Women programs and $46 million to 336 communities to help make police organizations more responsive to domestic violence.
DOJ has deported criminal aliens in record numbers. Last year, over 37,000 criminal aliens were deported and continues to play a lead role in the enforcement of the nation's civil rights laws, which define and prohibit unlawful discrimination in a wide range of areas, including employment, housing, voting, and education.
These are areas in which DOJ has impacted the lives of American people, in which the Department has identified areas of concern to the American public and sought to answer those concerns. My friends across the aisle, however, do not appear interested in addressing those concerns today. They seem more interested in playing partisan politics, the very thing for which the statute, on which they are so focused, was designed to protect the Attorney General.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The independent counsel statute was first enacted in 1978 as a part of the Ethics in Government Act. The catalyst for the legislation was the events arising out of the investigation into the Watergate burglary. Specifically, the independent counsel statute was a response to the ''Saturday Night Massacre''the firing of Special Counsel Archibald Cox and the consequent resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus.
On May 18, 1973, Attorney General Richardson announced the appointment of Harvard law professor Archibald Cox as special prosecutor for the Watergate case. On October 20, 1973, President Nixon discharged Cox and accepted the resignations of Attorney General Richardson and Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus. At the same time, Nixon also abolished the office of the special prosecutor. Shortly after Nixon's actions, the FBI, at the request of the White House, sealed off the offices of Richardson, Ruckelshaus, and Cox allowing the removal of only personal papers.
These dramatic events occurred when Special Prosecutor Cox refused to comply with the terms of an agreement between Nixon and the Senate Watergate Committee under which summarized material from the White House Watergate tapes would be turned over to Cox and the Committee. At the time of this agreement, Nixon ordered Cox to make no further effort to obtain the tapes or other presidential documents.
When Cox refused to comply with this directive, Nixon ordered Attorney General Richardson to fire him. Richardson refused to do so and instead offered his resignation which Nixon accepted. When Nixon then asked Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus to fire Cox, he too resigned. The President finally turned to Solicitor General Robert Bork, who by law becomes acting Attorney General when the Attorney General and the Deputy AG are absent. Bork carried out the President's orders.
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The Saturday Night Massacre produced immense outrage and a ''firestorm'' of protest among the American people. The public felt that Nixon's actions were a blatant abuse of presidential power and that Cox's firing proved that Nixon had something to hide on the tapes. It was this event, perhaps more than any other single event, which destroyed Nixon's credibility with the people. Public pressure forced Congress to act. Three days after the ''massacre'', 8 impeachment resolutions had been introduced in the House and Nixon finally turned over the White House tapes.
The independent counsel law was enacted in the aftermath of Watergate. The law was intended to provide a way to avoid the conflicts of interest and conflicting loyalties which can arise, or appear to arise, when the Attorney General investigates and prosecutes high level Executive Branch officials. The Watergate Committee recommended and Congress agreed that we need a process by which criminal investigations of our top government officials could be conducted in an independent manner, as free as possible from any taint of favoritism or politics. The goal was to remove partisanship from the investigative and prosecutorial decision-making process.
This goal appears to have been forgotten by many of my colleagues who are so engaged in loudly denouncing the Attorney General for the thorough and deliberate manner in which she has considered whether or not to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the controversies surrounding the Administration's fundraising practices in the 1996 election. Evidence suggests that she is conducting a careful, methodical, and complex investigation. Currently, there are more than 120 agents, attorneys and staff at the Department of Justice are working full-time to do this investigation in the right way. In fact, no criminal case in the Department consumes more resources. More than a million pages of documents have been obtained. Hundreds of interviews have been conducted.
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Attorney General Reno, however, has borne the brunt of daily criticism from Republicans in Congress. One Member went so far as to call for her resignation. Others have threatened impeachment proceedings unless she agrees with them on the appointment of an independent counsel.
I am deeply disturbed by this type of pressure being brought to bear. The pressure being put on the Attorney General to appoint an independent counsel undermines the basic principle of this law which is dependent upon an application free from partisan pressure. It does a disservice to the nation which is waiting for an objective and fair review.
I would like to remind my colleagues that under the independent counsel statute, the Attorney General has the sole discretion to determine if the statute is triggered and if an independent counsel should be appointed. It requires her to make the determination as to whether or not there has been a violation of criminal law. The statute does not permit her to cede this authority to an independent counsel. This is a constitutional requisite of the statute; without it the Supreme Court has said that the separation of powers principle is violated.
Further, my colleagues across the aisle have argued that the investigation of the campaign finance controversy surrounding the Administration automatically creates a conflict of interest warranting the Attorney General to call for the appointment of an independent counsel. They argue that the very fact that she was appointed by the President assures the existence of a conflict of interest. The Attorney General in her letter to Chairman Hyde dated October 3, 1997, responds, and I concur, that this fact alone is not sufficient to establish a conflict of interest. The Department of Justice is in fact charged with investigating allegations of corruption and wrongdoing within the Executive Branch, sometimes at high levels.
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While the Administration's fundraising practices in the 1996 election cycle may have been objectionable, there is not as of yet any evidence that their conduct arises to the level of illegality. Recently, former U.S. Attorney Joseph DiGenova was straightforward in his assessment of how the Department of Justice should handle possible prosecution of the President or Vice-President under Section 607 when he said on a recent television show that no prosecutor in his or her right mind would bring a prosecution under this statute with the facts as they are currently known.
Everyone is eager for a resolution to the questions surrounding the Administration's fundraising practices. We must not let that eagerness blind us to the facts, however, or allow us to stand in the way of our Attorney General as she engages in a search for the truth.
Finally, I hope that in the fever of their calls for an independent counsel, my colleagues will stop to consider the lack of efficiency and timeliness which have come to mar the records of recent independent counsel investigations. Do we really want to squander the taxpayer's resources on another Iran-Contra or Whitewater? Lasting six years at a cost of $40 million, Iran-Contra holds the dubious honor of being the longest and most expensive independent counsel investigation to date.
The Whitewater investigation is quickly catching up, however. The Whitewater independent counsel investigation has dragged on since 1993. Last week, the General Accounting Office revealed that the Whitewater independent counsel investigation has cost taxpayers $30 million and the price tag is still rising rapidly. As the investigation interminably drags on, its scope, cost, and duration go unregulated. Despite its duration and outrageous price tag, however, the investigation has revealed no misconduct or abuse of power by either the President or First Lady.
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Although it has not secured any evidence tying its targets to any wrongdoing, the Whitewater investigation has arguably reduced the public's perception of, and confidence in, the Independent Counsel as an impartial body. The impartiality of Whitewater Independent Counsel Ken Starr has been questioned since his appointment. In fact, at the time of his appointment, five past presidents of the American Bar Association issued a joint ''statement of concern.''
Kenneth Starr was appointed by a three judge panel that included Judge David Sentelle. Only days before Starr's appointment, Judge Sentelle had lunch with Senator Lauch Faircloth, a vocal critic of President Clinton and of former independent counsel Robert Fiske. At the time of his appointment, Starr had been working on an amicus brief in support of Paula Corbin Jones' sexual harassment suit against the President.
Since his appointment, Starr has maintained a very active private legal practice. He has earned $1.1 million working for such clients as G.M., Brown & Williamson, and the Republican National Committee.
Starr's partisanship and his continuation of a private practice appear in direct conflict with his role as an independent counsel. The whole point of the independent counsel law, notes Chesterfield Smith, one former ABA president, is to assure the public that prosecutors are acting without divided loyalties. He argues that a special prosecutor who engages in outside matters ''tears down trust in government and our belief in justice.''
My colleagues, I hope that we can restore a measure of honesty and balance to our discussion of the question of the appointment of an independent counsel. There is far too much at stake here for swift, partisan judgements. Thank you.
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Mr. HYDE. The Chair will advise the gentlelady she will have as many 10-minute segments as she wishes. She will have plenty of opportunity to get out whatever ideas or notions or commentary she has, but I want to get to the questioning and I do not expect to have this hearing swallowed up by opening statements. And so the ruling of the Chair is, Mr. Hyde and Mr. Conyers will make opening statements; the other opening statements will be admitted into the record. And may we proceed, Mr. Conyers.
Mr. CONYERS. Well, I yield to the chairman on that request, regretfully.
We do have a day in which the rest of the Congress is in recess, there are no other committee meetings scheduled, we are prepared to be here as long as our stamina holds out, but if that is your desire, Mr. Chairman, in the spirit of cooperation, I will yield to it.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you.
Mr. CONYERS. You are welcome.
Now let us turn to an observation or two of my distinguished chairman, Mr. Hyde. He referred to our letter; that is the letter that was forwarded to the distinguished Attorney General, signed by, as seenas seen and signed only by Republican members of the Judiciary Committee. It was brought to my knowledge as the letter was, in fact, being transmitted to the Attorney General, and so one-half of this committee had no knowledge of the contents of the letter that was sent in the name of the Judiciary Committee until the Attorney General released her answer.
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I know you have never seen it. That is what I am bringing up.
[The information follows:]
Hon. JANET RENO,
|Congress of the United States,|
|Committee on the Judiciary,|
|Washington, DC., September 3, 1997.|
Attorney General of the United States
United States Department of Justice
DEAR ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO, we, the undersigned, constituting a majority of the majority party membership of the House Judiciary Committee, respectfully request, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §592(g)(1), that you apply for the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate a number of matters relating to the financing of campaigns in the 1996 federal election. We made a similar request in March, 1997, which you refused in your letters of April 14. See Letter from Attorney General Janet Reno to Chairman Henry J. Hyde dated April 14, 1997 (''Hyde Letter''); Letter from Attorney General Janet Reno to Chairman Orrin G. Hatch dated April 14, 1997 (''Hatch Letter''). Herein, we provide you with new and specific information from a number of credible sources to add to and supplement our earlier request.
The evidence that has continued to mount since our last letter compels us again to request that you seek the appointment of an independent counsel. To date, none of the allegations swirling around this matter has been proved in a court of law, although at least four persons, Gene Lum, Nora Lum, Trisha Lum, and Michael Brown, have entered guilty pleas since our last request. See David Johnston, Couple Agree to Guilty Plea in Illegal Gifts to Democrats, The New York Times, May 22, 1997, at B10; Jerry Seper, Two Admit Illegal Fund Raising; Couple Gave to Democrats, The Washington Times, May 22, 1997, at A1; David Jackson, Ex-Commerce Leader's Son Admits Funneling Funds, The Dallas Morning News, August 29, 1997, at 1A; Lance Gay, Ron Brown's Son Pleads Guilty to Law Violations, The Plain Dealer, August 29, 1997, at 12A. Before any conclusions are reached, a fair and thorough investigation must be conducted. However, if the evidence proves the worst of what now appears on the surface, the misconduct threatens the very foundations of our democracy. The American people must know whether their political institutions serve their interests, and they must have complete confidence in the investigation that answers that question. As your 1993 testimony on the reauthorization of the independent counsel statute indicates, you can only ensure that confidence by seeking an independent counsel.
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I. The Independent Counsel Statute
Before reviewing the evidence, we believe it is appropriate to make several points relating to the independent counsel statute itself. In both the Hyde Letter and the Hatch Letter, you review the basic outlines of the statute. Hyde Letter at 23; Hatch Letter at 24. For the most part, we do not disagree with your description of the statute. However, three points need further emphasis.
First, the statute requires you to conduct a preliminary investigation whenever you find specific and credible evidence that a covered person ''may have violated any Federal criminal law . . .'' 28 U.S.C. §591(a) (emphasis added). Although you have accurately described this requirement, we do not believe that you have correctly applied it. We do not understand this language to mean that you must find a covered person has actually committed a crime. Rather, you need only find that the evidence indicates it is possible that a covered person committed a crime and that you cannot definitively determine that it did not happen.
Second, in making the decision whether grounds to begin a preliminary investigation exist, you may only consider the specificity of the information and the credibility of the source of the information. 28 U.S.C. §591(d)(1). You are explicitly prohibited from finding a lack of specificity and credibility based upon a determination that the person lacked the required state of mind. 28 U.S.C. §592(a)(2)(B)(i). In short, you are not allowed to decline to conduct a preliminary investigation based on a lack of intent.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Third, you argue that ''[u]nder the Act, I must conclude that there is a potential for an actual conflict of interest, rather than merely an appearance of a conflict of interest'' before invoking the conflict of interest provisions. Hyde Letter at 3 (emphasis in original). We believe that in this case, you have an actual conflict of interest, which we will discuss below, so this point is academic. However, we want to point out that this argument directly contradicts the understanding of the statute advanced in your testimony on the reauthorization of the Act in 1993. We also want to quote this passage at length because your words at that time so aptly explain the rationale both for the statute and for seeking the appointment of an independent counsel in this case. We cannot state the rationale any better than you did in 1993:
In 1975, after his firing triggered the Constitutional crisis that led to the first version of this Act, Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox testified that an independent counsel was needed in certain limited cases and he said, 'The pressure, the divided loyalty, are too much for any man, and as honorable and conscientious as any individual might be, the public could never feel entirely easy about the vigor and thoroughness with which the investigation was pursued. Some outside person is absolutely essential.' Now, nearly two decades later, I could not state it any better.
It is neither fair nor valid to criticize the Act for what politics has wrought, nor to expect the Act to solve all our crises. The Iran-Contra investigation, far from providing support for doing away with the Act, proves its necessity. I believe that this investigation could not have been conducted under the supervision of the Attorney General and concluded with any public confidence in its thoroughness or impartiality.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The reason that I support the concept of an independent counsel with statutory independence is that there is an inherent conflict whenever senior Executive Branch officials are to be investigated by the Department and its appointed head, the Attorney General. The Attorney General serves at the pleasure of the President. Recognition of this conflict does not belittle or demean the impressive professionalism of the Department's career prosecutors, and permit me to say again, I have been so impressed with the lawyers in the Department of Justice at every level. They are non-political, they are splendid lawyers, and they have enjoyed the opportunity to work with your staff on this legislation.
It is absolutely essential for the public to have confidence in the system and you cannot do that when there is conflict or an appearance of conflict in the person who is, in effect, the chief prosecutor. There is an inherent conflict here, and I think that that is why this Act is so important.
It is worth noting that only a few matters that have been investigated by independent counsels over the last decade resulted in convictions. Far more covered individuals accused of wrongdoing have been cleared at the close of an independent counsel's investigation. This role of declining to prosecute a Government official is, I suggest, as important a part as any process in the prosecution. The credibility and public confidence engendered by the fact that an independent and impartial outsider has examined the evidence and concluded that prosecution is not warranted serves to clear a public official's name in a way that no Justice Department investigation ever could.
It is telling that on occasion covered individuals, including former Attorney General Edwin Meese, have called for an appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the allegations against them. I doubt the public would have accepted with confidence the decision not to prosecute had each of those individuals been cleared not by an impartial outside prosecutor but by the Attorney General and his Justice Department.
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The Independent Counsel Act was designed to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in the consideration of allegations of misconduct by high-level Executive Branch officials and to prevent, as I have said, the actual or perceived conflicts of interest. The Act thus served as a vehicle to further the public's perception of fairness and thoroughness in such matters, and to avert even the most subtle influences that may appear in an investigation of highly-placed Executive officials.
The Independent Counsel Reauthorization Act of 1993: Hearings on S.24 Before the Senate Comm. on Governmental Affairs, 103rd Cong., 1st Sess. (S. Hrg. 103437) at 1112 (Testimony of Attorney General Reno).
II. Evidence of Crimes Committed by Covered Persons
Your letter correctly notes that you are required to conduct a preliminary investigation whenever you ''receive information sufficient to constitute grounds to investigate whether any [covered person] may have violated any Federal criminal law . . .'' 28 U.S.C. §591(a). Your letter concludes that at that time you had not received any such information. Hyde Letter at 45. Because you have not moved for the appointment of an independent counsel since that time, we believe that you adhere to that conclusion now. For the reasons that follow, we believe such evidence is overwhelming and widely available in published reports.
A. President Clinton
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Under the statute, the President is a covered person. 28 U.S.C. §591(b)(1). For the following reasons, we believe you have sufficient grounds to investigate whether President Clinton may have violated Federal criminal law.
1. BRIBERY18 U.S.C. §201, 371, 600, 872, 1341, 1343, 1346
The bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. §201, prohibits federal officials, including the President, from receiving any benefit in return for any official action. Numerous published reports describe circumstances that suggest that President Clinton may have received campaign contributions in return for official government actions he took on behalf of the contributors. In addition, any such scheme may also violate other statutes including: 18 U.S.C. §371 (conspiracy to defraud the United States), 600 (promising of government benefits in return for political support), 872 (extortion by government officials), and 1341, 1343, and 1346 (mail and wire fraud by defrauding the United States of honest services).
a. Government of the People's Republic of China
On February 13, 1997, the Washington Post reported that the Department of Justice had obtained intelligence information that the government of the People's Republic of China had sought to direct contributions from foreign sources to the Democratic National Committee (''DNC'') before the 1996 presidential campaign. Bob Woodward and Brian Duffy, Chinese Embassy Role in Contributions Probed, Planning of Foreign Donations to DNC Indicated, The Washington Post, February 13, 1997, at A1. In response, President Clinton said, ''It would be a very serious matter for the United States if any country were to attempt to funnel funds to one of our political parties for any reason whatsoever. So I think we have to let the investigation proceed.'' Tim Weiner, F.B.I. Looks at Whether China Funneled Money to Democrats, The New York Times, February 14, 1997, at A21. Further reports have indicated that these directions came from the highest levels of the government of the People's Republic of China and that the scheme is ongoing. Bob Woodward, Top Chinese Linked to Plan to Buy Favor, FBI Evidence Indicates Ongoing Effort in U.S., The Washington Post, April 25, 1997, at A1.
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Against this backdrop, a number of troubling events have been reported. In March 1995, Johnny Chung, a Democratic National Committee trustee and a businessman from Torrance, California, brought six officials of the government of the People's Republic of China and its state-owned companies, including Hongye Zheng, Chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, and Yang Zanzhong, President of China Petro-Chemical Corp., to hear the President give his regular Saturday radio address. Donor Got 6 Chinese Officials into White House, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 15, 1997, at 3; 2nd Chinese Meeting Revealed, Clinton Expressed Concern over Propriety of Photographs, The Arizona Republic, February 15, 1997, at A2; William C. Rempel and Alan C. Miller, First Lady's Aide Solicited Check to DNC, Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1997, at A1. Early on, presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said that the White House was mystified as to how these officials got into the White House, and he admitted that the National Security Council concluded that they should not have been at the event. Id. President Clinton personally expressed his concern that he ''wasn't sure we'd want photos of him with these people circulating around.'' Id.
A recent interview with Mr. Chung reveals how the officials were admitted. Id. On March 8, 1995, he came to the First Lady's office in the White House seeking various favors for the officials, including admission to the radio address. Id. Aides to Mrs. Clinton, Margaret Williams and Evan Ryan, suggested that Mr. Chung could get the favors if he helped Mrs. Clinton with her debts to the DNC for holiday parties. Id. The next day, Mr. Chung gave Ms. Williams a check for $50,000, and received a lunch in the White House mess, a picture with Mrs. Clinton, and admission to the radio address for himself and the officials. Id. Records indicate that on Friday, March 17, 1995, Mr. Chung donated $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee and on April 12, 1995, he donated an additional $125,000. Id. In commenting on the solicitation in the White House by the First Lady's aides, Mr. Chung said, ''I see the White House is like a subway: You have to put in coins to open the gates.'' Id.
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Notwithstanding this experience, an even more troubling event occurred less than a year later. On February 6, 1996, Wang Jun attended a coffee at the White House with President Clinton. Michael Weisskopf and Lena H. Sun, Trie Gained Entree for Chinese Official, Head of Weapons Firm Joined Small Gathering with Clinton, The Washington Post, December 20, 1996, at A1. Mr. Wang is the head of the state-owned company, China International Trade and Investment Corp. (''CITIC''), a $21 billion conglomerate, and its subsidiary Poly Technologies. Id. Poly Technologies is the primary arms dealing company for the Chinese military. Id. Mr. Wang gained access to the coffee through Charles Yah Lin Trie, an old Arkansas friend of President Clinton and Democratic Party fund-raiser. Id. Again, Mr. McCurry had ''no answer'' as to why normal screening procedures were bypassed. Id. After the Wang visit came to public attention, President Clinton said he remembered ''literally nothing'' about the meeting, but he conceded that it was ''clearly inappropriate.'' Susan Schmidt and Lena H. Sun, Clinton Calls Wang Meeting ''Inappropriate,'' The Washington Post, December 21, 1996, at A1.
Mr. Trie had a number of interesting sources of funds. Among other things, in the spring of 1996, Mr.Trie delivered suspicious donations totaling $789,000 to the President's legal defense fund. Glenn F. Bunting, Clintons Knew of Trust Fund's Ills, Sources Say, Los Angeles Times, August 31, 1997, at A1; Mark Gladstone and Marc Lacey, Clinton Fund Kept Suspect Gifts Secret, Los Angeles Times, July 31, 1997, at A1; James Warren, Sect Leader Badgered Followers for Clinton Aid, Chicago Tribune, August 1, 1997, at 4. Mr. Trie made the donations on three dates: March 21, 1996$460,000; April 24, 1996$179,000; and May 17, 1996$150,000. Id. These donations have now been returned. Id. Recent reports reveal that most of this money came from members of a Taiwan-based religious sect, Suma Ching Hai. Id. President and Mrs. Clinton knew about these suspicious donations at the time, and they concurred in efforts to conceal them until after the election. Id. Notwithstanding that knowledge, President Clinton continued to grant favors to Mr. Trie. On April 19, 1996, President Clinton appointed Mr. Trie to the Commission on U.S. Pacific Trade and Investment Policy. Id. On April 26, President Clinton signed a letter to Mr. Trie relating to U.S. policy in putting carriers in the Taiwan Straits. Id.
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During 1995 and 1996, Mr. Trie received a series of wire transfers in amounts of $50,000 and $100,000 from the Chinese government's state-owned bank, the Bank of China. Glenn R. Simpson, Bank of China Tied to Funds for Big Donor, Wire Transfers were Made to Trie, a Key Figure for Democratic Party, The Wall Street Journal, April 1, 1997, at A20; Jerry Seper, Chinese Government Bank Made Substantial Transfers of Funds to Trie, The Washington Times, April 2, 1997, at A4. Recent Senate testimony reveals that Mr. Trie received $1.4 million in wire transfers from abroad from 1994 through 1996. David E. Rosenbaum, Committee is Told a Donor Received Foreigners' Cash, The New York Times, July 30, 1997, at A1; Terry Lemons, FBI Follows Foreign Cash to LR's Trie, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 30, 1997, at 1A; House Panel Questions Name on White House Guest List, The Times Union, May 20, 1997, at A3; James W. Brosnan, 2 Chinese Tell Panel of Illegal Gifts to Democrats, The Commercial Appeal, July 30, 1997, at A1. At least $220,000 of this money has been traced into the treasury of the DNC. Id.
Of the total Mr. Trie received from overseas, $905,000 came from Ng Lap Seng, a Macao-based businessman who was Trie's partner and who was also known as Mr. Wu. Id. Mr. Ng is an adviser to the Chinese Communist government. Id. Although he is a foreign national who cannot legally make donations to U.S. campaigns, he gave money through two employees to attend a dinner for big contributors with President Clinton on February 16, 1995. Id.
Returning to Mr. Wang's visit to the coffee with President Clinton, just four days before the meeting, Mr. Wang's arms trading company received special permission to import 100,000 assault weapons, along with millions of bullets, into the United States despite the assault weapons ban. Michael Daly, This Prez Donor a Real Pistol, New York Daily News, March 26, 1997, at 7. The story says: ''The U.S. lawyer representing the Chinese could not explain why the special permits were suddenly granted Feb. 2, 1996. 'All of a sudden, there was a breakthrough,' the attorney, Robert Sanders, was reported to say. 'I can't account for it.' '' Id.
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On the day of the coffee, Democratic fund-raiser Ernest G. Green, another Arkansas friend of the President's, delivered a $50,000 donation to the Democratic National Committee. Doyle McManus and Sara Fritz, DNC Donor Denies He Was Reimbursed, Fund-Raising: Meeting with Clinton and Chinese Arms Dealer Wasn't Compensation for Gift, Lawyer Says, Los Angeles Times, March 26, 1997, at A26; Sara Fritz, Scrutiny of Fund-Raising Falls on Civil Rights Figure, Los Angeles Times, March 5, 1997, at A1. Mr. Green, a managing director at Lehman Brothers, had never before given such a large contribution to the Democratic Party. Id. Mr. Wang used a letter of invitation written by Mr. Green to obtain a visa for Mr. Wang's trip to the White House for coffee. Id. After delivering the check, Mr. Green met with Mr. Wang before Mr. Wang went to the White House. Id.
Several lengthy reports in the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post detail the depths of Mr. Wang's international arms dealing activities. David Jackson, Chinese Arms Dealer Leaves a Tangled Web; Probe Seeks to Unravel Ties that May Have Reached White House, Chicago Tribune, January 5, 1997, at 1; David Jackson, U.S. Probes Whether Beijing Gave Money to Influence Policy, Chicago Tribune, February 14, 1997, at 1; David Jackson, Chinese Official No Stranger to VIPs; Fundraising Probe's Key Figure Cultivated U.S. Establishment, Chicago Tribune, March 23, 1997, at 1; Steven Mufson, To Chinese Firm, Access Becomes a Key Commodity, Conglomerate's Leader Boosts Country's Business Ties Abroad, The Washington Post, March 26, 1997, at A21; David Sanger, Senators Ask for Inquiry on Leasing of California Base to Chinese, The New York Times, March 13, 1997, at A18. To say the least, Mr. Wang and Poly have engaged in a number of unsavory activities.
Beginning in the summer of 1994, federal agents began an undercover sting investigation of Poly's efforts to smuggle weapons into the United States. Id. On March 8, 1996, just a month after Mr. Wang's visit with President Clinton, the President of Poly's U.S. subsidiary, Robert Ma, sold his house in Atlanta and fled the country. Id. On March 18, 1996, federal agents surreptitiously seized a Poly shipment of 2,000 AK47 assault rifles in Oakland, California. Id. These weapons had left China on February 18 aboard a vessel belonging to another state-owned company, the Chinese Ocean Shipping Company (''COSCO''). Id. In May, federal agents hastily shut down the operation when they learned that the Chinese had been tipped to its existence. Id. The stories indicate that the Department is currently investigating to determine the source of the leak. Id.
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Smuggling the weapons into the United States has not harmed the fortunes of COSCO. In April 1996, with the support of the Clinton Administration, COSCO signed a lease with the City of Long Beach, California to rent a now defunct navy base in Long Beach, California. David Sanger, Senators Ask for Inquiry on Leasing of California Base to Chinese, The New York Times, March 13, 1997, at A18; U.S. Pacts Ease Port Calls by Chinese, The Washington Times, April 1, 1997, at A8; Rowan Scarborough, Long Beach Foes of Chinese Cargo Facility Score Victory; Harbor Panel Bows to Judge's Order, Ends Port Pact, The Washington Times, April 23, 1997, at A3. To our knowledge, allowing a Communist government to control a former naval base on our shores is unprecedented. In addition, the Clinton Administration has allowed COSCO's ships access to our most sensitive ports with one day's notice rather than the usual four, and it has given COSCO a $138 million loan guarantee to build ships in Alabama. Id. The Administration has made all of these concessions since the coffee with Mr. Wang. Id. That COSCO participated in the shipment of illegal arms does not appear to have dampened the Administration's enthusiasm in any of these matters.
These circumstances strongly suggest that there was a quid pro quoi.e., the contributions from Mr. Chung, Mr. Green, and Mr. Trie, which may have come from the Chinese government, in return for the various government favors described. The President met directly with the Chinese officials whom Mr. Chung and Mr. Trie brought to the White House, and he knew about the suspicious circumstances of Mr. Trie's donations. If the President knew about a quid pro quo, he may have violated 18 U.S.C. §201 and the other statutes cited above.
b. The Lippo Group
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Closely related to the allegations concerning the government of the People's Republic of China are the allegations relating to the Lippo Group. The Lippo Group (''Lippo'') is a multi-billion dollar real estate and financial conglomerate based in Indonesia. The Riady family, an ethnic Chinese family living in Indonesia, owns and controls Lippo. The patriarch of the Riady family is Mochtar Riady. His son, James, has known President Clinton since the late 1970s when he interned with an investment bank in Little Rock, Arkansas. Since President Clinton began his first presidential campaign in 1991, members of the Riady family and Lippo's subsidiaries and executives have contributed more than $475,000 to the Democratic Party and its candidates. Lippo and the Riady family have numerous business interests in China and Hong Kong. See generally Alan C. Miller, Controversy Swirls Over Donation to Democrats, Los Angeles Times, October 14, 1996, at A1; Evelyn Iritani and Maggie Farley, Indonesian Fulfills Aim for Firm, Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1996, at A6; Seth Mydans, Family Tied to Democratic Party Funds Built an Indonesian Empire, The New York Times, October 20, 1996, at 10.
In the early 1980s, John Huang, the former Commerce Department official at the center of this controversy, worked for Lippo in Little Rock at the Worthen Bank, in which Lippo had a large stake. In 1986, Mr. Huang moved to Los Angeles to help run the Lippo Bank, which has had a number of problems with banking regulators. In that role, he became Lippo's chief representative in the United States. David E. Sanger and James Sterngold, Fund-Raiser for Democrats Now Faces Harsh Spotlight, The New York Times, October 21, 1996, at A1; Lance Gay, Lippo Bank Faced 6-Year Inquiry, The Plain Dealer, November 1, 1996, at 10A; David Willman, U.S. Likely to Hit Lippobank with 3rd Severe Sanction, Los Angeles Times, March 19, 1997, at A1.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Huang began raising illegal contributions for the Democratic Party as early as 1992. The recent Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearings revealed that in August 1992 Huang gave a $50,000 contribution to the DNC through Hip Hing Holdings, a U.S.-based Lippo subsidiary. He then requested and received reimbursement for the contribution from Lippo's Indonesian headquarters. Senator Lieberman said, ''Here's a clear trail of foreign money coming into U.S. elections.'' Edward Walsh, Senate Panel Finds 1st Direct Link to Foreign Funding, The Washington Post, July 16, 1997, at A1.
Maria L. Haley, a presidential aide, recommended Mr. Huang for a job at the Commerce Department in October 1993. In January 1994 while he was still an employee of Lippo, Mr. Huang received a top-secret security clearance without a full background check. On July 18, 1994, he became principal deputy assistant secretary for international economic policy in the Department of Commerce. He received a $780,000 severance payment from Lippo. David J. Rothkopf, the deputy undersecretary of commerce, and Jeffrey Garten, the undersecretary, expressed misgivings about Mr. Huang's suitability for the job. In recent Senate testimony, Mr. Garten said that Mr. Huang was ''totally unqualified'' for the job and that ''he should not be involved in China at all.'' Mr. Rothkopf has said his complaints were to no avail and that he ''got the distinct impression that this was a done deal. But it was unclear to me at what level it was done.'' The Riadys have apparently boasted to friends that they placed Huang in the job. Marcy Gordon, Huang Called Lippo Amid Secret Briefings, Chicago Sun-Times, January 10, 1997, at 30; Bob Woodward, Chinese Embassy Role in Contributions Probed, Planning of Foreign Donations to DNC Indicated, The Washington Post, February 13, 1997, at A1; Michael Kranish, Push to Sway U.S. on China is Revealed, The Boston Globe, March 20, 1997, at A1; Alan C. Miller, Boost from Above Aided Huang's Rise up the Ladder, Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1997, at A1; Paul Leavitt, Flood Relief Held Up by Senate Squabbling over Bill, USA Today, April 30, 1997, at 4A; Glenn F. Bunting and Alan C. Miller, Huang Helped to Raise Funds While at Agency, Los Angeles Times, May 25, 1997, at A1; Don Van Natta, Jr. and Christopher Drew, Donations to Democrats Traced to Phony Firms and Dead Person, The New York Times, June 6, 1997, at A1; James Risen and Alan C. Miller, Huang's Security Status Raises New Questions, Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1997, at A1; Edward Walsh, Panel Examines Hiring of Huang at Commerce, The Washington Post, July 17, 1997, at A1; Alison Mitchell, Clinton Gives Few Details on Recommending Huang, The New York Times, July 10, 1997, at B8; James Warren, Ex-Democratic Fundraiser Seen as Key to Puzzle, Chicago Tribune, July 14, 1997, at 1; Edward Walsh and Anne Farris, Panel Hears of Huang's Frequent Visits to Firm, The Washington Post, July 18, 1997, at A8.
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The Commerce Department now acknowledges that Mr. Huang attended 109 meetings at which classified information might have been discussed. Id. Phone records show that Mr. Huang made at least 70 calls to Lippo during his tenure at the Commerce Department, many of which occurred near the time of the briefings. Id. He had contacts with officials of the Chinese Embassy. Id. Mr. Huang also maintained an office at a private investment firm with Arkansas and Asian ties, Stephens, Inc., where he made numerous phone calls and received faxes and packages during his Commerce tenure. Id.
Mr. Huang began to raise money illegally before he even left the Commerce Department, and the DNC attributed these donations to his wife. Id. In mid-1995, he expressed an interest in going to the DNC to raise funds. Id. DNC Chairman Don Fowler did not think that the move was necessary and took no action. Id. In September 1995, the President and his closest adviser, Bruce Lindsey, met with Mr. Huang, James Riady, and C. Joseph Giroir, a former law partner of Mrs. Clinton's who was close to the Riadys, regarding Mr. Huang's desire to move to the DNC. Id. The President has acknowledged that he had a role in recommending Mr. Huang for the DNC job, and other former Clinton aides with ties to Asia, including Mr. Giroir, apparently mounted a concerted campaign to bring about Mr. Huang's job there. Id. In December 1995, Mr. Huang moved to the DNC with the title finance vice chairman. Id. After Mr. Huang left, his Commerce Department position was eliminated. Id. Strangely, however, Mr. Huang kept his security clearance long after he left the Commerce Department. Id.
At the DNC, Mr. Huang embarked on an unusual fund-raising drive in which he raised $3.4 million. Id. Of that amount, the DNC has identified $1.6 million as being illegal, improper, or sufficiently suspect that it will be sent back to donors. Id. Many of these donations came from fictitious donors and, in at least one case, a dead person. Id. One of the most egregious examples is the $450,000 donated by Arief and Soraya Wiriadinata. Id. See also Alan C. Miller, Controversy Swirls Over Donation to Democrats, Los Angeles Times, October 14, 1996, at A1. Until December 1995 when they left the country, this couple lived in a modest townhouse in Northern Virginia. Id. Mr. Wiriadinata was a landscape architect, and Mrs. Wiriadinata was a homemaker. Id. Despite these modest circumstances, the couple wrote 23 separate checks to the DNC totaling $425,000 from November 9, 1995 until June 7, 1996. Id. However, Mrs. Wiriadinata is the daughter of Hashim Ning, a partner of the Riadys in owning Lippo. Id. Democratic Party officials had concerns about the legality of Mr. Huang's activities as early as July 1996, but they did not remove him from his job. Tom Squiteri, Democrats Knew Huang Might Be Trouble, USA Today, February 19, 1997, at 9A.
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The Wiriadinatas are not the only conduit through which Lippo money apparently benefited the Clintons. Existing Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr is reportedly investigating whether payments that Lippo made to Webster Hubbell were made to buy his silence in the Whitewater investigation. David Willman, U.S. Likely to Hit Lippobank with 3rd Severe Sanction, Los Angeles Times, March 19, 1997, at A1. These payments reportedly included paying for a vacation the Hubbell family took to Bali in the summer of 1994. Id.
One possible quid pro quo for this Lippo money is the possibility that Lippo bought Mr. Huang's position in the Commerce Department as well as the accompanying access to classified information. In addition, during September 1996, the President announced that he was designating 1.7 million acres of Utah wilderness as a national monument. Clinton Critics See Other Motives Behind Monument Atop Utah Coal, Chicago Tribune, December 26, 1996, at 26; Utah Not Impressed with U.S. Promises on New Monument, Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 30, 1997, at 4A. This designation abruptly halted plans to mine the world's largest deposit of clean-burning ''super compliance coal.'' Id. The President made this move with virtually no consultation with people in the affected area of Utah. Id. The second largest deposit of this kind of coal lies in Indonesia, and critics suggest that the designation was made as a reward to Lippo. Id. See also Paul Craig Roberts, Clinton's Pen Aids Foreign ''Friends,'' Rocky Mountain News, January 4, 1997, at 40A.
If there was a quid pro quo for Mr. Huang's position at the Department of Commerce, his access to classified information, the designation of the national monument, or all three, then there may have been a violation of 18 U.S.C. §201 and the other statutes mentioned above. The President's direct involvement includes his participation in the September 1995 meeting at which Mr. Huang expressed his desire to go to the DNC and his participation in the designation of the national monument.
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On February 20, 1997, the Wall Street Journal reported that a Miami computer executive with close ties to the government of Paraguay had a number of dealings with the White House. Jill Abramson, Jonathan Friedland, and Marcus W. Brauchli, Latin Connection, DNC Donor with Ties to Paraguay Presses its Case in White House, Mark Jimenez's Gifts Often Coincide with His Access to Administration Aides, Contraband in Ciudad del Este, The Wall Street Journal, February 20, 1997, at A1. Several days later, USA Today provided further details. Tom Squitieri, White House Link to Paraguay Probed, USA Today, February 24, 1997, at 6A. See also Lance Gay, Dems Courted Paraguay; Sanctions Waived after Clinton Meeting, Chicago Sun-Times, January 16, 1997, at 17; Terry Lemons, Hope Gift Preceded Coup Try, Asuncion Alert Came Month After Money, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 4, 1997, at 1A.
The computer executive, Mark Jimenez, is a native of the Philippines, and he is a legal resident of the United States. Id. His company, Future Tech International, sells computer parts in Latin America, including Paraguay. Id. He apparently has close ties to the government of Paraguay. Id. Since 1993, Mr. Jimenez and his employees have given over $800,000 to the Democratic Party, the Clinton-Gore campaign, and other private initiatives linked to President Clinton, like the effort to restore the President's birthplace. Id. Mr. Jimenez has visited the White House at least twelve times since April 1994, and on at least seven of these occasions, he met personally with President Clinton. Id.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The timing of some of these donations strongly suggests that there was a quid pro quo. From February through April 1996, Mr. Jimenez and various officials of the government of Paraguay met in the White House with presidential adviser and former chief of staff, Mack McLarty regarding threats to the government of Paraguay. Id. On March 1, the State Department recommended that Paraguay no longer receive American foreign aid because it had not done enough to stop drug smuggling. Id. President Clinton then issued a waiver allowing the continued aid despite the State Department's finding. Id.
On April 22, the military of Paraguay attempted a coup against the President of Paraguay, Carlos Wasmosy. Id. The White House allowed President Wasmosy to take refuge in the American embassy in Asuncion and took other steps to support him. Id. The same day, Mr. Jimenez gave $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee. Id.
In addition, during February 1996, Mr. Jimenez attended one of the now famous White House coffees. Id. Ten days later, he gave another $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee. Id. On September 30, 1996, Mr. Jimenez arranged for a White House tour for a number of business friends who were attending a meeting of the International Monetary Fund. Id. The same day, he sent $75,000 to the Democratic National Committee. Id. The close coincidence of Mr. Jimenez's contributions with the favors he received is highly suspicious. The President's direct involvement includes his calling President Wasmosy to assure him of American support with respect to the coup attempt and his direct participation in the coffee in question. If there was a quid pro quo involved, these incidents may violate 18 U.S.C. §201 and the other statutes cited above.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCd. Guam
In February, the Washington Post reported that on September 4, 1995, First Lady Hillary Clinton stopped over in Guam on the way to the International Women's Conference in Beijing, China. John Pomfret, Signs of Policy Shift on Status of Guam Appeared after Contributions to Democrats, The Washington Post, February 16, 1997, at A6. She ended her visit with a shrimp cocktail buffet hosted by Guam's governor, Carl T. Gutierrez, a Democrat.Id. Three weeks later, a Guam Democratic Party official arrived in Washington with more than $250,000 in campaign contributions.Id. Within six additional months, Governor Gutierrez and a small group of Guam businessmen had produced an additional $132,000 for the Clinton-Gore reelection campaign and $510,000 in soft money for the Democratic National Committee. Id.
In December 1996, the Administration circulated a memo that would have granted a long sought reversal of the Administration's position on labor and immigration issues in a way that was very favorable to businesses in Guam.Id. The story gave the following reason for this shift:
Some officials also attribute the administration's support for the [reversal] to the money raised for the president's reelection campaign. One senior U.S. official said 'the political side' of her agency had informed her that the administration's shift was linked to campaign contributions. 'We had always opposed giving Guam authority over its own immigration,' the official said. 'But when that $600,000 was paid, the political side switched.' U.S. officials from three other agencies added that they too had been told that the policy shift was linked to money.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCId. Various published reports discussed below indicate that the President was intimately involved in the details of fundraising for his reelection. As President, he ultimately controls the Administration's policy. Thus, if these assertions prove true, a reasonable mind could reach the conclusion that the President knew about and condoned a direct quid pro quo for these policy changes. If he did so, such a quid pro quo would violate 18 U.S.C. §201 and the other statutes we have cited.
2. USE OF THE WHITE HOUSE FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES18 U.S.C. §600, 607, 641
At least three criminal statutes address the use of the White House for political purposes. Section 600 of Title 18 prohibits the promising of any government benefit in return for any kind of political support or activity. Section 607 of Title 18 prohibits the solicitation or receipt of contributions for federal campaigns in federal buildings. Section 641 of Title 18 prohibits the conversion of government property to personal use.
a. White House Coffees
During January 1995, President Clinton authorized a plan under which the Democratic National Committee would hold fund-raising coffees and sleepovers in the White House. Alison Mitchell, Clinton Pressed Plan to Reward Donors, His Enthusiasm is Made Clear in a Memo, The New York Times, February 26, 1997, at A1; Peter Baker and Susan Schmidt, President Had Big Role in Setting Donor Perks, Records Detail Close Involvement with Fund-Raising, The Washington Post, February 26, 1997, at A1; Ralph Frammolino and Sara Fritz, Clinton Led Move for Donors to Stay Night in White House, Los Angeles Times, February 26, 1997, at A1. Don Van Natta, Jr., Some Democratic Fund-Raisers Say They Sold Access to Clinton, The New York Times, February 26, 1997, at A1; Glenn F. Bunting and Ralph Frammolino, Cash-for-Coffee Events at White House Detailed, Los Angeles Times, February 24, 1997 at A1; Charles R. Babcock and Sharon LaFraniere, Hundreds of Contributors Enjoyed an Overnight Stay at the White House, The Washington Post, February 26, 1997 at A1; Judy Keen and Tom Squittieri, Spending Cash, Spending the Night, USA Today, February 27, 1997, at 6A.
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During 1995 and 1996, the White House held 103 of the coffees.Id. To quote the New York Times, ''[t]he documents [released by the White House] themselves make explicit that the coffees were fund-raising vehicles. . . .[they] also make clear that the Democratic National Committee was virtually being run out of the Clinton White House despite the President's initial efforts after the election to draw a distinction between his own campaign organization and the committee.'' Id. The Los Angeles Times put it no less succinctly when it said: ''The result [of the coffees] was not only lucrative, according to some involved, but occasionally bizarresometimes the political equivalent of the bar scene in the film 'Star Wars.' The president and vice president were surrounded by rotating casts of rich strangers with unknown motives or backgrounds, including some from faraway places who didn't speak the same language.'' Id.
These reports indicate that Democratic Party fund-raising staff have said in interviews that they directly sold access to the President and Vice-President at the coffees.Id. The New York Times quoted a Democratic fund-raiser's response to a White House denial that there was a requirement for a coffee participant to make a contribution as: ''I don't understand why they continue to deny the obvious.'' Id. The Los Angeles Times quoted a fund-raiser as saying: ''I can't count the number of times I heard, 'Tell them they can come to a coffee with the President for $50,000.' It was routine. In fact, when [staffers] said, 'This is all I can raise,' they were told, 'Keep selling the coffees.' '' Id.
In short, these reports make it obvious that the coffees, which President Clinton directly authorized, were nothing but fund-raising events. According to the New York Times, the Democratic National Committee raised $27 million from 350 people who attended White House coffees. Id.
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b. Lincoln Bedroom Sleepovers
President Clinton also entertained 938 overnight guests in the White House during his first term.Id. This, too, became a means of fund-raising. When the original plan to hold coffees was suggested to the President, he not only approved it, but also originated the idea of the overnight visits. On the memo suggesting the plan, he wrote, ''Ready to start overnights right away . . . get other names at 100,000 or more, 50,000 or more.'' Id. The New York Times reports that these guests donated $10,210,840 to the Democratic Party from 1992 through 1996.Id. The New York Times said about the President's notation: ''The memorandum to Mr. Clinton and the response from the President show Mr. Clinton's direct involvement in authorizing the fund-raising practices that are now under scrutiny by Congressional and Justice Department investigators.'' Id.
c. Telephone Solicitation from the White House
At least one document the White House has recently released strongly suggests that President Clinton made telephone solicitations from the White House. The document, written by Vice-President Gore's deputy chief of staff, David Strauss, contained the notation, ''BC made 15 to 20 calls, raised 500K.'' Other documents indicate that presidential adviser Harold Ickes also proposed that President Clinton make fund-raising calls. President Clinton has said that he cannot remember whether he made the calls. See generally Jerry Seper, Clinton Implicated in Fund-Raising Calls; $500,000 Solicited from White House, The Washington Times, June 27, 1997, at A1; Ann Devroy, Clinton Maintains He Can't Remember Making Fund-Raising Calls, The Washington Post, June 28, 1997, at A6. If President Clinton made these calls from the White House, he may have violated 18 U.S.C. §607.
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The circumstances of the coffees, the sleepovers, and the possible telephone calls strongly suggest that the President may have violated: (1) 18 U.S.C. §600, by promising government access in return for campaign contributions, (2) 18 U.S.C. §607, by soliciting campaign contributions in federal buildings, and (3) 18 U.S.C. §641, by converting federal property, the White House, to his own private use.
B. Vice-President Gore
Under the statute, the Vice-President is a covered person. 28 U.S.C. §591(b)(1). Based on published reports, we believe you have sufficient grounds to investigate whether Vice-President Gore may have violated Federal criminal law.
1. MISUSE OF TAX-EXEMPT ORGANIZATION18 U.S.C. §371, 26 U.S.C. §7201
On April 29, 1996, Vice-President Gore attended a fund-raiser at the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights, California. Rich Connell and Alan C. Miller, DNC Says It Erred by Holding Fund-Raiser at Buddhist Temple, Los Angeles Times, October 17, 1996, at A15; Ruth Marcus, A Fund-Raising ''Mistake;'' DNC Held Event in Buddhist Temple, The Washington Post, October 17, 1996, at A1. This fund-raiser, organized by John Huang, brought in $140,000 for the Democratic National Committee.Id. When the event first came to public attention, the Vice-President claimed that the event was intended as ''community outreach'' and that ''[i]t was not billed as a fund-raiser'' and ''no money was offered or collected or raised.'' Lena H. Sun, Gore ''Community Outreach'' Touched Wallets at Temple, April L.A. Event Raised Funds and Questions, The Washington Post, October 25, 1996, at A1. The Vice-President made this claim notwithstanding reports that checks changed hands at the event and that virtually everyone else involved thought the event was an explicit fund-raiser. Rich Connell and Alan C. Miller, Principals Say Temple Event was Explicit Fund-Raiser; Los Angeles Times, November 3, 1996, at A21.
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In January 1997, the Vice-President admitted that he knew the event was ''a finance-related event.'' Brian McGrory, Gore Says He Knew Buddhist Event was Fund-Raiser; He Earlier Cited ''Community Outreach,'' The Boston Globe, January 15, 1997, at A9. A month later, documents released by the White House revealed that the Vice-President's staff had referred to the event as a fund-raiser in making inquiries to the National Security Council staff about the appropriateness of the event. Alison Mitchell, Gore's Staff Did Not Object to Temple Event, Aide Says, The New York Times, February 15, 1997, at 10; Sharon LaFraniere and Susan Schmidt, NSC Gave Warnings About Asian Donors, The Washington Post, February 15, 1997, at A1. The National Security Council advised that he should proceed with ''great, great caution,'' but the Vice-President proceeded to go forward with the fund-raiser.Id. This event is apparently now under investigation by a federal grand jury. Scripps Howard News Service, Grand Jury Focuses on DNC Money Donated by Buddhists, Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 19, 1997, at 10-A; Inquiry Focuses on Temple Fund-Raising, Witnesses Say, The Dallas Morning News, April 19, 1997, at 8A.
Hsi Lai Temple, if it is like most religious organizations, is a tax-exempt organization under §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. If that is so, it may not ''participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.'' 26 U.S.C. §501(c)(3). By holding such an obviously political event, the Temple violated its tax exempt status, and Vice-President Gore actively and enthusiastically participated in that violation. That action may violate 18 U.S.C. §371, as a conspiracy to defraud the United States by interfering with the functions of the Internal Revenue Service, and 26 U.S.C. §7201, as an evasion of the income tax.
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2. TELEPHONE SOLICITATION FROM THE WHITE HOUSE18 U.S.C. §607, 641
On March 2, 1997, the Washington Post reported that Vice-President Gore ''played the central role in soliciting millions of dollars in campaign money for the Democratic Party during the 1996 election'' and that he was known as the administration's ''solicitor-in-chief.'' Bob Woodward, Gore Was ''Solicitor-in-Chief'' in '96 Reelection Campaign; Some Found Vice President's Directions Inappropriate, The Washington Post, March 2, 1997, at A1. The next day, Vice-President Gore held a nationally televised press conference in which he admitted making numerous calls from the White House in which he solicited campaign contributions. John F. Harris, Gore: Fund-Raising Calls Broke No Law, Further Solicitations From Office are Ruled Out, The Washington Post, March 4, 1997, at A1; Alison Mitchell, Acknowledging Calls to Donors, Gore Says He Did Nothing Illegal, The New York Times, March 4, 1997, at A1; Michael K. Frisby and Glenn R. Simpson, Gore Defends Telephone Calls Soliciting Funds, The Wall Street Journal, March 4, 1997, at A20. He said that he made these phone calls with a DNC credit card.Id. His spokesman later clarified that the card that he used belonged to the Clinton-Gore reelection campaign. Statement of Vice-Presidential Communications Director Lorraine Voles dated March 5, 1997. The use of the Clinton-Gore credit card suggests that the solicitations were for ''hard money'' which goes to campaigns rather than ''soft money'' which goes to parties.
Documents that the White House has only recently released reveal that Vice-President Gore made 86 fundraising calls from his White House Office. Leslie Wayne, Word for Word, the Gore Phone Files, The New York Times, August 31, 1997, at 47; Leslie Wayne, Gore's Calls to Big Donors Number 86, Papers Show, The New York Times, August 27, 1997, at A16. More disturbingly, these new records reveal that Vice-President Gore made twenty of these calls at taxpayer expense. Democrats Pay U.S. for Gore's Calls, Chicago Tribune, August 27, 1997, at 14; Gore Didn't Tell Truth about Phone Calls, GOP Says, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 28, 1997, at 7A; Tom Squitieri, Campaign Fund-Raising Probe Turns Focus on Gore, USA Today, August 28, 1997, at 7A; Marc Lacey, Gore Donor Calls Exceed 75, Records Show, Los Angeles Times, August 27, 1997, at A13. This use of taxpayer resources for private political uses may violate 18 U.S.C. §641(converting government property to personal use).
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On its face, the conduct to which Vice-President Gore admitted appears to be a clear violation of 18 U.S.C. §607. Section 607 makes it unlawful for ''any person to solicit . . . any [campaign] contribution . . . in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official [government] duties . . . .'' You indicated in the Hatch Letter two reasons that this conduct might not violate §607: (1) that the solicitations were for ''soft money'' and therefore not covered under the definition of contribution, and (2) that the solicitations may have occurred in private areas of the White House. Hatch Letter at 45.
Recent reports have completely undermined these two claims with respect to the calls that Vice-President Gore made. Only today, we have learned from Washington Post reports that at least $120,000 of the money he solicited from his office was ''hard money.'' Bob Woodward, Gore Donors' Funds Used as ''Hard Money,'' Federal Restrictions Apply to Such Gifts, The Washington Post, September 3, 1997, at A1. As the story notes, ''The [hard] money came from at least eight of 46 donors the vice president telephoned from his White House office to ask for contributions to the Democratic National Committee, according to records released by Gore's office.'' Id. We are deeply troubled by the length of time it took for these records, which have apparently been under Vice-President Gore's control, to come to public light. With respect to the second point you raise, we are not aware of any claim that Vice-President Gore made these calls from any place other than his office, an area clearly covered under §607 as a ''room or building occupied in the discharge of official [government] duties.''
Whether ''soft money'' comes under §607 may be a debatable point of law, but now that the facts undermine that claim, there is certainly enough here to conclude that the Vice-President may have violated this statute. Even to the extent that any of these points remain debatable, public confidence requires an independent counsel to make the hard calls on these matters. As The New York Times put it, ''Whether or not Ms. Reno is correct [on soft money], it would be best for the confidence of Americans in their political system for the judgment to be made by an independent counsel. In her performance [before the Senate Judiciary Committee], Ms. Reno proved herself to be a skilled attorney. In the process, however, she is failing in her obligations as Attorney General.'' Sparring with Ms. Reno, The New York Times, May 2, 1997, at A36.
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3. EXTORTION OF CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS18 U.S.C. §201, 872
THE ''SOLICITOR-IN-CHIEF'' STORY ALSO ASSERTED THAT VICE-PRESIDENT GORE MADE THE TELEPHONE SOLICITATIONS ''WITH AN URGENCY AND DIRECTNESS THAT SEVERAL LARGE DEMOCRATIC DONORS SAID THEY FOUND HEAVY-HANDED AND INAPPROPRIATE.'' BOB WOODWARD, Gore Was ''Solicitor-in-Chief'' in '96 Reelection Campaign; Some Found Vice President's Directions Inappropriate, The Washington Post, March 2, 1997, at A1. The story quoted two donors as follows:
Another donor recalled Gore phoning and saying, 'I've been tasked with raising $2 million by the end of the week, and you're on my list.' The donor, a well-known business figure who declined to allow his name to be used, gave about $100,000 to the DNC. The donor said he felt pressured by the vice president's sales pitch. 'It's revolting,' said the donor, a longtime Gore friend and supporter.
Yet another major business figure and donor who was solicited by Gore, and who refused to be identified, said, 'There were elements of a shakedown in the call. It was very awkward. For a vice president, particularly this vice president who has real power and is the heir apparent, to ask for money gave me no choice. I have so much business that touches on the federal governmentthe telecommunications act, tax policy, regulations galore.' The donor said he immediately sent a check for $100,000 to the DNC.
Id. Although the Vice-President may legally solicit campaign contributions, it is not legal to exert pressure based on government actions. The bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. §201(b)(2)(A) provides that a public official may not ''directly or indirectly, corruptly demand, [or] seek, . . . anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for: (A) being influenced in the performance of any official act; . . .'' In addition, 18 U.S.C. §872 prohibits government officials from engaging in acts of extortion. Through the use of untoward pressure, the Vice-President may have violated these statutes.
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C. Other Practices Possibly Involving President Clinton and Vice-President Gore
Based on these facts, one must conclude that President Clinton and Vice-President Gore controlled the fundraising operations of the Democratic National Committee to an unprecedented degree. Likewise, they participated in the details of that fundraising to an unprecedented degree. Thus, reasonable people can ask how directly they participated in the numerous other illegal practices that occurred at the Democratic National Committee.
To cite just two examples, the DNC has announced its intention to return millions of dollars in contributions it received from foreign nationals in violation of 2 U.S.C. §437g(d)(1)(A) & 441e. See, e.g., Lena H. Sun and John Pomfret, China Adviser's Gift to DNC Under Review, The Washington Post, February 25, 1997, at A1. Some of these contributions appear to have been given in the names of others in violation of 2 U.S.C. §437g(d)(1)(A) & 441f. See, e.g., Peter Y. Hong and Sara Fritz, Donations Traced to Questionable Sources, Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1997, at A14; Don Van Natta, Jr. and Christopher Drew, Donations to Democrats Traced to Phony Firms and Dead Person, The New York Times, June 6, 1997, at A1. Given their close involvement in every aspect of the DNC fundraising operation, President Clinton and Vice-President Gore may have violated the cited statutes in these instances and others.
D. Former Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary
Under the statute, the Secretary of Energy is a covered person, and she remains one for one year after leaving office. 28 U.S.C. §591(b) (2) and (7). The recent reports that former Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary directed the solicitation of a $25,000 contribution for a favored charity from Johnny Chung in return for her granting a meeting to Mr. Huaren Sheng, President of the China Petrochemical Corporation, and several Chinese businessmen also require an independent counsel.
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On August 19, 1997, the ''NBC Nightly News'' broadcast an interview with Mr. Chung in which he alleged that in October 1995, he sought a meeting with Ms. O'Leary on behalf of the Chinese businessmen. Mr. Chung first attempted to arrange the meeting through the Democratic National Committee. He donated more than $360,000 to the DNC from 1994 to 1996. His attempts through the DNC did not succeed, but he did get a letter from DNC Chairman Don Fowler to Ms. O'Leary urging her to see the Chinese. It also led to his introduction to a lobbyist and an aide to Ms. O'Leary.
From the aide, he received instructions that he could get the meeting if he made a $25,000 contribution to an Africare dinner the next night. Ms. O'Leary served as National Honorary Chair of the dinner, and she supported the group. Mr. Chung made the donation the next day. Mr. Chung also asked for an invitation letter signed by Ms. O'Leary which he received. However, when an Energy Department employee arrived to pick up the donation check, he asked for the letter back because a Department lawyer had determined that the letter was not legal. Ms. O'Leary met with the Chinese businessmen that afternoon.
Ms. O'Leary, who resigned as Secretary less than a year ago, is a covered person under the independent counsel statute. The actions that Mr. Chung described indicate that Ms. O'Leary may have violated, among other statutes, 18 U.S.C. §201 (accepting bribes), 371 (conspiracy to defraud the United States), 641 (conversion of government resources to personal use), 872 (extortion by officers of the United States), and 1341, 1343, and 1346 (mail and wire fraud by defrauding the government of honest services).
E. Summary of Covered Persons
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We are not concluding that President Clinton, Vice-President Gore, or Ms. O'Leary committed any crime in any of these situations. Indeed, these allegations raise many questions that remain unanswered. Many of the allegations require interpretations of the law and the facts that are close questions. However, it is precisely because the questions are close that public confidence demands an independent counsel.
We are convinced that sufficient specific and credible evidence exists to warrant a preliminary investigation under the statute. These allegations individually are most troubling. Cumulatively, they are overwhelming. For the good of the country, we hope that the preliminary investigation by the Department or the eventual investigation by an independent counsel will reveal no wrongdoing by the President, the Vice-President, or Ms. O'Leary. However, an independent counsel must be appointed before the public can feel confident that they have committed no crimes and that a thorough investigation has answered the difficult questions of fact and law that underlie that conclusion free from political influence.
II. Conflict of Interest
With respect to a person other than a covered person, you may conduct a preliminary investigation if you find that ''an investigation or prosecution of [that] person by the Department of Justice may result in a personal, financial, or political conflict of interest . . .'' 28 U.S.C. §591(c)(1). The events that we have discussed above, and many others that are the subject of published reports, implicate numerous aides and associates of President Clinton and Vice-President Gore. John Huang, Charles Trie, and Johnny Chung are just three examples. Obviously, if any of these individuals are found to have committed crimes, those convictions would be politically damaging to the President and the Vice-President. In addition, in the normal course of a criminal investigation, such individuals may be called upon to give testimony against the President and Vice-President.
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The conflicts you face here are both political and personal. Your personal conflict stems from your service at the pleasure of the President. He controls whether you can continue in your job. On the one hand, prudence dictates that you do nothing to damage his interests. On the other, your responsibility to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States requires you to investigate fully the matters that we have detailed above. A thorough investigation may well result in damage to the President's interests. Whenever the Attorney General is called upon to investigate the President or other high Executive Branch officials, that conflict is inherent as you point out in your 1993 testimony which we have quoted above.
Politically, you had a long career as an elected prosecutor in Florida. During that career, you ran as a Democrat. The Democratic Party has nurtured your political career and placed you in your current position of trust. As would any human being, you must feel some loyalty to that organization. Yet, if these allegations prove true, they have the potential to damage significantly the Democratic Party. Again, the situation divides your loyalties between two competing interests. As Archibald Cox said in the passage you quoted, even with the best of intentions on your part, the pressure on you is so great that it is difficult for the public to have confidence in the outcome of an investigation that you lead.
It is not only Republicans who see the obvious conflicts in this situation. The New York Times has repeatedly called for an independent counsel referring to the matters under investigation as ''the most serious crisis of credibility for the American political system since Watergate.'' Sparring with Ms. Reno, The New York Times, May 2, 1997, at A36. It has referred to the conflicts you face as ''unavoidable,'' ''flagrant,'' ''manifest,'' and ''inherent.'' Good Advice from Mr. Freeh, The New York Times, May 9, 1997, at A34; Campaign Money Pipeline, The New York Times, July 3, 1997, at A22; The Spin on the Democrats' Dollars, The New York Times, July 8, 1997, at A16; Al Gore Meets the Enemy, The New York Times, August 28, 1997, at A30. We believe that you must consider these kinds of editorial judgments in your assessments of public confidence in the investigation.
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We are also concerned that in more than one instance, the White House has apparently pressured the Department of Justice to provide sensitive information relating to the ongoing criminal investigation. In the first instance, the White House apparently made this demand under the guise of needing the information to prepare for upcoming international trips. Pierre Thomas and Kevin Merida, Clinton Cites FBI's ''Dual Obligations'' in Sharing Data, The Washington Post, March 27, 1997, at A8; Warren P. Strobel and Jerry Seper, White House Tactful in Row with FBI, McCurry is Mum on China Papers, The Washington Times, March 26, 1997, at A1. The White House again requested this kind of sensitive information after further reports about contributions directed by the People's Republic of China. John F. Harris, Don't Prejudge China, Clinton Urges, He Says Beijing May Have Sought to Make Voice Heard Here Legally, The Washington Post, April 26, 1997, at A16. Other reports have indicated that President Clinton has made personal calls to Senators to dissuade them from calling for an independent counsel. David Rogers, Irate Clinton Blasts Moves for Counsel, Late-Night Phoning of Democrats Comes Amid Fund Scandal, The Wall Street Journal, February 28, 1997, at A16. We believe that an independent counsel would be in a better position to resist this kind of heavy handed pressure.
In addition, you were personally involved in one incident which may be of some relevance to the investigation. You have said publicly that, when the FBI received information indicating that the government of the People's Republic of China was trying to funnel campaign contributions to American politicians, you attempted to contact then National Security Adviser Anthony Lake regarding this sensitive information. Michael L. Wines, Reno Says She Tried to Alert Lake on China, The New York Times, March 14, 1997, at A20; Glenn R. Simpson and David Rogers, Reno Dropped Attempt to Inform Lake in '96 of Alleged Chinese Moves in U.S., The Wall Street Journal, March 14, 1997, at A4; Pierre Thomas and Sharon LaFraniere, Attorney General Says She Tried Last May to Contact Lake about China Allegations, The Washington Post, March 14, 1997, at A23; Jerry Seper, Reno Wanted White House Informed, The Washington Times, March 14, 1997, at A12. Mr. Lake apparently did not return the call, and you did not attempt to call him again.Id. We do not have any specific reason to disbelieve your explanation of this event, and in the long run, it will probably prove to be insignificant. However, it puts you personally at the periphery of some of the events in question. We believe that fact further exacerbates the conflict.
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Your action in opposing immunity for low-level figures in the investigation also troubles us. During July, the Department opposed the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's efforts to grant immunity to four Buddhist nuns who attended the now-famous fundraiser at the Buddhist temple, as well as a Virginia woman who functioned as a conduit for illegal campaign contributions. The idea that these low-level participants, who are probably victims of the schemes of others, would be prosecuted stretches credulity. Even most of the Democratic members of the Committee joined in voting to grant this immunity. Senator Torricelli, one of your staunchest advocates on the Committee, said ''I have found the Justice Department's response to this Committee . . . less than thorough. They have complicated the work of this Committee. . . . With or without them, we will proceed.'' See generally Ken Foskett, 5 in Fund Raising Probe Given Immunity, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 24, 1997, at 6A; Mark Gladstone, 5 Granted Immunity in Donor Probe, Los Angeles Times, July 24, 1997, at A14; Eric Schmitt, Senator Heading Inquiry Attacks Justice Dept., The New York Times, July 23, 1997, at A16; Mary Ann Akers, Justice Hinders Finance Probe, GOP Charges, The Washington Times, July 23, 1997, at A1; Edward Walsh, Justice Dept. Again Opposes Immunity in Campaign Probe, Angering Senate GOP, The Washington Post, July 23, 1997, at A9. This kind of conduct further lessens public confidence in the investigation.
Finally, we want to address your reliance on the career employees of the Justice Department in this investigation. Hyde Letter at 7; Hatch Letter at 10. We share your respect and admiration for the fine work that these non-partisan career employees do. However, if it were a sufficient solution to rely on them, there would be no need to have an independent counsel statute. You admitted as much in your 1993 testimony which we have quoted above. The point is that, ultimately, you are the person who must make the hard calls on this investigation so long as it remains in the hands of the Department.
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Perhaps the New York Times put it best when it said:
The question of public confidence needs to be uppermost in the mind of any Attorney General. The fund-raising disclosures have blown up into the biggest scandal in the United States since Watergate. It is paralyzing the President, preoccupying Congress and fueling public cynicism about our political system. This is no time for the Attorney General to evade her responsibilities and try to divert the public with legalisms and semantic technicalities.
See No Evil, The New York Times, April 16, 1997, at A28.
We believe that you are trying to do your duty as best you see it. In addition, we hope that the allegations prove to be false. However, we, too, are public servants, and we feel it is our constitutional duty to make our views known. For the reasons set forth above, and for the good of the country, we implore you to move forward with seeking the appointment of an independent counsel.
INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 6 HERE
Hon. HENRY J. HYDE,
Chairman, Committee on House Judiciary,
U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: On September 4, 1997, the Department of Justice received a letter from you and the other nineteen majority party members of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives in which you request the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate possible fundraising violations in connection with the 1996 presidential campaign. You made that request pursuant to a provision of the Independent Counsel Act (the Act), 28 U.S.C. §592(g)(1), which provides that ''a majority of majority party members [of the Committee on the Judiciary] . . . may request in writing that the Attorney General apply for the appointment of an independent counsel.'' The Act requires me to respond, setting forth the reasons for my decision on each of the matters with respect to which your request is made. 28 U.S.C. §592(g)(2).
With respect to each of the matters mentioned in your letter, I have considered all the information known to me as a result of the Department of Justice's ongoing investigation into campaign finance allegations; I have not confined myself to the facts set out in your letter, which are apparently drawn in substantial part from press accounts, and which in some cases are inaccurate or incomplete. You should also know that because many of these matters are the subject of active, ongoing investigation before a grand jury, I am extremely limited in the extent to which I can reveal details concerning these matters. However, I will address each of your identified areas of concern in turn.
With respect to two of the matters mentioned in your letter, I have initiated a ''preliminary investigation,'' as that term is defined in the Independent Counsel Act. The first concerns the allegation involving former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary and a $25,000 donation made to a charitable organization by Johnny Chung. The preliminary investigation in that matter began on September 19, 1997. A copy of the Notification to the court initiating the preliminary investigation is enclosed.
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The second involves allegations that Vice President Al Gore solicited political campaign contributions as defined in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) in telephone calls that he made from his White House office. The preliminary investigation in that matter began on October 3, 1997. A copy of the Notification to the court initiating the preliminary investigation in that matter is also enclosed.
In each of these cases, I concluded, based upon the results of an initial 30-day inquiry, that a preliminary investigation was necessary. As required by the Act, I will report to you at the end of the preliminary investigation of these matters as to whether or not I have sought appointment of an independent counsel.
With respect to one additional matter identified in your letterinformation indicating that the President may have made phone calls from the White House to solicit political contributions within the meaning of the FECAI initiated a 30-day initial inquiry pursuant to the provisions of the Act on September 15, 1997. If, at the conclusion of that inquiry, I determine that the information is sufficient to warrant further investigation of whether the President may have violated federal criminal law, then I will order the initiation of a preliminary investigation into that matter, as well. As required by the Act, I will inform you of my decision at that time.
With respect to the other matters discussed in your letter, I have not initiated a preliminary investigation. If an independent counsel is ultimately appointed with respect to any of the three matters outlined above, I will consider whether these matters, among others, should be referred to the independent counsel as necessary to fully investigate and prosecute the matter on which an independent counsel is sought, or as related to that matter. However, none of them warrants a preliminary investigation pursuant to the Independent Counsel Act.
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As you know, matters relating to campaign financing in the 1996 federal elections are under active investigation by a task force of career Justice Department prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents. I recently added to the task force significant numbers of new investigative and attorney personnel. The task force is continuing to pursue the investigation vigorously and diligently. I can assure you that I have given your views and your arguments careful thought, but at this time, I am unable to agree with your view that an independent counsel should be appointed to handle the investigation of those matters not already subject to Independent Counsel Act procedures.
I would like to briefly address your general observations regarding the Independent Counsel Act. I agree that the statute requires that I conduct a preliminary investigation when I find specific and credible evidence that a covered person ''may have violated any Federal criminal law.'' 28 U.S.C. §591(a). This does not, of course, mean that the Act is triggered by speculation or innuendo. Nor is it triggered, as you put it, when it is merely ''possible'' that a covered person committed a crime; rather, it requires specific and credible information which supports a conclusion that a crime may have been committed. This is the standard that I have consistently applied in making determinations under the Act, and I will continue to do so.
I also agree that I am not permitted under the Act to decline to conduct a preliminary investigation based on a lack of evidence of the required criminal state of mind. That is a correct reading of the Act.
However, I must again correct one misunderstanding of the Act contained in your letter. As I explained in detail in my letter of June 19, 1997, to you, in order to invoke the discretionary clause, it is necessary that I find the potential for an actual conflict of interest, as opposed to the mere appearance of a conflict of interest. The plain language of the Act so requires, and its legislative history could not be more explicit. My testimony, which you quote at length, is inapposite; I was describing the basis for the mandatory provisions of the Act. The portions of my testimony quoted by you in your letter have no application to the discretionary provisions of the Act.
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1. Allegations Against Covered Persons
Let me now turn to the specific allegations in your letter. You request that I seek appointment of an independent counsel with respect to five broad areas.
a. Bribery of the President. You identify a number of particular political (and, in one case, non-political) donations or contributions by six different individuals and entitiesJohnny Chung, Ernest Green, Charlie Trie, Lippo companies, Mark Jimenez and his employees, and residents of Guamand you suggest that those donations or contributions were made in exchange for particular official actions by the President. You correctly note that if this suggestion is accurate, these transactions could violate a number of federal criminal statutes. However, at this time we are aware of no specific and credible evidenceindeed, we are aware of no evidence whatsoeverindicating that the President may have demanded, sought, received or accepted, or agreed to receive or accept, any of these donations or contributions in quid pro quo exchange for official action, or participated in any criminal conspiracy to do so. Indeed, your letter cites no more than speculation in newspaper articles based on the fact that certain government actions favorable to a contributor followed or preceded a contribution. However, it would be inappropriate to commence a criminal investigation every time an elected official took action that benefited any contributor, in the absence of actual evidence that there may have been a quid pro duo. We are aware of no such evidence in the matters to which you refer.
Moreover, several of the transactions to which you refer, based on available information, involve mere access to the President or the White House, purportedly obtained by virtue of political donations. The courts that have addressed the issue have held that such access in exchange for political contributions is not an ''official act'' that can provide the basis for a bribery or extortion prosecution. See United States v. Carpenter, 961 F.2d 824, 827 (9th Cir. 1992) (''granting or denying access to lobbyists based upon levels of campaign contributions is not an 'official act' '').(see footnote 1) Indeed, one court has focussed on the constitutional right to ''petition the Government for a redress of grievances'' guaranteed by the First Amendment in refusing to find that alleged gifts provided in hopes of access to an elected public official could amount to a scheme to defraud the public of the official honest services:
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We do not think that the desire to gain access, by itself, amounts to an intent to influence improperly the legislators' exercise of official duties. The government points to no legislative duty to provide equal access to all members of the public; and, from a practical standpoint, we doubt one exists.
United States v. Sawyer, 85 F.3d 713, 731 (4th Cir. 1996). To the extent that the allegations you have set out suggest simply a decision by an elected politician to provide access to political contributors, we conclude that no federal violation is suggested.
The campaign financing task force is investigating the circumstances surrounding many of these contributions for other potential violations. Should it develop any evidence that suggests that the President or any other covered person may have participated in any criminal conduct in this regard, I will invoke the procedures of the Act.
b. Unlawful use of government facilities by the President. You next cite two types of events involving the President that occurred within the White HouseDemocratic National Committee coffees and overnight stays by guests in the Lincoln Bedroomand suggest that these constituted illegal solicitations of political contributions (in violation of 18 U.S.C. §607), or were benefits made possible by Act of Congress provided in exchange for political activity (in violation of 18 U.S.C. §600), or amounted to illegal conversions of government property (in violation of 18 U.S.C. §641).
Section 607 does not apply to events occurring within the residential areas of the White House, and applies only to solicitation of so-called ''hard money'' contributions. Many of the events you mention may fail to meet even these preliminary requirements of a section 607 offense. Even more broadly, we are aware of no evidence, and you have directed none to our attention, that would suggest that the President requested or received a contribution within the meaning of the FECA from anyone in the course of either the coffees or the overnight visits by his guests. Merely entertaining his supporters in the White House does not constitute a violation of section 607. There are, as you are aware, other difficult legal issues under section 607 as well, but it is sufficient for the moment to discuss only these.
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Like the bribery and extortion statutes, section 600 does not apply to providing access in exchange for political contributions; rather, it provides criminal penalties only for promising ''any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit, provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of Congress'' in exchange for political activity. As broad as this statute may be, it does not cover mere access, as you assert. An elected official who decides to provide access to a political supporter is not providing a federally funded benefit such as federal employment or a federal contract. We are unaware of any legal precedent or legislative history that would suggest that section 600 is applicable to anything other than the sort of ''benefits'' expressly set out in the statute.
Section 600 was originally enacted as section 3 of the Federal Hatch Act of 1939, ''An act to prevent pernicious political activities.'' The Hatch Act arose out of extensive hearings by the Congress into political abuses, many of which arose out of the New Deal benefit programs that began during the 1930s, and which are documented in the report by a special Senate Committee, popularly known as the ''Sheppard Committee.'' S. Rep. No. 1, 76th Cong., 1st Sess. (1939). As is plain from the Report, and as reflected in the language of section 600 itself, Congress was concerned with what was found to be widespread coercion of political support from unwilling citizens in exchange for employment, contract benefits, or other benefits flowing from federal relief programs:
[W]e have heard from the lips of our people who are working on the W.P.A., and those receiving direct relief, that intimidation, threats, and coercion have been exerted upon them respecting their vote at our elections. That in many instances the threat has been made that if the worker, or the recipient of direct relief, did not vote for the party, or the candidates, as requested the worker would be immediately discharged from the W.P.A. and the recipient of direct relief would not receive further assistance.
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84 Cong. Rec. H9604 (daily ed. July 20, 1939) (remarks of Rep. Springer). Thus, based on the language of the statute itself and the legislative history describing the concerns that led to passage of the statute, we conclude that visiting the President in the White House is not a federal program ''benefit'' within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. §600.
Finally, you suggest that section 641, the criminal statute barring conversion of government property, was violated by the President when he used the White House for his ''private use.'' The White House is the personal residence of the President, provided to him for his ''private use'' during his term in office. The mere occupancy and use of the space that has been provided to him as his home is not a criminal theft or conversion of government property. Furthermore, the law recognizes that political events may take place in the White House so long as their costs are reimbursed. 5 U.S.C. §7324(b)(1); 5 C.F.R. 734.503(a). To the extent that any of these events may have occurred in settings or been of a nature that reimbursement of expenses to the Government was required, and to the extent that there may be questions outstanding as to whether appropriate reimbursement was made, we have no evidence that the President played any role in that process or made any decisions concerning whether or how reimbursement should occur.
Thus, the facts known to me at this time do not indicate that the Presidentor any other covered personviolated any of these criminal statutes in connection with these events. If additional facts should come to light warranting a reassessment of that conclusion, I will do so.
c. Tax violations by the Vice President. You next note that the Hsi Lai Temple, in Hacienda Heights, California, is a tax-exempt organization and allege that by attending a political fund-raising event at the Temple the Vice President participated in a conspiracy to evade taxes owed by the Temple and to impair the lawful functions of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in violation of 26 U.S.C. §7201 and 18 U.S.C. §371. The task force has been engaged in thoroughly investigating that event, and as a result has gathered considerable information concerning the Vice President's role in it. To date, we have discovered no information that indicates that the Vice President may have violated the laws you cite, or any other law, in connection with the Hsi Lai Temple event. Absent specific and credible information to that effect, I cannot initiate a preliminary investigation under the Independent Counsel Act.
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Should a tax-exempt organization engage in activity prohibited by virtue of its tax-exempt status, the violation may lead to revocation of the organization's tax-exempt status and assessment of taxes due. Such matters are within the jurisdiction of the IRS. Of course, tax privacy laws mean that we have no knowledge of whether any such process is underway. However, if in conducting any examination involving the Hsi Lai Temple, the IRS determines that the Temple or any individuals may have violated federal criminal tax law, then the IRS, using its normal enforcement criteria for referrals, may refer that matter to the Justice Department for further investigation or prosecution. If such a matter implicates a person covered by the Independent Counsel Act, then the preliminary provisions of the Act would be triggered. In any event, we are aware of no evidence at this time to suggest that the Vice President was a knowing participant in any conspiracy to violate the nation's tax laws or to obstruct the IRS in its functions.
d. Extortion of campaign contributions by the Vice President. You suggest that the Vice President's solicitations of political donations and contributions constituted illegal extortions or solicitations of a bribe. In order to constitute extortion, a solicitation of political campaign contributions must involve some threat of violence, the wrongful use of a victim's fear that economic harm would result from not providing the funds being solicited, or involve a quid pro quo bribe. 18 U.S.C. §1951(b)(2) (definition of extortion); 18 U.S.C. §872 (extortion by officers or employees of the United States). The Vice President is an elected public official and is entitled to seek the financial support of the public. A mere request by him for the assistance of potential donors is not extortion; nor is it a request for a bribe.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You do not identify any particular instances of threats or other extortionate conduct by the Vice President. The press reports quoted by you, in which anonymous individuals allegedly stated that they ''felt pressure,'' are not sufficient to suggest a violation of law. Should any information come to light that the Vice President may have actually threatened any of the donors whom he allegedly called seeking political contributions, we will, of course, reassess our conclusions under the requirements of the Independent Counsel Act.
e. FECA violations by the President and Vice President. Finally, you suggest, in general terms, that an independent counsel must be appointed to investigate the involvement of the President and Vice President in possible illegal conduit contributions and contributions by foreign nationals. You suggest that because the President and the Vice President were closely involved in the fundraising of the Democratic National Committee, ''reasonable people can ask'' whether they participated in alleged violations of the law. While the task force is closely scrutinizing allegations of illegal fundraising, it has to date uncovered no evidence indicating that either the President or the Vice President engaged in conduct constituting a criminal violation of the FECA.
2. Conflict of InterestThe Act's Discretionary Provisions
In addition to your contention that there is specific and credible information suggesting that covered persons may have violated the law, you also renew the argument advanced in your last letter that investigation of any of the campaign financing matters created a potential conflict of interest warranting my use of the discretionary clause under the Independent Counsel Act.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In urging me to conclude that this investigation poses the type of potential conflict of interest contemplated by the Act, you point to the facts that I was appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the President, and that in the past I ran for office as a Democrat. These facts are not by themselves sufficient to establish a conflict of interest with respect to investigations that do not involve alleged criminal conduct by a covered person. As I have noted before, except in extraordinary circumstances not presented by the facts known to us at this time, it is not a conflict of interest for the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of corruption and wrongdoing within the Executive Branch, even at relatively high levels. I cannot accept the suggestion in your letter and from others that merely because some of these allegations involve events that were participated in by the President or Vice President, or involve individuals known to the President or Vice President, or might have an adverse impact on the Democratic Party, there ought to be an independent counsel.
You also allege that in some instances I and the Department have provided to the White House ''sensitive information'' pertaining to the task force's investigation. I assure you that any such information provided to the White House has been furnished properly pursuant to my national security obligations and has not impinged in any way on the interests of the criminal investigation. My obligation to keep the President informed of matters affecting the national security has not created any conflict with the Department's conduct of the criminal investigation. Moreover, even were an independent counsel to be appointed, I would still retain my responsibility to relay to the President relevant intelligence necessary for him to exercise his responsibility to protect the national security.
You further cite as evidence of a conflict of interest my opposition to Congressional grants of immunity for what you describe as ''low-level figures'' such as persons who served as conduits for illegal contributions. The decision to confer immunity upon potential criminal defendants is a significant one, and making it without adequate consideration or information can have a damaging impact on criminal investigations, either by depriving the Department of leverage to secure a witness's full cooperation or by immunizing conduct that is more serious than appears. Indeed, in this case, some of the immunized witnesses revealed in their testimony that they were not mere conduits but had also destroyed relevant documents. Accordingly, the Department of Justice has always attempted to consider these decisions carefully. I am confident that an independent counsel would do the same.
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As I have previously pointed out to you, there are times when reliance on the discretionary clause is appropriate, and I have done so myself on a few occasions. However, in each of those cases, I considered the particular individuals involved and the particular factual context in which the allegations against those persons arose, and concluded that it would create a potential conflict of interest for the Department of Justice to investigate the matter. Moreover, even after finding the existence of a potential conflict, I must consider whether under all the circumstances discretionary appointment of an independent counsel is appropriate. In each case, therefore, the final decision has been an exercise of my discretion, as provided for under the Act.
I have undertaken the same examination here. Based on the facts as we know them now, I have not concluded that any conflict of interest would ensue from our vigorous and thorough investigation of the allegations contained in your letter.
In conclusion, I assure you, as I have before on numerous instances, that allegations of violations of federal criminal law with respect to campaign financing in the course of the 1996 federal elections will be thoroughly investigated, and, if appropriate, prosecuted. The Task Force continues to review documents and interview witnesses in connection with many of the events discussed in your letter. If at any time in the course of the investigation we are made aware of information that a covered person, or a person as to whom the Department of Justice would have a conflict, may have violated the law I will invoke the appropriate provisions of the Act. But with all due respect for your views to the contrary, at this point it appears to me thatwith the exception only of the three specific allegations which have triggered review under the Independent Counsel Actthese matters should continue to be investigated by the Department of Justice and its career investigators and prosecutors. Should future developments require me to reconsider my decision, I will do so.
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cc: Hon. John Conyers, Jr.,
Ranking Minority Member.
INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 7 TO 8 HERE
Hon. HENRY J. HYDE,
|Office of the Attorney General,|
|Washington, DC, December 2, 1997.|
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary,
United States House of Representatives,
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: In a letter dated September 3, 1997, signed by you and the other 19 majority party members of the House Judiciary Committee, you requested appointment of an independent counsel to investigate possible fundraising violations in connection with the 1996 presidential campaign. You specifically asked that I seek appointment of an independent counsel to investigate allegations that the President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, and the Vice President of the United States, Albert Gore, Jr., ''covered person[s]'' under the Independent Counsel Act (''the Act''), may have made telephone solicitations of campaign contributions from the White House, in potential violation of 18 U.S.C. §607. As you know, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §591(d)(2) & 592, I opened preliminary investigations into these matters on October 14 and October 3, respectively, because I was unable to determine whether I had received a specific allegation from a credible source of a potential violation of Section 607 by either the President or the Vice President.
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In addition, your September 3 letter requested the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate allegations that former Secretary of Energy Hazel R. O'Leary, also a ''covered person'' under the Act, may have violated 18 U.S.C. §201, or other federal criminal statutes, by soliciting a $25,000 contribution to a charitable organization in return for an official meeting with a visiting delegation of Chinese petrochemical officials. As you know, I initiated a preliminary investigation into that matter on September 19.
After a thorough investigation into each of these matters, for the reasons set forth in detail in the three enclosed Notifications to the Independent Counsel Division of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, I have concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that further investigation into these three matters is warranted. The investigations revealed no evidence of potential violations of federal criminal law. Therefore, as I am required by 18 U.S.C. §592(g)(3), this letter will serve to inform you that I will not seek the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate these matters further.
As is indicated above, I have enclosed copies of the required notifications to the special division of the court in which I explain in detail the bases for my decisions. Please note that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §592(e), I filed these submissions today under seal. Simultaneously, I moved the court to permit public disclosure of the contents of the notifications. Until that motion is granted, I must request that you withhold public disclosure of these materials.
My decisions today involve only the three specific matters described above. As you know, a task force comprised of career Justice Department prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents is actively investigating allegations of criminal fundraising irregularities in connection with the 1996 federal elections. That far-reaching investigation is ongoing, and my decisions today do not foreclose the possibility that the task force may ultimately develop evidence indicating potential criminal violations by persons covered by the Act. Should that occur, you may be assured that, as I have demonstrated on several occasions during my tenure, I will not hesitate to invoke the provisions of the Independent Counsel Act. I have stated before that I am considering carefully any and all evidence of criminal misconduct, from whatever source, and diligently analyzing the facts and the law to determine whether the Act is triggered. I will continue to do so.
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cc: Hon. John Conyers, Jr.,
Ranking Minority Member.
INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 9 TO 61 HERE
Mr. DELAHUNT. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. CONYERS. I can't during my opening statement. But I know what you are going to say. You are going to say what a lot of people on this committee want to say, which is, why didn't we get a chance, even if we chose not to go on the letter?
Now the reason I bring this up, in all fairness, is that I would like to have a reasonably decent hearing. These are serious subject matters. I would like to keep the partisanship to a minimum. But we can't start off a hearing with a letter sent in the name of the committee that was seen only after the Attorney General released her letter. And I respectfully want that on the record.
We have a lot of questions to ask. But could I remind every member of this committee, including the chairman, that this isn'tthat the issuance of counsel is not a matter of public opinion, it is not a matter of newspaper editorials, it is not a matter with the greatest of respect, what the American people want, as the law was written by the members of this committee, the independent counsel issue is on the judgment of the Attorney General of the United States of America, and nobody else.
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Now if this is a hearing that is intended to influence the Attorney General, to make her do what you want or I want or the Speaker wants, well, I can tell you, you can forget it, because I happen to know the Attorney General, not well, but well enough to know that this hearing is not a part of her judgment-making process. She has as many lawyers working on this as there are members of this committee.
And, by the way, this is an ongoing investigation. So this isn't reflecting back or talking about another case, this is a live case in process. So if you kindly consider that when you want to find out who did what and what is said and what did she do yesterday, this is a matter very much in process.
And so I would appreciate that we conduct ourselves with that kind of spirit, considering that there are several statutes that all of us work under.
By the way, all these statutes were made by us. They initiatedwell, I don't know in 1883 whether Mr. Pendleton was on the Judiciary Committee or not, but the fact of the matter is that we are guided by some standards, and the simplest enunciation of this in an opening comment is to just quote the former Republican prosecutor, Joseph DiGenova, the U.S. attorney for D.C., who said that no serious prosecutor would take the case of the White House fund-raising to court because the activities do not appear to violate the law.
I mean, what is the law that a prosecutor would have to go under? They have only got several, the Pendleton Act, the bribery statutes, the FECA Act for foreign contributions, and the violation of IRS. Now, if there are some more, I will yield to anybody on this committee.
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The fact of the matter is the Pendleton Act was written in 1883, before the Bell telephone systems were in place in the United States of America. The fact is that a bribery statute, if you are looking toward the Vice President, must require a quid pro quo. Now if you are going to not use that, then every Member of the House, starting with myself, is in some deep, hot water, because that is all I do, most of the time, when I am not legislating, is try to help my constituents. That is not quid pro quo. And Presidents, and Vice Presidents, and Cabinet Secretaries can help their constituents, their citizenry, as they choose.
Now, if there is a violation of IRS, it cannot be imputed to the Vice President of the United States. It goes to the person or body that holds the 501(c)(3).
Now, let's look at the foreign money statute, the FECA Act. The Democratic National Committee was the recipient of the foreign money, not the President or the Vice President or their campaigns, and so I ask you, before we get this thing out of line, please think of what it is you are asking the Attorney General to do.
Now, if she follows, for any reason, your suggestions, and they appoint a prosecutor and it gets laughed out of court, will you be the ones that defend her and tell her that: Oh, well, you shouldn't have done that; you should have known better that you didn't have a credible case; but we met with you the day after you extended your investigation and told you everybody wants an independent counsel, what are you waiting for, it is well known throughout all of the media, the columnists, the editorial writers, the pundits, the smart-alecks, everybody knows there ought to be an independent counsel?
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Well, there is one person in the United States that makes that judgment, and she is sitting before us. And if you don't like the law, pass another one. You wrote this law, I wrote this law.
And, by the way, where were all the Republicans that worked for the independent counsel when we passed it? Well, I will tell you where they were. They were arguing about the separation of powers, that the Congress had no business in intruding into the powers of the executive branch. As a matter of fact, some voted against it.
And so we gather here today to take into consideration some of the activities surrounding this. Maybe we need another independent counsel. Let's get another Ken Starr. That is just what this Nation needs, folks: $30 million and 3 years, and the only thing he has found out is that Vince Foster is dead and he doesn't know how he died. That is the only thing he has got to produce for that. And, plus, he has conflict of interest problems that are mounting that might attract the attention of this committee sooner or later, itself.
So I thank the chairman very much for allowing me to make these opening observations, and I would be pleased to hear from the Attorney General of the United States.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman.
Our witness today is the Attorney General of the United States, Janet Reno. Attorney General Reno is a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Law School. After a number of years in private practice, she became the State's Attorney for the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida in 1978. She served in that post until 1993, when she became Attorney General of the United States.
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Madam Attorney General, we welcome you and we look forward to your testimony, and you are free now to make an opening statement if you wish.
STATEMENT OF JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES
Ms. RENO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for your hospitality as we came in. It is an honor to appear before the committee this morning.
I agree with you that one of the most important duties of Congress is to oversee the work of the executive branch, and I have appreciated the opportunity to appear before you and discuss our efforts.
Since I took office in 1993, I have come before the House and Senate many times, and I have appreciated the give-and-take, and I look forward to this today. I think this is one of my most important responsibilities.
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your comments concerning the Department's campaign finance investigation, and I intend, of course, to comment on it further in my opening statement and to answer questions about it.
However, I would like first to talk briefly about the work of the Justice Department, that affects all Americans, and the work of the 108,000 employees of the Justice Department. They work around the Nation and around the world. They catch spies and drug lords and terrorists; they stand guard at our borders; they uphold our liberties; and around the country, the Justice Department is a full partner, with police, mayors, and neighborhoods in the 24-hour world of protecting the public and prosecuting criminals.
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I believe that any objective examination of the Justice Department will conclude that working together with you, Mr. Chairman, as well as other members of the committee in Congress, we have had a good 5 years. Violent crime has dropped every year since the President worked with Congress to pass anticrime legislation in 1994.
While I would be the first to suggest the crime bill is only one important part of that success story, it is important to recall that legislation has paid for more than 64,000 police, funded new prison cells, and made ''three strikes and you are out'' the law of the land.
We still have a long way to go, but our Violent Crime Initiative is making local and Federal law enforcement into true partners, thanks to excellent work by State and local officials working in coordination with Federal law enforcement authorities. After rising 69 percent in just 7 years, youth violent crime arrests have fallen almost 12 percent in the last 2, and we are winning convictions against terrorists, whether they come from overseas or our own backyard.
After years of neglect, we are beginning to regain control of our borders and put new teeth in enforcement of our immigration laws. While we have much further to go in realizing the full potential of INS, we have added 40 percent more Border Patrol agents since 1992, record numbers of criminal aliens are being deported, and agents are being dispatched around the world to head off migrant trafficking at its source.
In a wide range of areas, often in partnership with Congress, we have made important strides which improve the quality of life of all Americans. We have put church burners behind bars, helped boost minority lending to record levels, and enabled Americans with disabilities to use 911, and eat out with their families, and sit next to neighbors at movies, stadiums and town meetings. We are cracking down on the smuggling of dangerous black market CFC's across our borders, and we have been winning record fines from cartels abroad that drive up prices here at home.
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In short, I am very proud of the dedicated men and women I work with. And one of the things I would like to do, both while I am in office and when I leave office, is to let the American people know that these are not bureaucrats in Washington, these are people who care profoundly about this country, work long hours, and deserve the gratitude and the respect of the American people.
Now I would like to take a few moments to try and clarify a number of critical matters concerning the campaign finance investigation. Mr. Chairman, in the 4 and a half years I have been Attorney General, I have asked for the independent counsel to be appointed not just in one case, not just in two cases, but in more, and I have referred other matters, and I have done it when people said, that is dangerous for you, you might lose your job.
I knew I wouldn't lose my job for doing what I thought was right, but I knew that I was going to do what I thought was right, based on the evidence and the law. And the statements I made, back in 1993, that you showed on the film, are the statements that I have stood by.
When Congress enacted the law, it created a presumption that a conflict existed for certain covered persons, and that is the inherent conflict, with senior executive branch officials referred to in the film of my prior testimony. When the statute is triggered, with respect to those categories of covered persons, I have shown I will trigger it, and I have shown most recently I will trigger it, whether it is the President of the United States or the Vice President, or a Cabinet Member. I am going to do it, regardless of the pressure. I am going to ignore pressure. I am going to do it based on the evidence and the law.
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I have a profound respect for you, and I think we may disagree on the law, we may disagree on the evidence, but I am going to do it based on what I think is right, based on the evidence, the law, and the independent counsel statute.
You make reference to polls, and you say I certainly don't want polls involved in whether we charge somebody or not but I do want polls involved in other things.
I don't think you want polls involved in the construction of the law of this country, and I don't think the American people want polls involved. Otherwise, you would have written a statute that said when 51 percent of the American people think there should be an independent counsel statute, we will have one, and I don't think that is what you want, Mr. Chairman.
I think what you want is somebody doing the best single job they can, taking the evidence as it comes, and making sure that the law is applied, based on the precedent, and that is what we are trying to do.
Last fall, when allegations of campaign financing wrongdoing first surfaced, I established a task force of prosecutors and lawyers to look into these allegations. I told them their mission was simple, to get to the bottom of the allegations and to prosecute any wrongdoing. I did so with the knowledge that their task would be difficult.
Since they have begun their work, I have met with them to hear what they have found and to ask questions. I have checked on their progress, discussing what evidence they have found and how they are proceeding. Most important of all, I have told them from the start that they are to contact me if they ever believe the evidence and the law justify triggering the independent counsel statute. I and Director Freeh check with them regularly to ensure they have adequate resources.
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Some have suggested that we have allowed partisan influences to affect our decisions regarding the handling of these investigations. Indeed, as you suggest, Mr. Chairman, some say that it would only be natural for me to act in a manner which protects the President, who made me Attorney General, and in a manner that protects his political supporters, but nothing is further from the truth.
If I don't have this job, I go home to Miami, and now that we have got a World Series team, that has some merit, too.
As I have indicated to you, I have asked for the appointment of an independent counsel. I am not afraid to do it, no matter what the circumstances, if the evidence and the law justify it. I have prosecuted Democratic Congressmen, and I have prosecuted Republican Congressmen. I call it like I see it, regardless of the person or the party.
Over the last two decades, the Public Integrity Section and our U.S. attorneys have prosecuted and convicted more than 12,000 government officials and others for abusing the public trust. I don't know how many were Democrats and how many were Republicans, because we don't keep statistics. We prosecute based on conduct, not party. Their decisions were based on the facts and the law.
The moment any of us allow our decisions to be influenced by other factors is the day we disgrace ourselves and the day we forsake our fellow citizens. I come before you today to reiterate the continuing pledge to honor our duty to uphold the law.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, Mr. Chairman, you indicated some sympathy with the fact that I can't comment about pending investigations. I think you appreciate the fact that if I comment and say this is exactly what we are doing and this is who we are going to question and this is what we are going to ask them, it tips our hand, and it is not the thing to do.
I have also said, as you pointed out, that it is important that we be as open as possible to the American people and the Congress, and I think that is one of the great issues and dilemmas that a prosecutor in this situation faces: How do you conduct an appropriate investigation without impacting the investigation while at the same time being as open as possible?
There will have to be times today where I tell you I can't comment, because it would impact the investigation, but I will try to be as open with you as I possibly can.
You have also suggested, Mr. Chairman, that our investigation is not as effective or as thorough as it ought to be. But building a prosecution is in some ways like building a house. When we build a case, we focus on building the foundation well, starting carefully, building it carefully, making sure that we go from a lower-level person to a higher-level person, if they are in, and ultimately to the person responsible.
When a person drives by a construction site where work is being done on the foundation, out of sight, that person may conclude that they can't see the walls or the roof and that little progress is being made, and I think sometimes Members of Congress, the press, and the public feel that way, and I can understand that feeling, because we can't comment on what we are doing, and that is extremely frustrating.
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Similarly, when a person sees something relevant to our case and notes we are not focusing on it right then and there, he or she may wrongly assume we have no intention of dealing with that matter, but we can't and shouldn't pay attention to nailing down shingles until we have laid the foundation, put up the walls, and added the roof.
Some may want us to pay attention to this or that part of the project right now, but we know if we don't build a foundation well, all of our other work will be for naught.
As we build our foundation in this case, we are also very mindful of the fact that if we find evidence which triggers the Independent Counsel Act, we will of course commence a preliminary investigation under the act, and that is precisely what we have done with the Vice President and the President.
Some may also suggest, as you have, Mr. Chairman, that because someone has discovered this or that piece of evidence, that we did not check, that by its very nature, it indicates that the ongoing investigation might be affected. This is a massive investigation, and we must proceed about our case in an orderly manner, building the case like the house that will stand the test of time and, if prosecutions result, will withstand the scrutiny of the Courts and be upheld on appeal.
Public office holders must live up to the highest standards, and our job is to ensure that no one, no matter how powerful, is above the law. Yet our job is to protect everyone against the injustice of being wrongfully investigated.
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If anyone is wrongly accused of breaking the law, if rumors drive out the facts, if suddenly government agents are knocking on your door, asking questions, going to friends, going to colleagues, and you did not commit a crime, you sense an outrage, an injustice has been done.
Prosecutors must sift through rumors and accusations to determine what really happened. We must make sure that the power of the Federal Government is not wrongfully directed against those who are caught up in mere speculation and innuendo. Thus, our duty is to pursue the evidence wherever it leads us, build cases that stand up in court, ensure correct application of the Independent Counsel Act, and separate the innuendo and the speculation from truth.
I would like to describe to you the investigation in general terms. More than 120 agents, attorneys, and staff are working full-time to get to the bottom of every allegation of criminal wrongdoing. No criminal case in this Department has more resources. More than a million pages of documents have been obtained, hundreds of interviews have been conducted, and agents have been dispatched across the country and around the world to track down leads, and there is more work to do.
Mr. Chairman, 12 days ago I wrote you a detailed letter in which we considered each of your suggestions as thoroughly and completely as possible. We answered them point by point, stressing over and over that our conclusions rested on the information we possessed at that time.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Yet, almost immediately some people claimed I had made a final decision and that I had closed our inquiry regarding allegations of illegal fund-raising and unlawful use of government facilities. That is simply not true. We provided that status report in a letter that the Independent Counsel Act requires us to write.
Yet the reaction to my letter demonstrates why we are so reluctant to talk about part of a case, to discuss an investigation while it is still ongoing. Despite taking great pains, we obviously did not succeed in making clear that we were simply providing a status report based on the evidence available to us at that time.
I want to pursue every allegation, I want to make sure that no stone is left unturned, and Director Freeh and I will jointly approve any investigation's closeout before it is closed out.
As I stated then, the fact we don't trigger preliminary investigation under the act does not mean we are not investigating a matter. We are fully prepared to trigger the Independent Counsel Act and pursue any evidence that a covered person committed a crime if any should arise in the course of our investigation.
We continue to investigate every transaction brought to our attention. We will not close the matter, again, I reiterate, unless Director Freeh and I sign off on it.
But the average citizen has a right to ask, what is taking you so long? The answer is simple. We need to do it right. Justice is not served if prosecutors cut corners.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I have looked back at some of the prosecutions we have undertaken, and they take a long time to properly prepare the case. We have to compare allegations to other statements; we have to question hosts of witnesses and review reams of documents; we have to examine laws that may be vague or subject to different interpretations. We must prove our cases when we charge them beyond and to exclusion of a reasonable doubt. All the while, we are digging through yet more new evidence and more leads.
In the end, the legal system's demanding standards of proof prevent us from basing our judgments on information that might satisfy onlookers who consider the issue for a moment. We must meet the highest standard of all. We have got to convince 12 people, beyond and to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt, that a crime has been committed and that the person charged is guilty of the crime.
We must use hard evidence and solid law. We must build indictments that will stick, cases that we can win, and victories that will stand up on appeal.
One of the greatest sources of confusion over the last year has been the Independent Counsel Act requirements in the event I face a conflict of interest. Allegations have been made that the statute requires a referral when there is merely the appearance of a conflict of interest. The statute does not include any such language.
Congress could have written such a statute and I would have duly applied it, but the Congress created a different standard, a standard of actual conflict, and that is the one that I am applying.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Independent Counsel Act creates two groups of people. There are those for whom it is irrebuttably presumed there is a conflict of interest, whether there is one or not. The inherent conflict that I discussed, in the tape, the appearance of a conflict of interest, is so great when one is dealing with those so-called covered persons, like the President, the Cabinet, and others, that Congress has instructed Attorneys General to forgo a conflict of interest analysis and seek the appointment whenever there is a basis for a criminal investigation.
However, when we are dealing with noncovered persons, the statute does require us to determine if investigating such persons creates an actual conflict of interest. The statute permits the Attorney General as an exercise of discretion to seek an independent counsel upon determining that an actual conflict of interest exists. When dealing with noncovered persons, the appearance of a conflict of interest cannot trigger the act.
In 1993, as I indicated, I testified before Congress on the operation of the Independent Counsel Act as it applied to covered persons. Even as we conduct our investigations, we have tried to cooperate with the Senate and House investigating committees. But whenever the Justice Department and congressional committees began overlapping investigations, one exercising their law enforcement responsibility, the other exercising their oversight responsibility, there inevitably comes a time when their needs diverge.
In order to entice a recalcitrant witness to testify before committees, committees often offer them immunity from prosecution. Whenever a committee considers immunizing key figures in a criminal investigation, any prosecutor worth his salt is going to stand up and take notice. We know that testimony given under a congressional grant of immunity cannot be used against a witness accused of wrongdoing. The public may find out information faster but at the cost of letting criminal conduct go unpunished. Immunized witnesses also lose any incentive to cooperate with Department investigators. The net result is that immunity for the wrong witness can blow a whole investigation.
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When the Congress feels it needs to give a witness immunity in order to get the witness to testify, we will object to that immunity when, based on the information we haveinformation which frequently the Congress does not havewe believe such grant of immunity would compromise our criminal investigation.
Congress may still choose to immunize the witness but not without an indication on our part whether we believe doing so will interfere with our criminal case. We recognize at times it may be hard to see how a certain witness's immunized testimony might interfere with our criminal investigation, and in such circumstances, we tell the committees all we can.
Objections to immunity or delays in agreeing to immunity are related not to any indication that we would obstruct but are related solely to our efforts to bring solid criminal cases.
As I have said, I believe strongly in the oversight process. I want to answer your questions to the best of my ability, and yet in a manner which safeguards the integrity of the ongoing investigations. I intend to follow the longstanding Department policies which limit what we can say about pending investigations and legal actions, be they civil or criminal.
At the same time, there is a unique public interest. I am going to do what I think is right in this investigation. I am going to do what I think is right in implementing or not implementing the Independent Counsel Act. I am a career prosecutor. I work with thousands of career prosecutors, and they are some of the finest attorneys in America.
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My goal is to pursue each case based on the evidence and the law, to do justice, and to pay no attention whatsoever to politics or pressure. I don't care where the facts lead, because I am going to follow them wherever they go. And in this effort, I am guided by longstanding practices of the Department of Justice, because they are time tested and crafted to ensure our work is guided by professionalism and not bipartisanship.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The statement of Ms. Reno follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES
Mr. Chairman, it is an honor to appear before your committee this morning. One of the most important duties of Congress is to oversee the work of the Executive Branch. Since I took office in 1993, I have come before the House and Senate many times to answer questions and explain the work of the Justice Department. I think this is one of my most important duties, and thus I appreciate the opportunity to be with you today.
I know that there is substantial interest in the Department's campaign finance investigation, and I intend to comment on that in my opening statement and to answer your questions about it.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC However, I would like first to talk briefly about the work of the Justice Department and its 108,000 employees. They work around the nation and around the world. They catch spies, drug lords and terrorists. They stand guard at our borders. They uphold our liberties. And around the country, the Justice Department is a full partner with police, mayors and neighborhoods in the 24-hour world of protecting the public and prosecuting criminals.
I believe that any objective examination of the Justice Department will conclude that, working together with you, Mr. Chairman, as well as others members of this Committee and the Congress, we have had a very successful five years:
Violent crime has dropped every year since the President worked with Congress to pass anti-crime legislation in 1994. While I would be the first to suggest that the crime bill is only one important part of that success story, it is important to recall that that legislation has paid for more than 64,000 police, funded new prison cells, and made ''Three Strikes and You're Out'' the law of the land. We still have a long way to go, but our violent crime initiative is making local and federal law enforcement into true partners. Thanks to excellent work by state and local officials, working in coordination with federal law enforcement authorities, after rising 69% in just seven years, youth violent crime arrests have fallen almost twelve percent in the last two. And we are winning convictions against terrorists, whether they come from overseas or from our own backyard.
After years of neglect, we are beginning to regain control of our borders and put new teeth in the enforcement of our immigration laws. While we have much further to go in realizing the full potential of the INS, we have added forty percent more border patrol agents since 1992, record numbers of criminal aliens are being deported, and agents are being dispatched around the world to head off migrant trafficking at its source.
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In a wide range of areas, often in partnership with the Congress, we have made important strides which improve the quality of life of all Americans. We have put church burners behind bars, helped boost minority lending to record levels, and enabled Americans with disabilities to use 911, eat out with their families, and sit next to their neighbors at movies, stadiums and town meetings. We are cracking down on the smuggling of dangerous black market CFC's across our borders. And we have been winning record fines from cartels abroad that drive up prices here at home.
Now I would like to take a few moments to try to clarify a number of critical matters concerning the campaign finance investigation.
Campaign Finance Investigation
Last fall, when allegations of campaign finance wrongdoing first surfaced, I established a Task Force of prosecutors and lawyers to look into these allegations. I told them their mission was simple: to get to the bottom of the allegations, and to prosecute any wrongdoing. I did so with the knowledge that their task would be difficult.
Since they began their work, I have met with them regularly to hear what they have found and to ask them questions. I check on their progress several times a week, discussing with them what evidence they have found and how they are proceeding. Most important of all, I have told them from the start that they are to contact me immediately if they ever believe that the evidence and the law justified triggering the Independent Counsel Statute. I and Director Freeh check with them regularly to insure they have adequate resources.
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Some have suggested that we have allowed partisan influences to affect our decisions regarding the handling of these investigations. Indeed, some people have suggested to me that it would only be natural for me to act in a manner which protects a President who made me Attorney General and protects his political supporters. But nothing would be more unnatural for me and for the prosecutors and law enforcement officers with whom I workand nothing would be more wrong.
Over the last two decades, the Public Integrity Section and our U.S. Attorneys have prosecuted and convicted more than 12,000 government officials and others for abusing the public trust. I don't know how many were Democrats and how many were Republicans, because we don't keep statistics and I don't care. We prosecute based on conduct, not party. Our decisions are based upon the facts and the law. The moment any of us allow our decisions to be influenced by other factors is the day we have disgraced ourselves and have forsaken our fellow citizens. I come before you today to reiterate our continuing pledge to honor our duty to uphold the law.
Some have also suggested that our investigation is not as effective or as thorough as it ought to be. But building a prosecution is in some ways like building a house. When we build a case, we focus on building the foundation well. When a person drives by a construction site, where work is being done on the foundation, out of site, that person may conclude that because they can't see the walls, or the roof, that little progress is being made. Similarly, when a personsomeone from the media or someone from the Hillsees something relevant to our case and notes that we're not focusing on it right then and there, he or she may, wrongly, assume that we have no intention of dealing with that matter. But we can't, and shouldn't, pay attention to nailing down shingles until we've laid the foundation, put up the walls, and added the roof. Some may want us to pay attention to this or that part of the project right now, but we know that if we don't build the foundation well, all of our other work will be for naught.
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Now as we are building our case foundation, should we find evidence which triggers the Independent Counsel Act, we will, of course, immediately commence a preliminary investigation under the Act. That is precisely what we have done with the Vice-President and the President.
Some may also suggest that our investigation is suspect because someone has discovered this or that piece of evidence that we have not. But it is the very nature of an ongoing investigation that someone else may be focusing on an element of the case upon which we have not yet focused our full attention. Focusing on the fact that someone has discovered one piece of evidence that we do not have ignores the thousands of pieces of evidence which we have discovered that others have not. We must proceed about making our case in an orderly manner so that the case, like the house, will stand the test of time.
Public office holders must live up to the highest standards, and our job is to insure that no one, no matter how powerful, is above the law. And yet the scrutiny given to public figures leaves no room for error: if a public figure is wrongly accused of breaking the law, or if rumors drive out the facts, then an injustice has been done. Prosecutors must sift through rumors and accusations to determine what really happened.
Of course, if I were to tell you all we have learned or all we have done there is no doubt that our investigations would be severely compromised. But let me give you some sense of the scope of that investigation. Our Campaign Finance Task Force has already obtained guilty pleas from four individuals for schemes to use straw donors to donate money illegally to Congressional campaigns in 1994. These cases were inherited from Independent Counsel Daniel Pearson, and we are still investigating other allegations against these individuals.
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More than 120 agents, attorneys and staff are working full-time to get to the bottom of every allegation of criminal wrongdoing. No criminal case in this Department has more resources. More than a million of pages of documents have been obtained. Hundreds of interviews have been conducted and agents have been dispatched across the country and around the world to track down leads. And there is much work yet to be done.
Correcting the Record
Mr. Chairman, twelve days ago I wrote you a frank and detailed letter, in which we considered each of your suggestions as thoroughly and completely as possible. And we answered them point by point, stressing over and over that our conclusions rested on the information we possessed at that time.
Yet almost immediately, some people claimed that I had made a final decision, and that I had closed our inquiry regarding allegations of illegal fund-raising and unlawful use of government facilities. That is simply not true.
We provided that status report in a letter that the Independent Counsel Act required us to write. Yet the reaction to my letter demonstrates why we are so reluctant to talk about part of a caseto discuss an investigation while it is still ongoing. Despite great pains taken to do so, we obviously did not succeed in making it clear that we were simply providing a status update based upon the evidence available to us at that time.
As I stated then, the fact that we don't trigger a preliminary investigation under the Act does not mean we are not investigating a matter. We are fully prepared to trigger the Independent Counsel Act and pursue any evidence that a covered person committed a crime, if any should arise in the course of our investigation. We continue to investigate every transaction brought to our attention. We will not close the investigation of a matter without Director Freeh and I signing off on its closure.
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The average citizen has a right to ask, ''What's taking you so long?'' The answer is simple: we need to do it right. Justice is not served if prosecutors cut corners. We have to compare allegations to other statements. We have to question hosts of witnesses and review reams of documents. We have to examine laws that may be vague or subject to different interpretations. Stories may conflict, and memories may be faulty. We also have to explore all possible defenses, and we are obligated not to bring charges unless we are satisfied we can prove them beyond a reasonable doubt. All the while, we are digging for yet more new evidence and more new leads. It is not a nine to five job.
In the end, the legal system's demanding standards of proof prevent us from basing our judgments on information that might satisfy onlookers who consider the issue for a moment. We must meet the highest standard of all when we prosecute: we have to convince twelve people beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed and that the person charged is guilty. We must use hard evidence and solid law to do it. We must build indictments that will stick, cases that we can win, and victories that will stand up on appeal.
One of the greatest sources of confusion over the last year has been the Independent Counsel Act's requirements in the event that I face a conflict of interest. Allegations have been made that the statute requires a referral when there is merely the appearance of a conflict of interest. The statute does not include any such language. Congress could have written such a statuteand I would have duly applied it. But the Congress created a different standard and that is the one I am applying.
The Independent Counsel Act creates two groups of people. There are those for whom it is irrebuttably presumed that there is a conflict of interest, whether there is one or not. The appearance of a conflict of interest is so great when one is dealing with so-called ''covered persons''like the President, the Cabinet, and other senior officialsthat Congress has instructed Attorneys General to forego a conflict of interest analysis and seek the appointment of an independent counsel whenever there is a basis for a criminal investigation of a covered person.
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However, when we are dealing with ''non-covered'' persons, the statute does require us to determine if investigating such persons creates an actual conflict of interest. The statute permits the Attorney General, as an exercise of discretion, to seek an independent counsel upon determining that an actual conflict of interest exists. When dealing with non-covered persons, the appearance of a conflict of interest cannot trigger the Independent Counsel Act.
In 1993, I testified before Congress about the operation of the Independent Counsel Act as it applies to covered persons. I said the Act ''was designed to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in the consideration of allegations of misconduct by high-level Executive Branch officials.'' When I referred to ''high-level Executive Branch officials,'' I was referring to ''covered persons.'' My earlier testimony did not address the conflict of interest standard applicable to non-covered persons and was not intended to. The law could not be clearer on that point.
Even as we conduct our own investigations, we have tried to cooperate with the Senate and House investigating committees. But whenever the Justice Department and congressional committees begin overlapping investigations, there inevitably comes a time when their needs diverge. In order to entice a recalcitrant witness to testify, committees often offer them immunity from prosecution. Whenever a committee considers immunizing key figures in a criminal investigation, any prosecutor worth his salt is going to stand up and take notice. We know that testimony given under a congressional grant of immunity cannot be used against a witness accused of wrongdoing. The public may find out information faster, but at the cost of letting criminal conduct go unpunished. Immunized witnesses also lose any incentive to cooperate with Department investigators. The net result is that immunity for the wrong witness can blow a hole in an investigation.
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When the Congress feels that it needs to give a witness immunity in order to get that witness to testify, we will object to that immunity when, based on the information we haveinformation which frequently the Congress does not havewe believe that such a grant of immunity would compromise our criminal investigation. The Congress may still choose to immunize that witness, but not without an indication on our part whether we believe doing so will interfere with our criminal case. We recognize that at times it may be hard to see how a certain witnesses immunized testimony might interfere with our criminal investigationin such circumstances we tell you what we can. Objections to immunity or delays in agreeing to immunity are related solely to our efforts to bring solid criminal cases.
I believe strongly in the oversight process. I want to answer your questions to the best of my ability and in a manner which safeguards the integrity of the ongoing investigations. I intend to follow the longstanding department policies which strictly limit what the Justice Department can say about pending investigations and pending legal actions, be they civil or criminal. When an investigation interacts with the Independent Counsel Act, the importance of being circumspect is even greater. I'm sure you all agree that we should do nothing to jeopardize the investigation or to create the appearance that it is being affected by political pressure.
At the same time, there is a unique public interest, and Congressional interest, in any matter that could involve the Independent Counsel Act. That's why the Act permits Congress, through the Judiciary Committees, to require the Justice Department to review particular allegations and report back on what it finds. It was just such a report that I sent to the committee on October 3, a report that was notable for our willingness to spell out the status at that time of our investigation.
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So while our longstanding policy prevents me from telling you as much as you might like, I will do my best to answer your questions based on information in the public domain, to explain how we interpret the Act, and to clarify our investigative policies. These policies have been applied by the career professionals at the Justice Department for years, and sometimes decades, under Democrats and Republicans.
Mr. Chairman, I am a career prosecutor. I work with tens of thousands of career prosecutors, and they are the finest attorneys in America. My only guiding star is my desire to unearth every fact, examine every law, and apply them fairly to do justice. I don't care where the facts lead, because I am going to follow them as far as they do. I do care what the law says. And yes, I do care what our long-standing practices are, because they are time-tested and crafted to insure that our work is guided by professionalism, not partisanship.
I will close by saying this: in my four and a half years in Washington, I have asked for independent counsels on several occasions and referred additional matters to them at least twice more. I have done so whenever the facts and the law said I should. On other occasions, I have declined to do so. On those occasions, the law did not call for the appointment of an Independent Counsel.
On each occasion I acted deliberately, after thorough analysis. Each time I worked with career prosecutors to separate the facts from the hype. Each time I carefully reviewed the evidence before making a decision. And each time my decision was based on the facts and the law, and nothing else.
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Let me clear about two things. First, any time, as our investigation continues, there is specific, credible information that a ''covered person'' may have committed a crime, I will begin a preliminary investigation under the Independent Counsel Act. Any time a preliminary investigation leads to the conclusion that there are ''reasonable grounds to believe that further investigation is warranted,'' I will seek the appointment of an Independent Counsel.
Second, our investigation will continue even as to matters where no further proceedings are appropriate under the Independent Counsel Act. Any time there is specific, credible information that a non-covered person may have committed a crime, and there is no actual conflict of interest stemming from the further investigation and prosecution of that individual by the Justice Department, the Justice Department will investigate that person vigorously and thoroughly, and bring a prosecution if appropriate. I pledge no more and no less than this because this is what the law requires.
We may disagree on the law. We may differ on the significance of a piece of evidence. That's what honest public debate is all about. In the end, every decision I make will be based only on the facts and the law. That is what the American people deserve from their Attorney General, and it is the only way I can uphold the precious oath I have sworn, that I shall ''bear true faith and allegiance'' to the Constitution of the United States, so help me God.
Thank you very much. I look forward to answering your questions.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you, Madam Attorney General.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Chair will recognize himself for 10 minutes.
Mr. CONYERS. Point of order, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman may state his point.
Mr. CONYERS. I think it is customary you get a unanimous consent to go from 5 minutes to 10 minutes.
Mr. HYDE. We did that at the opening of the meeting.
Mr. CONYERS. No. You said you were going to. You didn't do it.
Mr. HYDE. The statement said, without objection, each member will have 10 minutes.
Mr. CONYERS. Well, you can't make unanimous consent within an opening statement, Mr. Chairman. Please.
Mr. HYDE. I am sorry, I did, anddo you want to cut the questioning down? Is that what you want to do?
Mr. CONYERS. No. I want to have the regular order, which is written into the House rules, of 5 minutes each member, not 10 minutes. That is my choice.
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Mr. HYDE. If the gentleman wants a roll call on it, we will put it to a motion.
Mr. FRANK. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. Just a minute.
Mr. FRANK. I have an inquiry before that.
Mr. HYDE. What does the gentleman from Massachusetts wish to bring up?
Mr. FRANK. Parliamentarian inquiry.
Mr. HYDE. State your inquiry.
Mr. FRANK. Is this going to bepersonally, I like the idea of 10 minutes.
Mr. HYDE. Would you talk to Mr. Conyers and try and persuade him?
Mr. FRANK. I would if I could persuade him that it would be used fairly and not simply only once when the majority found it convenient. I hope this will be a precedent and we will use 10 minutes from time to time, if this is going to be a precedent, if the chairman will assure me this will be a policy that won't only be used once when it might be to some partisan advantage.
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Mr. HYDE. I promise the gentleman we will use it again.
Mr. FRANK. You only answered half of my question, Mr. Chairman. I take silence to mean you will use it again when you think there is partisan advantage.
Mr. HYDE. No, I will use it again when I think it is an appropriate time to do so. I want members to be able to ask questions and have follow-up questions and give the witness an opportunity to answer, and if the gentleman objects
Mr. FRANK. Mr. Chairman, I agree with that. I just don't want to have a precedent where it is used only once for a particular purpose.
Mr. HYDE. I pledge to the gentleman in open session, we will do it again and we will do it frequently when it is appropriate, and I will retain the right to make that judgment.
Mr. CONYERS. To save you from making a motion, Mr. Chairman, I think in the spirit of cooperation, I will not force it to that. But, look, we are all presumably sober and over 21, and it is broad daylight. You first tell us we can't make opening statements because we have got to get to the business, and then you say, but we can take 10 minutes each for each round.
Mr. HYDE. That is the reason we do not want opening statements. I would rather have the time used in questioning.
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Mr. CONYERS. It does not take a real sharp political person to figure out who gets more time when your side has far more Members here getting 10 minutes. So you are not going to do it again, and we will do it in consultation with the Ranking Member. Fine. I am happy. Let us go on.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you, Mr. Conyers.
Mr. CONYERS. You are welcome.
Mr. HYDE. Does Mr. Delahunt have something to contribute?
Mr. DELAHUNT. I hope it is described as a contribution.
Mr. FRANK. I would be careful about contributions, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DELAHUNT. I have not received it yet, Mr. Frank.
Mr. HYDE. Mr.
Mr. FRANK. We have new rules now. They are very strict. I didn't want you to get in trouble on them.
Mr. DELAHUNT. I want to thank my friend and colleague from Massachusetts. This is a point of inquiry. If we don't spend all 10 minutes during the course of the first round, can we reserve the balance of that time to be expended later?
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Mr. HYDE. No, but you will get a second chance and a third chance. You will get all the time you want. But I want it in a structured format where we go up and down the line, Republican, Democrat, Republican, Democrat. I am sorry there are more Republicans than Democrats.
Mr. DELAHUNT. I am, too, Mr. Chairman. I concur with that.
Mr. HYDE. Those are the fortunes of war. Take it up with the American people.
Mr. DELAHUNT. We shall, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Mr. HYDE. If we can
Mr. WATT. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. Yes, sir?
Mr. WATT. I will not prolong this, I'm just trying to make some plane reservations. Does the chairman have any notion when
Mr. HYDE. Not the slightest.
Mr. WATT. I should make my plane reservations next week?
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Mr. HYDE. I hope we finish today. I will adjourn at 12 o'clock for lunch. The Attorney General has suggested she would like to proceed and not take too much time for lunch, so we will cut it down to a half an hour. But I think everyone will need a break at 12 to 12:30. That is the only thing I am certain of, Mr. Watt.
Mr. WATT. I can't fly to North Carolina in a half hour, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. If anyone could, you could, Mr. Watt.
I now yield myself 10 minutes.
First of all, Madam Attorney General, I would like to respond to my friend, Mr. Conyers, who had Kenneth Starr conducting a nonproductive investigation. I have a list of what Mr. Starr did the first 12 months. I don't have anything beyond that. But on December 5th, 1994, Robert Palmer pleaded guilty to one felony. On December 6th, 1994, Webster Hubbell pleaded guilty to two felonies. On 28 February Neil Ainley pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors. On March 21 Chris Wade pleaded guilty to two felonies. On June 7, 1995, Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker, William Marks, and John Bailey were indicted on multiple fraud charges. Marks pleaded guilty. On June 8, 1995, Steve Smith pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor. On July 13 Larry Kucka pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor. On August 17, 2 weeks after Mr. Starr's first anniversary as independent counsel, again indicted Jim Guy Tucker, as well as Jim McDougal and Susan McDougal, on multiple felony counts, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I just wanted to make that point.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, if the distinguished gentleman would yield for 15 seconds.
Mr. HYDE. I would yield for 15 seconds.
Mr. CONYERS. Would you name one of those people that were covered by the independent statute, one?
Mr. HYDE. You uncover an awful lot of things in an ongoing investigation.
Mr. CONYERS. I think the answer is none.
Mr. HYDE. All right. Thank you for your great contribution, which I'm sure will be one of a string of them.
I would also advise my distinguished Ranking Member that the Pendleton Act was enacted in 1883, but it was reenacted by this Congress, and I dare say the gentleman voted for it in 1979. The Constitution, or course, was ratified in 1789, and still has some life in it.
Now, two questions. Ms. Reno, you have a grand jury impaneled. Could you tell us what they are looking at? What is the purpose? What laws are they considering?
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. Mr. Chairman, as I indicated to you, I cannot discuss an investigation generally in terms of steps that we are taking, and particularly with respect to a grand jury. Grand jury secrecy provisions prohibit me from furnishing you the information.
Mr. HYDE. May I ask you this: In the course of the grand jury's functioning, have you subpoenaed any documents or tapes or records or memos from the White House?
Ms. RENO. I am again told that I am limited in what I can say with respect to a grand jury subpoena and what it seeks and the methods that we have taken to enforce it.
Mr. HYDE. I just want to know if you have subpoenaed any. Do not specify. Have you used the subpoena for the grand jury to subpoena any documents or records or tapes or memos?
Ms. RENO. I am told again that I cannot discuss, under the grand jury secrecy provisions, what a subpoena seeks or what is done to enforce it.
Mr. HYDE. Even if it is generic, such as documents? You cannot tell us whether you have subpoenaed documents?
Ms. RENO. You said documents from a specific source. I can tell you that we have issued with respect to the general investigation over 500 subpoenas. But I cannot discuss the specific nature of the subpoenas.
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Mr. HYDE. All right, Madam Attorney General. Has the White House or any of its attorneysassuming in this rigorous investigation that the grand jury has found helpful subpoenaed documents from the White House, has the White House or any of its attorneys claimed any privileges, including executive privilege?
Ms. RENO. Again, I cannot discuss what is being done in the course of the investigation. But I can say that with respect to any information that we are seeking, it has been forthcoming as it has been located.
Mr. HYDE. Have they redacted any material?
Ms. RENO. I can't comment on any aspect of the documents themselves.
Mr. HYDE. If they have redacted, and they are very good redacters, I can tell you from previous experience, if they redact, doesn't that put you in an awkward position? Your client is the President. He is your boss, so to speak. Do you enforce the subpoena or do you defend the redaction? Don't you find an inherent, to use your word, conflict of interest in the situation where you need documents and you don'tunless they are not redacting, and you can't tell us that, can you?
Ms. RENO. I cannot discuss what is being furnished pursuant to any steps we are taking with respect to the grand jury. I can tell you that I have asked the task force to let me know if there is any effort or if they are in any way concluding that they are not receiving full information.
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Mr. HYDE. And they haven't told you that, yet, have they?
Ms. RENO. No, they have not.
Mr. HYDE. So we can assume they have produced every document you have subpoenaed and every document remains unredacted for the grand jury?
Ms. RENO. I cannot discuss what is being done with respect to a specific subpoena and the production of documents.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I must respectfully object to the continued persistent line of questioning that you are applying to the Attorney General of the United States. She has cited you the statute. If you disagree with her interpretation of it, fine. But this cross-examining, trying to find something that they are doing that youyou can't do it under the statute, with all due respect, sir.
Mr. HYDE. I thank you for your interruption.
Now, Ms. Reno, on Monday in Brasilia the President is quoted in an AP story as saying he has taken great pains to avoid talking to you. He said, ''I've gone out of my way to have no conversation with her about this or, frankly, anything else, which I am not sure is so good.''
Do you find an inherent conflict of interest in the President feeling unwilling to talk to you about anything?
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Ms. RENO. I have the sense in the 4 years that I have been in office that any time I need to talk to the President about any matter that I think requires the President's attention, that I can do so. I have been able to do so, and I believe that I have no sense that I am not able to do so.
Mr. HYDE. I am sure he will take your call, but the question is, will he make a call to you? He apparently says no. He has gone out of his way to have no conversations with you about the Independent Counsel Act or, frankly, anything else. I'm just suggesting that a healthy relationship ought to not inhibit the President from calling his Attorney General, but he feels inhibited. I don't know if that amounts to a conflict of interest, but in your 1993
Ms. RENO. Mr. Chairman, if I felt there was a conflict and if I felt I couldn't talk to the President whenever I needed to talk to the President, that might be a situation, but that certainly is not the case here.
Mr. HYDE. All right. Mr. Lee Radek is the chief of the Public Integrity Section. I assume he is one of the career prosecutors whose advice you seek, is that correct?
Ms. RENO. That's correct.
Mr. HYDE. His views on the Independent Counsel statute were made known last July in an interview with the New York Times Magazine. In that interview he stated, ''The independent statute is an insult. It is a clear enunciation by the legislative branch that we cannot be trusted on certain species of cases.''
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Now, getting advice from him on how to implement a statute that he views as an insult seems to me to be quite a trick. He heads the Public Integrity Section. It doesn't sound to me like he is someone who would recommend an independent counsel be appointed. Have you taken his pre-expressed bias against the Act into consideration in weighing his advice?
Ms. RENO. I asked him about it, and he said, as always, it was an overstatement; that he felt that there was a need for the independent counsel statute with respect to specific persons, and that perhaps he thought the breadth of the statute might be too wide. But I can tell you from my own personal experience, that man calls it like he sees it. He has given me advice recommending the appointment of an independent counsel. He has a vast knowledge with respect to the Act, and he is not afraid to trigger it.
Mr. HYDE. This was just an overstatement, that the independent statute was an insult? That was a little overkill, right?
Ms. RENO. He indicated to me that the breadth of his comment was overkill.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you. The gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Conyers, is recognized for 10 minutes.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Would it be permissible for me to allow Barney Frank to go in front of me?
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HYDE. Not at all. Are you yielding to him?
Mr. CONYERS. No. I am just asking the question.
Mr. HYDE. Sure. That is perfectly all right.
Mr. CONYERS. I yield to him.
Mr. HYDE. The Chair will recognize Mr. Frank for 10 minutes.
Mr. FRANK. Thank you. I thank the Ranking Member.
I want to begin with expressing my really deep dismay at a point that the Attorney General referred to, the notion that a poll is relevant as to whether or not to initiate a criminal investigation. Maybe I am a little more sensitive to this than some others. I have myself been the target of accusation, including of criminal behavior, which I was not able to have investigated or disproven. I am not the only person in this room who has been in that situation. I would think any of us who have been the target of unfounded accusations would react very negatively to the notion that you prosecute by poll. I am really appalled at that. Reference was made to the Constitution. I cannot think of anything less in the spirit of the American Constitution than the notion that a public opinion poll is at all relevant to whether or not a specific investigation of a criminal nature ought to be initiated. In that regard I notice the Majority in their letter to the Attorney General quoted an appalling comment from the New York Times. They usually do not agree with the New York Times. Wouldn't you know it, when the Times is wrong, then they decide they are right.
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Here is what the New York Times said, according to them, from an editorial. ''This is no time for the Attorney General to evade her responsibilities and try to divert the public with legalisms and semantic technicalities.'' Well, if the Attorney General isn't supposed to be concerned with legalisms, what in the world is she supposed to do, circus tricks? We are talking here not about politics. People can find actions of the President and the Vice President in the course of fundraising unattractive. I do. There are things they did that I don't think they should have done. I think the appropriate response here is a political one, an electoral one. You don't vote for people when you disapprove of them. But this effort to criminalize the behavior is outrageous, and for the New York Times, which I believe considers itself to be devoted to civil liberties, to dismiss an accurate application of the law as ''legalisms and semantic technicalities,'' I leave aside the question of what nonsemantic technicalities would be, maybe extraordinarily involved gestures, which I have not seen the Attorney General make. But it just shows, the New York Times is usually more linguistically precise, how frustrated they are about they would like to get somebody, but the evidence is not there. So Madam Attorney General, let me congratulate you for standing up to enormous political and journalistic pressure in defense of the notion that the law is there to protect all people, and when the New York Times and the Majority join in asking you to make political judgments about the criminal law, thank you for disregarding that. You really do help us all.
That leads me to my next point, which is, let us look at the specifics. One of the things that I did for the first time in preparation for this hearing was to read the letter the Majority sent to you. I guess I am going to ask you, Madam Attorney General, was there another letter they sent you besides the one that was publicly done? Did they send you a private letter?
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Ms. RENO. No.
Mr. FRANK. The answer is no. Then I don't understand what is going on here, because I can't believe that they really thought this public letter was serious.
Let me refer to a couple of things here. One is they think that you should investigate the President for bribery because he designated land in Utah as a monument. That is right here on the letter. It says on page 89, I think it is, or 19, it is a lousy fax but I think it is 9, when the President designated that monument in Utah, something which environmentalists were very much for, it was a major thing politically, they note in a bit of brilliance that Agatha Christie would envy that the secondwhat this did was to stop the mining of coal. The second largest deposit of this kind of coal is in Indonesia, so this means that
Mr. HYDE. Owned by the Lippo Group, you have heard of them?
Mr. FRANK. Yes, I have heard of them, Mr. Chairman. And the notion that you put forward, and I appreciate your claiming ownership of this, your asking the Attorney General of the United States to investigate the President for bribery, which is what you did, you said, me and the public want a criminal investigation for bribery because the President designated a monument in Utah, and there is coal there, and it is going to stop coal mining and he may have done that as a favor to Lippo. If that is the kind of time-wasting you engage in, then of course the Attorney General said no to it.
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Here is another one, besides the suggestion that the Utah monument was really a Lippo plot, which is one of the silliest things I have ever heard advanced in 18 years, the second issue was the Vice President called some people up to ask for money. This is in your letter, too. Here it is at page 15: ''Another major business figure and donor was solicited and refused to be identified. There were elements of a shakedown that was very awkward for a Vice President, particularly this Vice President, who has real power,'' apparently as opposed to his predecessors, ''and is the heir-apparent, to ask for money...it gave me no choice. I have so much business that touches on Federal Government telecommunications, tax policy, regulations.''
Now, we have rules that are quite peculiar. Under the rules of the House, we are allowed to accuse anybody in the world of anything even if it is accurate, and be immune from suit, but we cannot tell the truth about each other. Among the things we cannot do is to accuse each other of being hypocritical, so I will not do that. But for Members of Congress who have authority over telecommunications, tax policy, and regulations, and almost all of whom, in my experience, regularly call people up and ask them for money, to say the Vice President ought to be criminally investigated simply because he called somebody else and an anonymous person said, gee, I felt pressured, if everybody who one of us called and didn't want us to call them triggered an indictment, you could just put bars outside and lock us all up, and that is, again, the silliness. Now these are the specifics. The Vice President called me up, I felt pressured, indict him. The President decided to protect land in Utah and there is coal in Indonesia, indict him. This is the level of politicization that we are talking about.
Madam Attorney General, without interfering with the investigation, let me ask, you say that you found no reason to conclude that the President was being bribed by the Lippos to declare a monument in Utah. I wonder, is it possible for you to elaborate on that, or is that something we can't discuss now?
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Ms. RENO. As I indicated in my letter, we do not have any information that the Presidentthat there was a quid pro quo. As a matter of fact, the letter says ''if.'' And we simply cannot react to innuendo and speculation. Again, to commence an investigation based on rumor and innuendo, we would have Federal agents at the door of too many people in this country in a very unjust way.
Mr. FRANK. Too many people in this Congress. Let me pursue that further, because I think that is directly relevant.
Ms. RENO. But let me just point out that with respect to the transactions, it is as if we are pursuing any lead that is appropriate, that is based on fact, with respect to the
Mr. FRANK. Madam Attorney General, I want you to do that, but don't spend a lot of time on the Utah connection. Leave that to the movies. The only other point I would like to make, though, because it does become relevant is I was somewhat astonished in the letter from my Republican colleagues to you, and you responded correctly, they basically said that if it was possible that anybody covered under the Independent Counsel Statute mandatory provision, if it was possible that anybody had committed a crime, you had to appoint an independent counsel. And I believe you addressed what you thought was a misinterpretation. I wonder if you could do that. Because the notion that as long as it is possible that someone committed a crime and it hasn't been conclusively disproven, I would think that is at any moment possible that a lot of people have committed a crime. On page 3 of your letter you address that. I think that is really central to this. Would you address that interpretation?
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Ms. RENO. Before we commence a preliminary investigation we must find under the Act that there is specific and credible information that a covered person may have committed a crime. When we get information that indicates that, we have to review it to determine whether it is specific and credible. That is the standard that Congress set in this investigation.
Mr. FRANK. The next question, in the letter you got from the Republican Majority, was there any specific information, whether credible, and I don't even think there was anything specific, but was there any specific credible information that anybody had committed a crime, a covered party?
Ms. RENO. As we indicated to the Majority in response to their letter, we had triggered and we have now triggered the statute with respect to the telephone calls, and with respect to another matter that was raised with respect to the--
Mr. FRANK. With regard to anything else, I would hope that the Majority, in closing, would tell us specifically where it is. We await their documentation that the President was bribed to take a step that environmentalists all over this country support.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman. His time is up. Mr. Sensenbrenner.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Thank you very much.
Page 114 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Madam Attorney General, when I woke up this morning and turned on the TV and the radio, there was replayed one of the newly released tapes of Mr. Clinton's fundraising activities. During the segment that I saw and heard on the TV and radio, he was praising Mr. John Huang as being one who always came through, sometimes even when the President apparently felt that Mr. Huang wouldn't be able to come through. That indicates to me a considerable amount of knowledge by the President on Mr. Huang's activities, because if the President was truly in the dark, I don't think he would have been so effusive of his praise of Mr. Huang, particularly on tape.
When Mr. Huang was at the Democratic National Committee, according to records that are a matter of public record, he raised $3.4 million. The Democratic National Committee subsequently returned $1.6 million of Mr. Huang's raisings as being illegal, improper, or suspect. Now, these donations came from questionable places. To name a few, fictitious donors, a dead person, and 23 separate checks totalling $425,000 from a Mr. and Mrs. Wiriadinata, a landscape artist and his homemaker wife, who incidentally have fled the country. Mrs. Wiriadinata happens to be the daughter of one of the partners of the Riadys' Lippo Group. Now, here there are some instances of prima facie illegality going on relative to Mr. Huang's fundraising activities, and yet we see that nothing has happened from the Justice Department. Is anything going to happen?
Ms. RENO. As I indicated previously, we cannot comment about the steps that we are taking with respect to the investigation, but I can assure you, as I have assured the Chairman just previously, that we are pursuing these transactions, and we are taking every step that we can. Otherwise, I simply cannot talk to you about what we are doing with respect to questions about contributions that Mr. Huang may have provided for.
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Mr. SENSENBRENNER. But doesn't the release of the tapes yesterday, where the President is pouring effusive praise on Mr. Huang and saying he came through even when the President didn't think he would be able to come through, lead you to believe that the President was at least knowledgeable, if not an active participant, in these activities which have been proven to be illegal as a result of the DNC returning all this money?
Ms. RENO. There is nothing that I have heard in the statement that you just made that you attributed to the President that does indicate specific or credible evidence that the President may have violated the law. We will continue to pursue this and continue to pursue every lead.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Attorney General, this was on the tape that was released yesterday, that the news media picked up and replayed this morning when I turned the TV on. You know, I grant you that this tape became public after you released your latest letter, which I think is basically trying to buy more time. I think that this is new and credible evidence that the President at least had knowledge of Mr. Huang's activities.
Ms. RENO. There is nothing in the statement that you provided to me just now that indicated that the President had any knowledge of any criminal activity.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Well
Ms. RENO. And to suggest that is to engage in rumor and innuendo that we try to avoid in the Department of Justice, to make sure that the power of the Federal government is not directed towards people in an unwarranted manner.
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Mr. SENSENBRENNER. But Madam Attorney General, that is the kind of thing that is destroying your credibility, because the tape speaks for itself. The people of America
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. No, I will not.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. It is my time. I would like to be sure I am able to use the time.
The people of America saw that tape on the morning news. I heard the tape on the radio as I was driving in to work this morning, and for the Justice Department and its leader to say that the President didn't do anything wrong by pouring effusive praise on Mr. Huang, who I think is proven to have done something wrong because the DNC returned over $1.5 million to the donors, is something that really destroys your credibility and the credibility of your department, Madam Attorney General. I think you know, that alone ought to be enough for you to wash your hands of the affair and to appoint an independent counsel.
Ms. RENO. Let us go back over it, because what you said is, you really come through for us. It did not say, you come through for us by illegal acts. It does not say, I know that you did something wrong. It does not say that ''I participated with you.'' It simply says, you come through for us. So that meansdoes that mean
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Mr. SENSENBRENNER. So does the President of United States
Ms. RENO. May I finish, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. CONYERS. Regular order.
Mr. HYDE. The witness will be permitted to finish her statement.
Ms. RENO. If you have specific and credible information that the President of the United States or anyone else covered by the statute may have violated Federal law, then let me pursue that. But I can't pursue it based on just the statement that you have provided. If you have additional information from that tape, of which I am not aware, then let me know. But based on the standards that prosecutors have followed, that statement, by itself, is not sufficient to trigger an investigation under the independent counsel statute.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. The tape, Madam Attorney General, does show Mr. Huang there. It does show a room full of contributors. I would imagine that there is a record of who was present at the fundraiser that the President attended, and we could see whether any of the contributions that were raised were ones that the DNC had to return as being illegal or suspect.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I have a point of order, Mr. Chairman.
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Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Chairman, I hope that my time is totaled as a result of the interruptions that are coming from the other side.
Mr. HYDE. It will be, and the gentlewoman from Houston will state her point of order.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I thank you for your graciousness. I am trying to get an understanding here. I really appreciate the need for Members to have the full breadth of being able to ask their questions. I understand this is an oversight hearing. But Mr. Chairman, are we in a position authorized to challenge the credibility of the witness, who is not here under criminal prosecution, is here as a representative of the United States government, and is here in an oversight capacity on many, many issues? I am concerned that there has been a media attack on the credibility of this witness, for what reason I don't know. I think that we need to contain ourselves to the questioning of the witness with her responsibilities.
Mr. Chairman, I would ask for your response to that, whether we are in a position now to challenge the credibility of the Attorney General of the United States, who has come before this committee to answer our questions in light of her responsibilities to us and our responsibilities to the people of the United States of America.
Mr. HYDE. The gentlelady has not stated a point of order. There is nothing to rule on. I would appreciate limiting interruptions of all the questioners.
Page 119 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I thank you. Could you ask for a certain amount of decorum that would restrain Members from attacking personally the witness who is before us?
Mr. HYDE. I do not believe the witness has been attacked personally. If I think that line is crossed, I will so rule. The point of order is not agreed to.
The gentleman may continue.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Chairman, I have a couple of questions relative to the $425,000 that Mr. and Mrs. Wiriadinata, the landscape architect and his homemaker wife, made as contributions to the Democratic National Committee. These people have fled the country, as a matter of record. We all know that laundering money, or giving money, excuse me, in the name of another is a violation of Federal law in terms of political contributions. And yet, I have seen no action against people such as the Wiriadinatas, who felt that they wanted to escape the justice of the United States once all of this information came to light.
Has there been any attempt to get the Wiriadinatas back into the country to testify before a grand jury?
Ms. RENO. Congressman, as I indicated, I can't discuss steps that are being taken in the course of the investigation, except to tell you that with respect to all matters which you have addressed today, we are trying our level best to pursue each lead, to hold each person accountable, and we are going to continue to do so. The indication that anything is closed is incorrect. If evidence is developed, we will pursue those leads and we will ultimately be responsible to the American people for how we conduct the investigation. If in the course of the investigation we develop evidence that triggers the Independent Counsel Act we will trigger it, but we are going to do it as carefully, as thoroughly, and as completely as possible.
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Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Finally, I would like to bring up the matter of turning half of southern Utah into a national monument, which was brought up by the gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Frank.
It is common knowledge that the area that was turned into a national monument and thus locked up from mining had the largest deposits of low-sulfur clean coal in the world. The second largest deposit is located in Indonesia on property that is controlled by the Lippo Group. One of the things we are going to be facing in this country is reducing emissions of so-called greenhouse gases, and this type of low sulfur clean coal is what is called compliance coal, and could no longer be mined in that part of Utah. The President in Brasilia yesterday indicated that he was going to seek legislation or sign a treaty that would reduce the type of gases that were emitted from coal.
Isn't there an appearance of wrongdoing when this type of action, which is unprecedented in the history of the country, ends up benefiting a foreign interest, where one of the representatives of the interest, Mr. Huang, got a $750,000 severance package from the Lippo Group when he quit their employ and went to work for the administration in the Commerce Department?
Ms. RENO. I am not addressing the issue of appearance. What I am addressing is whether there is specific and credible information that a covered person may have committed a violation of Federal criminal law. That is the threshold and that is what I am looking for constantly.
Page 121 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With respect to the question you raise, I think the situation probably arises when somebody contributes to a congressional campaign and then the Congressman votes in favor of the interest that was making the contribution. I do not automatically assume that the congressman has done something wrong by voting for a matter that the person who made the contribution wants him to vote for.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Well, nor do any of us. But at the same time, at the same time, I think that it is incumbent upon those who do the investigation, if exoneration is in order, to so state that there was nothing wrong and why. And that is what you stated when you testified 4 years ago before the Senate on why it was essential to reenact the independent counsel statute. My time is up, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. RENO. Mr. Chairman, may I respond, please, sir?
Mr. HYDE. You surely may. You surely may.
Ms. RENO. That is why I have indicated now both to the chairman and to you that we are pursuing the transactions to see exactly what happened, to hold anybody who had violated Federal criminal law accountable if we can develop the evidence under the law.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentlelady.
Mr. Scott, the gentleman from Virginia.
Page 122 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield 10 seconds to the gentleman from Michigan.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Mr. Scott. Could I give this citation to all the Members of the committee? It is the source from which the Attorney General cited the restrictions that she is under in terms of revealing what she is doing, particularly with reference to the grand jury. It is in a book called the United States Code, Annotated, Title 18, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, rule 6(e)(2): ''An attorney for the government shall not disclose matters occurring before the grand jury.'' 'The attorney' designation applies to the United States Attorney General as well as all the other lawyers that work with and for her.
Mr. FRANK. If the gentleman will yield, Mr. Chairman, that is just another one of those legalisms and semantic technicalities we are trying to fool people with.
Mr. SCOTT. Reclaiming my time, Attorney General Reno, the title of this hearing is a full Committee oversight hearing on the United States Department of Justice. I would like to ask you a few questions about what you are doing in a number of areas.
First, we went to great lengths in the last Congress to include the Department of Justice in the telecommunications reform. Could you tell us what your office is doing to protect consumers from overcharging by agents or by entities covered by the Telecommunications Act?
Ms. RENO. As you point out, Congressman, the Telecommunications Act was a comprehensive reform of the law. It was designed to promote competition and reduce regulation in telecommunications markets. The Department is involved in implementing the Act, as well as complimentary antitrust enforcement efforts.
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The big money at stake and the dramatic changes taking place have fueled contention, and we have come under some criticism, but the Department's involvement is in three principal areas. Under the 1982 AT&T antitrust consent decree, each regional Bell operating company was barred from long distance until there was no substantial possibility that it could use its monopoly power to impede the market it seeks to enter. The Act authorizes us to use any legal standard we consider appropriate.
After soliciting public input, DOJ developed a standard requiring the local market be fully and irreversibly open to competition. Applying the ''fully and irreversibly open to competition'' test, the Department recommended against the two applications filed thus far, SBC in Oklahoma, and AmeriTech in Michigan. The FEC denied both, relying heavily on our evaluations.
In the wake of the Telecom Act many large mergers have been proposed requiring careful review. The Act will relax regulatory restrictions on ownership of multiple radio stations, leading to far higher proposed concentration levels. The Department has challenged 7 radio mergers since that enactment.
There have also been several high profile telephone company mergers. The Department cleared the SBC-Pactel and Bell Atlantic-NYNEX without changes. The latter disappointed some consumer groups, who saw the two firms as eventual competitors for local phone service in each other's regions. We required a consent decree in the BT-MCI merger July 7th, which strengthened the consent degree entered in 1994 when BT acquired a 20 percent interest in MCI. In addition, we have been working with the FCC and have filed comments and analyzed the competitive effects of proposed FCC rules.
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Mr. SCOTT. Do you have sufficient resources in the Department to continue protecting the consumers' interests in that area?
Ms. RENO. We are constantly looking for resources to make sure that we have a sufficient capacity within the Antitrust Division. The last I talked with the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, he felt they were able to do the job, but I am sure he will continue to keep me advised.
Mr. SCOTT. On another issue, could you tell us what the Department is doing to enforce environmental laws, making sure our water is clean and air is clean?
Ms. RENO. Lois Schiffer, the Assistant Attorney General in the Environment Division, has been involved in a number of efforts. We have been in a very close working relationship with the Environmental Protection Agency, and in addition, Lois has formed a close working relationship with U.S. Attorneys, particularly in situations where U.S. attorneys may focus on one particular problem. For example, a recent meeting was held with respect to the Mississippi River, and how the U.S. Attorneys whose jurisdictions abut the Mississippi and the environmental natural resources division can work together to address problems along that great waterway.
With respect to all our efforts with the EPA, both in the division and with the U.S. Attorneys offices, we are trying to work together to make sure that criminal prosecutions are brought in an appropriate way, that we get convictions that stick, and appropriate fines. One of the examples that we talked about was the CFCs, and that at the same time, we support civil enforcement in an appropriate manner.
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Mr. SCOTT. Do you have sufficient resources to continue vigorously enforcing the environmental laws?
Ms. RENO. When you talk about resources, again, recognizing that there is much to be done, we are getting very tight in the general litigating sections of the Department of Justice. They have not grown in significant measure, and I think it is something that we constantly have to review and to make sure that we provide the resources when we see the challenge or see the risk created by environmental hazards.
Mr. SCOTT. I am presently involved in another hearing down the hall involving the Teamsters' election. Can you give us some information on how the Department of Justice is coming in getting organized crime out of labor unions?
Mr. Keeney is down the hall testifying that great progress has been made in the Teamsters, although the election has been set aside. The infractions apparently that caused the election to be set aside were not mob-related, but it did require it to be set aside. Can you tell us some of your efforts?
Ms. RENO. Yes. Again, the supervision of the IBT election is a critical law enforcement effort to rid the IBT of corruption. The consent decree between the United States and the IBT was historic, and I think, as you will hear from Mr. Keeney directly, real progress has been made in that regard.
The court-appointed officers supervising the election has decided that violations of rules governing the election require that the election be rerun. They were discovered only as a result of the comprehensive supervision provided for by the consent decree. It wouldn't have happened otherwise. It is part of a continuing effort and I think a very important effort.
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In addition, we have brought prosecutions in that investigation. With respect to the issues arising from those prosecutions, the investigation continues. The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York is leading this effort, and it is a priority effort for the Department.
Mr. SCOTT. Thank you. I think I have time for one other issue to bring up; that is, racial discrimination. What is the Department doing to enforce civil rights, particularly in areas that are eliminating affirmative action, which in some cases may only have been offsetting invidious discriminationonce you eliminate the affirmative action, all you have left is the discriminationin higher education, in the Department of Agriculture, and in housing?
Ms. RENO. With respect to housing, we have been working with Secretary Glickman on those issues. I think he has done some significant work and we have worked with him in terms of trying to address those issues.
With respect to housing, it is
Mr. SCOTT. Agriculture.
Ms. RENO. I mean in agriculture. With respect to housing, Secretary Cuomo and I have had a number of conversations about how we can work together in a more effective manner, and I think efforts are underway in that regard.
Page 127 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With respect to higher education and discrimination in higher education, as you know, we opposed the Hopwood decision and continue to focus on areas where litigation may be arising that would enable us to address those problems.
With respect to Proposition 209 in California, we intervened there and are following that litigation closely.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Florida, Mr. McCollum.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Madam Attorney General, welcome to our hearing.
As you are well aware, I am sureunder 18 U.S.C. Section 607, it is unlawful for anybody in the discharge of official duties to solicit a contribution in any room or building occupied by any number of official people of this government.
In looking at the question of campaign finance law violations that you have been looking at, have you come to a determination in your mind or has the Department as to whether or not it would be a criminal violation of this statute for a solicitation of a campaign contribution to take place in an official working space of the White House, such as the Oval Office or some other clearly nonresidential but official part of the White House, if such a solicitation did take place?
Page 128 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. If it were in an official part of the White House, my understanding is that it would represent a violation. What is an official or public site of the White House is, again, in fact specific.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. I understand. I called it to your attention because, I wanted to be sure you are aware and we are on the same wavelength as to the type of thing you may be looking at as you look into the evidencewhether there is enough evidence to go forward with regard to the President or the Vice President or other people at the White House.
It is part of the record of a Senate investigation of a few weeks ago in September over in a hearing of their committee, the Governmental Affairs Committee, that a Karl Jacksonthe former National Security Adviser to both President Bush and Vice President Quayletestified, and in that hearing he testified, what I interpret to be, that John Huang, in the presence of the President, solicited money in what appears to be the map room, which I would take to be an official place in the White House. It may be of some dispute.
I have a copy of his transcript, which I am sure we can certainly make available to you. Mr. Jackson, in answering a question, says, ''Mr. Huang stood up and said he would like to reiterate the welcome of Chairman Fowler, and that he agreed with Chairman Fowler that this was an election year.'' He went on to say, ''Elections cost money, lots and lots of money. And I am sure that every person in this room will want to support the reelection of the President.'' And then apparently there is more than that in this transcript. But I just wanted to ask, A, if you were aware of this testimony by Mr. Jackson, and B, now that I have made you awareif you weren'twould this be the type of thing that you and your task force would take into account looking into, A, possible criminal violations at the White House, possible accessory questions that could be raised by thatand I am not suggesting the President was an accessory to this, but possibly he would be, depending on what other facts might be thereand, B, the question of course of whether you would, in your preliminary investigation, be determining whether an independent counsel would be appointed?
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Ms. RENO. What we are trying to do is to take all of the allegations and pursue them. If at any point there is specific and credible information that triggers the statute, we will do that, as we have. But we are pursuing all of these allegations with respect to non-covered persons as well.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Were you aware of this one before I brought it to you?
Ms. RENO. I don't recognize the name Jackson.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. I sure appreciate you looking into this one. I won't say more, that is your job. I just wanted to bring it to your attention because it was brought to mine.
Secondly, to bring direction to any investigation of possible criminal activities such as the one that is involved in campaign finance that your task force is doing, it is my understanding that normally there is an investigative strategy that is developed a working blueprint: Where are we going to go, what are we going to look at? In this particular case, what you are looking at now, one such strategy could beand I know this is not necessarily what you are doing, but it could beto investigate whether there was a criminal conspiracy to circumvent Federal election law restrictions and limitations on outside contributions to President Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign by funneling money to the Democratic National Committee to be used not for party-building, but for the President's reelection.
Page 130 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, that is an example, in my judgment, of what one type of investigative strategy could be. Does the task force that you have appointed to look into these campaign finance law violations, A, have an investigative strategy; and B, does that investigative strategyif there is oneinclude looking into questions of conspiracies to violate Federal election laws such as the one I just described?
Ms. RENO. With respect to strategies, the task force early on developed a strategy. We now have additional management in place and they are in the process, and they have madeI think they have a substantial strategy in place, but they are fine-tuning the strategy. And one of the keys of both has been to make sure that we pursue every allegation. If an allegation develops a conspiracy, then we focus on the people responsible for the conspiracy, but that we pursue every lead that will take usevery fact that will take us to any wrongdoing.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. But I am right that a strategy includes specifically focusing on things such as setting forth the prospect of saying, ''Go look, FBI; go look, investigators, at the possibility of X,Y, or Z.''
Ms. RENO. I can't describe the strategy.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. No, but X, Y, or Z, or whatever it is, that is what the strategy is here? It is to look at the situation in about 6 or 7 ways, or just one, and then go check it out? Am I not right, that is what a strategy is? That is what we are talking about?
Page 131 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. I cannot tell you what the strategy is, but I can tell you there is a strategy.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. All right. Now, you say the investigation is not based on polls, and I take your word for that. You say it is based on the evidence and the law. That to me, though, is a problem here based on the track record up to this pointnot necessarily going forward, but up to this point.
The track record of the past year is that the Justice Department has not aggressively searched for the evidence. The prosecutors only have a small portion of the evidence or have refused to look at the evidence, whatever it may have foundat least that has been the track record. If that is the case, it is not a proper investigation, Madam Attorney General.
Now I think you are right to say that investigators and investigations are about the evidence. I don't think there is any question about that. But I don't think this investigation has been about that. Your task force was appointed 11 months ago11 months agothat has been well-publicized and very much a fact. If you recall, it was initially established on what is known as a bottom-up strategy.
According to lots of sources I have, that bottom-up strategy, preventedinitially at leastthe FBI and other folks in the administration of this whole process from questioning or investigating the conduct of senior administration and Democratic National Committee officials.
Initially, you rejected the idea of a congressional request for the appointment of an independent counsel for the Vice President because, as I understand it, you concluded that only soft money was involved for party-building, rather than money for the President's reelection campaign. And yet, the task force apparently never investigated whether this was indeed true. In fact, later, as we all now know, there was some hard money unearthed and involved.
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The task force under your direction failed to properly organize, manage, or review a lot of documents down at the Department, and this resulted in a failure to learn of the crucial document concerning Vice President Gore's fundraising phone calls. Until, I understand, you read about it in the Washington Post, you didn't even know that yourself.
It also appears that you failed to appoint the right person to head this task force team. You had to replace her just a month or so ago, after 10 months of what may be considered lost time. I don't know how lost it was, but apparently a lot of it was.
It is disturbing on top of all that, because these are symptoms, I would suggest, of the problem of mismanagement or lack of organization down there, also evidence in the fact that the position of the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Divisionfor which my Subcommittee on Crime has oversight responsibilityhas been vacant for more than 2 years.
In light of all of that, I just have a couple of questions I would like to ask and let you respond to it. One of those questions that is really begging here is have senior officials of the Department of Justice at any time over the past year prevented FBI agents from investigating the conduct of or from even interviewing senior officials at the White House and the Democratic National Committee?
And given the Department's numerous failures on the issues I have just described and the general incompetency we have seen in a couple of these instances over the past year, can you tell us why the American people should believe you when you say you are going to pursue, and I quote this, ''every lead and everyone who has information?'' Why should they believe you when you say that? That is an integral question, and I would appreciate answers to both of those.
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Ms. RENO. First of all, with respect to the investigation, one of the most frustrating things that I face is to sit here and hear your conclusions and not be able to share with you everything that was done. When you have an investigation like this that is subject to such public scrutiny, you see how difficult it is to try to respond and to try to be open.
But one of the things that I know, whether it be from the major investigations that I have been responsible for in the Department of Justice or my prosecutions at home, you always have a situation where, as you build an investigation, there may be tensions and disagreements, but you work through that.
I think that the task force has conducted a very professional investigation. You pick out one factor. There are so many factors that I can point out to you, and if I could tell you what was being done, I think you would feel much more comfortable.
But one of the issues that was raised is, and it was frustrating to me, because I kept asking them, do you need any more resources? I asked both agents and lawyers. And they indicated to me not. And thus it was disturbing to me to find out that some of the information had not been assimilated yet or put into the computer. And I asked why. And I think what happened was with over 500 grand jury subpoenas, so much information came in so suddenly. They thought they could keep up with it and they couldn't, and so Director Freeh and I, on being advised of this, immediately took action to ensure that they had the resources to properly analyze the records and the equipment to properly assimilate the records. That is ongoing and almost completed at this point.
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With respect to the questions raised about were agents prevented from doing something, I understand that there were tensions early on about what directions should be taken. What we have done is expand the management, and we have a team in place. Director Freeh and I together meet with them on a regular basis, and at this point nothing, no door has been closed for the task force in any investigation.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. But, Madam Attorney General, did senior officials of the Department of Justice in the past year actually intervene and say no interviewing of senior administration
Mr. HYDE. I am sorry, the gentleman's time has expired, the gentleman waited until his time was nearly expired to ask a very important and complicated question.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that the gentleman from Florida be permitted to finish his inquiry.
Mr. HYDE. Without objection. But we are going to have a longer day than I thought. Go ahead.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Mr. Chairman, I only wanted to clarify this point. I was not asking another question. I just wanted to make sure that the Attorney General had the opportunity to answer that one point.
Page 135 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. I hadn't had the opportunity to answer your question, which was, was anybody stopped from pursuing their line of inquiry.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. From interviewing.
Ms. RENO. As I explained to you, there may have been a situation where someone said, it is better to build from the ground up and interview them down the road than interview them now. To my knowledge, at this point, nobody has been stopped from pursuing any course of action as we have addressed the issue and as Director Freeh and I have addressed it.
I think there have been tensions early on, but it is ongoing now, and at our last meeting there seemed to be
Mr. MCCOLLUM. But they were told not to do it, not to ask the questions at that time? I have finished. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Mr. HYDE. If the gentlewoman has something to say, she certainly may say it.
Ms. RENO. Mr. Chairman, I think, again, it is important that Members of Congress don't second-guess an investigation and say, well, you didn't do it at this time and you should have done it at this time. They don't understand all the information that is before us, all the transactions, the steps that have been taken. And I think it is very important that this investigation be conducted in an orderly way, not out of time for one point or another, but in an orderly, effective manner.
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What I have committed to is trying to pursue every lead based on fact that we can possibly identify, and make sure that before those leads are closed out Director Freeh and I have approved the closeout.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the Attorney General.
The next time will be allocated to Mr. Watt of North Carolina.
Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to express my thanks to the Attorney General for being here today, and allowing the committee to do this oversight function. I express my thanks to the press for being here today. Without any specific credible evidence to the contrary, I must presume that they are here because they are concerned about the overall operations of the Justice Department, and I'm sure they will be back the next time when we do an oversight hearing regarding the Justice Department.
To the extent that this hearing is focused on the specifics of cases that are pending, I want to express my opinion that I think we are doing a major disservice to the public because we are creating the impression that we are applying external pressure. The very thing that we are implying that the President and Vice President are applying on the other side, this committee apparently has decided that it is politically correct for it to apply on this side.
I want to applaud the Attorney General's efforts to maintain her independence and make an independent evaluation on this issue without regard to pressure or perceived pressure from either the executive side or from the legislative side.
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Mr. CHABOT. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. WATT. No, I won't. Yes, I will yield to my friend.
Mr. CHABOT. I will be very brief. I think the important point is that this committee and Congress does not hire or fire the Attorney General. The President does.
Mr. WATT. Reclaiming my time, I don't want to get into an argument about that. We have a role to play obviously. The question I am raising is the timing of that role. I continue to believe that the timing of this hearing insofar as it is directed to these specific cases is counterproductive. Let me turn my attention to an issue that I have a great deal of interest in, and that is the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. The position as the head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has been vacant for quite some time, Madam Attorney General. Could you tell us the status of that appointment and when we might anticipate that we might have a head of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department?
Ms. RENO. A very fine lawyer, Bill Lee, has been nominated, and that nomination is pending, and I believe the Senate Judiciary Committee has set a hearing date for the confirmation of either October 22 or 26. I hope that he will be speedily confirmed. He has bipartisan support from people who have watched him in action, such as Mayor Riordan, who has seen his abilities to get to the heart of the matter and yet to work together with others to seek appropriate solutions based on conciliation and mutual respect. I know that everyone who has had a chance to meet him has been tremendously impressed with him and I hope that he will be confirmed, for I know he will serve with distinction.
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Mr. WATT. In your opening statement, Madam Attorney General, you indicated that you have over 120 attorneys working on the allegations that have been raised. How many attorneys are there in the Justice Department?
Ms. RENO. I haven't gotten the latest count, but I think it is some 6,000.
Mr. WATT. Is the devotion of 120 attorneys to these kind of issues that have been raised dealing with campaign finance, what impact is that having on other areas of the Justice Department's jurisdiction?
Ms. RENO. It is 120 lawyers, agents and other staff. It is not a total number of lawyers. It is one of the most significant investigations that we have undertaken. But we regularlyDirector Freeh and I at our weekly meetings are checking to make sure they have the resources.
Mr. WATT. I am less concerned about the resources for this than I am the resources for other justice functions. What impact is the devotion of the amount of resources that the department is having to commit to this purpose having on other functions in the Justice Department?
Ms. RENO. In any instance in which we have assigned a lawyer to the task force, we are ensuring that his or her responsibilities are being met by other people.
Page 139 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WATT. There are significant issues pending related to immigration matters that our subcommittee, the Immigration and Claims Subcommittee, has jurisdiction over. Could you describe some of those pending issues and what disposition the Department is making with respect to those issues?
Ms. RENO. We have appreciated the opportunity to work with you and Chairman Smith of the subcommittee and appreciate your thoughtfulness in addressing the issues. As you know when I took office, the Immigration and Naturalization Service had very inadequate resources and did not have an infrastructure that really provided for the delivery of services and the way people I think should expect them. One of our first steps was to focus on the Southwest border and to take steps to ensure border control. That cannot be done overnight with the number of people that we had and we have tried to build it in an orderly and professional manner, making sure that agents along the border had the technology and the equipment that could make their work most effective. We are expanding. The commissioner has indicated that in the 1998 budget that a significant resource will be committed to the Texas area as we move east in developing an orderly, controlled system along the border. We have also focused on the deportation of criminal aliens and the removal of criminal aliens, and I think we are making progress in that regard. There have been difficulties along the way. Any time you have an agency that grows that fast, that is responsible for implementing that many new provisions of a significant and complex piece of legislation, you are going to face issues. But I think the Immigration and Naturalization Service has done a good job, considering the resources that they have had. In the process of all of this, they are working hard to develop the technology that can permit them to handle on a much more efficient basis so many of the processes involving benefits, naturalization and the like.
Page 140 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WATT. Madam Attorney General, I am hesitant to get into other matters and be accused of the same problem that others, but without giving specific information about the case, I am aware that the House Ethics Committee issued record fines to punish the Speaker for his tax and financial reporting improprieties. Could you tell us at what stage is your investigation into the tax fraud allegations against the Speaker?
Ms. RENO. I don't believe it has been referred, sir, but I will check and let you know.
Mr. WATT. I would appreciate it. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. I take it that is a subject you can talk about.
The gentleman from Pennsylvania.
Ms. RENO. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. Yes, ma'am.
Ms. RENO. I don't know whetherI must check on the status, but if there is a pending investigation, I can't talk about it.
Mr. HYDE. What would the status
Mr. WATT. Mr. Chairman, is this on my time or is it on your time?
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Mr. CONYERS. It is on the Chair's time.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Conyers answers for me. Go ahead, Mr. Gekas. 10 minutes.
Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GEKAS. I thank the Chair. As a change of pace, General Reno, I would like to refer to a matter that has emerged from my district. As you may recall, in the last 10 or 15 days a controversy has arisen about an FBI training exercise that occurred in my district, in and near the Borough of Elizabethtown in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This training exercise, with the sketchy facts we have now, constituted three elements of the FBI, New York, Pennsylvania and I believe Virginia who staged for training purposes a kind of hostage taking terrorism episode, and they launched into how they would best meet the challenges of such incident if it should happen in real life, God forbid. The FBI notified the local authorities what they were going to do and that was proper, but then something went awry. In the course or at the tail-end of this, after the hostage taking, threats of terrorism at an airport and a prison guard facility all had played out their parts and roles in the episode, a group of students or youngsters from the area were in Elizabethtown borough, the square, when all of a sudden FBI SWAT team like members jumped out of a car and rousted this automobile and handcuffed and threw, we believe, this is the sketchy facts that I am talking about, threw these innocent bystanders, as it were, to the ground, handcuffed them and held them there for a period of time. You are aware of these facts, I am sure, from what has been reported to you, I suppose, by the Director of the FBI.
Page 142 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. Yes.
Mr. GEKAS. My specific question as to all of this is, are these training exercises to your knowledge ongoing? Are there several that occur throughout the United States during the course of a year? Number one, I would like to know if you know.
Ms. RENO. I don't know the frequency with which such training exercises occur and there are different types of training exercises. I will be happy to ask Director Freeh to provide such information to you.
Mr. GEKAS. I did send a letter to Director Freeh asking for specifics, why did this happen, and who was in charge and why the supervision of this drama episode was not so tight as to prevent innocent people from being rousted as they were, but what I would like to know is are there rules and regulations in the Justice Department which control or supervise the FBI in these kinds of exercises?
Ms. RENO. What we do when we hear about that, I immediately contacted Director Freeh. I don't believe that he was in. I talked with the Deputy Director to determine just what was being done. I was advised at that point that the FBI was meeting with the families and addressing their concerns and trying to follow up with them and that an internal investigation was underway and my report
Mr. GEKAS. That was my understanding, that there was an internal investigation going on. What I am asking is whether the Attorney General, the Justice Department, has a set of rules and regulations which are followed by the Attorney General in supervision of or guidelines for the FBI in these kinds of training exercises.
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Ms. RENO. I don't know of specific training guidelines with respect to when a particular training exercise is undertaken. I don't know of anything that controls this specific instance.
Mr. GEKAS. How is it that the Attorney General, the Department of Justice does control or supervise the FBI? What is the connection there?
Ms. RENO. The FBI Director reports to me and in this instance, as I have indicated, I immediately checked, determined that an investigation was underway, an internal investigation was underway and asked that as soon as it was completed that I see the results of it so that I might make determinations as to what steps were necessary.
Mr. GEKAS. What I would like to request is to supply me with copies of whatever rules and regulations there may be in the Justice Department controlling the relationship between the FBI and the Justice Department or the Attorney General.
Ms. RENO. Are you referring specifically to training exercises here?
Mr. GEKAS. No.
Ms. RENO. We can provide you with many regulations with respect to what the responsibility of the Attorney General and the Director of the FBI are.
Page 144 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GEKAS. And then we will look to see whether any of those apply to a direction by the FBI to conduct one of these training exercises. I thank you for that.
Now I would like to return a little bit to the question of the campaign financing. This house, that you started describing your efforts as being a foundation which you have to build stone by stone, I think, I am paraphrasing some of the words that you were using, it seems to me also constructed a couple of walls either deliberately or inadvertently. One of the walls that the Attorney General continues to use in this foundation and this construction of a case is that there is an ongoing investigation and therefore you would be violating your own guidelines if you reported on that, and I understand that. I don't want to even try to penetrate that wall. Another wall in this foundation, in this construction, this edifice that you are talking about is the notion that you don't have any, and you say this often, specific and credible information. That wall is one on which I would like to look on the other side.
For instance, when the Vice President's episode first emerged, the Attorney General, I believe, said that there was no credible or specific information sufficient to proceed, that this was soft money, et cetera. Is that correct? When it first started, your first pronouncements on that episode?
Ms. RENO. Are you referring to my response to Chairman Hyde in the spring?
Mr. GEKAS. Yes.
Ms. RENO. That's correct.
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Mr. GEKAS. Yes. So now at that point, we are left with the wall of no specific or credible information. But then at some point, the Washington Post reported that some of this money might have been or was converted into hard money. Almost the next day, the Attorney General or the Justice Department, or someone within it all of a sudden found that there was enough there to reconstitute this investigation because now there was specific and credible information, is that correct?
Ms. RENO. That's correct.
Mr. GEKAS. So that, on the basis of a newspaper report, the Attorney General, the Justice Department concluded that there was specific and credible information on which to continue an investigation. That is why it causes me a little bit of anguish when you seem to dismiss some of the allegations that are raised in the letter that the Majority sent to you concerning what we believe has been emerging as issues in this case. For instance, we quote in the letter dispatches from Dallas, from Los Angeles, the Chicago Tribune, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, USA Today, Rocky Mountain News, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, each one of them raising some kind of question that we seriously want to be considered. We are not saying, General Reno, that this constitutes specific or credible evidence. We are saying to you, we are pleading with you, if these allegations are raised by newspapers, like the Washington Post raised the question of specific and credible evidence as to the vice presidential calls upon which you acted immediately, the very least you can do on the allegations that we raise in the letter of the Majority showing these newspaper dispatches, that at least an inquiry should be made to see whether or not there is specific or credible information. That is what we are asking. We can't supply you beyond that wall which you say that is to be specific and credible information, we can't supply the credible and specific information. All we can supply is an allegation that we saw in the newspaper, like you saw the Washington Post article.
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Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired unfortunately.
Mr. GEKAS. We will pursue this on my second round, General Reno.
Ms. RENO. May I address the matters that he raised?
Mr. HYDE. You surely may.
Ms. RENO. With respect to your wall, sir, I don't intend to build a wall. If you have specific and credible information
Mr. GEKAS. Respectfully
Mr. FRANK. Regular order, Mr. Chairman. It is only up to her to answer. These were your strict rules and I believe they should be enforced.
Mr. HYDE. I agree.
Mr. GEKAS. There was a question.
Mr. HYDE. Sir, you waited until the very end. Then you asked a long question that she has to answer it lengthily.
Page 147 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GEKAS. That is why I suggested we wait
Mr. FRANK. Regular order, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. No, the gentleman can talk to me if he wants.
Mr. GEKAS. For gosh sakes, Barney.
Mr. FRANK. Mr. Chairman, point of order. Mr. Chairman, point of order.
Mr. HYDE. What is your point?
Mr. FRANK. That we are now violating the very strict rules you set down that we have been at pains to
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman is quite right, and I have chastised Mr. McCollum for waiting until the end and then asking a long question. Mr. Gekas has done it, and I am chastising him. And if you do it, I will chastise you.
Mr. GEKAS. I plead chastisement.
Mr. HYDE. Right. Now, the Attorney General would like to answer and let us give her an opportunity to answer.
Page 148 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. One of the points that I have tried to stress again and again, and I will reiterate it again, is that we are pursuing every transaction. We are pursuing, and as I indicated to Mr. McCollum earlier, all the records that we show the soft money and the hard money, but we were doing it in a certain order. We did not catch the first and, as I pointed out in building the house, I am going to concentrate on the foundation and the walls before I start looking at the roof. You may have thoughts about the investigation, but I can't go into the details and I can assure you that we are trying to do everything we can to make sure that every line of inquiry is pursued and that if in the course of the pursuit of that line of inquiry we develop evidence that is specific and credible, then we will trigger the statute.
One of the points that I make to you, though, is in looking at it, we did not immediately conclude that there was specific and credible evidence with respect to the Vice President. The statute provides that in certain situations where we cannot conclude, then we can do the preliminary investigation, and that is what we have done in this instance. I just wanted to clarify that in response to one of your questions. But what I am trying to say, and I don't know how more clear I can make it, is that we are trying to pursue each of these allegations and take it where it goes.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentlelady. The gentleman from Michigan, Mr. Conyers.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Chairman Hyde. Perhaps the gentleman from Hershey will take heart to know that I have talked with Chairman Hyde on more than one occasion about doing an oversight of the FBI, and I think that some of your comment would fit into that quite importantly.
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Mr. HYDE. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. CONYERS. I will.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. McCollum's Subcommittee on Crime has had 3 oversight investigations on the FBI, and I am sure they will have more.
Mr. CONYERS. Well, let's you and I have another one just to make sure.
Ms. WATERS. If I may.
Mr. CONYERS. I would yield.
Ms. WATERS. Mr. Conyers, the Congressional Black Caucus is holding a hearing on a number of the law enforcement agencies in government. They will include, I believe, the FBI, the DEA and some others. Because this is a problem that you have let go on for many years. Some people thought it was confined to minority communities, but now more and more people are coming forth talking about the abuses. I am just so glad it is happening. Let me congratulate you for the years of work you have put on this issue.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Conyers.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The gentleman from North Carolina raised a question about the Speaker's investigations that I thought we had assurance would flow out of the ethics confession, the plea that he took at the beginning of the year. I was instructed that there would be referrals to the Department of Justice, professional integrity. I was assured that there would be referrals to the Internal Revenue Service. And now I find out this morning that we don't even know if there are any investigations at all pending, I mean whether there is one or isn't one. Now, the Speaker pled guilty to most of the charges that the Ethics Committee made, they imposed the largest fine that has ever been rendered. We have had long disputes about this. But now I find that there is nothing going on here. I want to indicate as one member, I would like to know that there either are investigations or there are not, because at the beginning we were told that there were referrals which led me to believe that there would be investigations.
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Mr. WATT. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. CONYERS. Yes, sir.
Mr. WATT. In response to my questioning, Attorney General Reno indicated that she was not currently aware and I would hope that over the lunch break, maybe we could make that determination and maybe in the next round of questioning we could get a response. I appreciate the gentleman yielding.
Mr. CONYERS. I thank my friend from North Carolina, Mr. Watt. The allegations, as I understand them, that were lodged against the current Speaker of the House were far more grave than the misuse of tax-exempt organization status that has been attached to Vice President Gore. I would like to put everybody here in the Department of Justice on notice that these are not matters that are over and done with because they are out of the newspapers' concerns. I think it is a very serious matter and I raise it in a very serious way.
Mr. FRANK. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. CONYERS. Yes, sir.
Mr. FRANK. I would note that, as the Republican letter said, part of what they wanted the Attorney General to do was to exercise her right to appoint independent counsel under the discretionary part of this statute as opposed to the mandatory. While the Vice President is covered under the mandatory, the Speaker is fully covered under the discretionary part. So if the allegations about the Vice President on the IRS rose to the level of independent counsel, I didn't think they did, clearly it's a force majeure argument with regard to the Speaker where the Ethics Committee has found far more serious and I would assume we would consider the Ethics Committee to be specific and credible at least for purposes of a referral.
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Mr. CONYERS. I thank the gentleman from Massachusetts and the gentleman from North Carolina.
Now, the same Speaker is the person that is blocking campaign finance reform, which is the base of all of the allegations, innuendos or irresponsible letter writing to the Department of Justice. Now, anything that they don't like about the independent counsel or anything else could be repaired in campaign finance reform. And yet we get them blocking on one hand any chance to correct the situations and yet attacking with hearsay in a very overaggressive manner, I might add, the whole notion that there are a lot of things going wrong that ought to be repaired, too. I think that this disingenuous conflict really ought to be pointed out. The reason we haven't moved into campaign finance reform can be put at the feet of one Member of this House, the highest ranking Member, Speaker Newt Gingrich. And for us to keep stirring this pot around with the President and the Vice President and Buddhists and whether they used the telephone in or out of the office and what part of the White House it is, is a little bit disingenuous to me.
Now, let's look at something that happened here, and I didn't know anything about it. I have a very able staff. What about the $50 billion tax break that Speaker Gingrich and Majority Leader Trent Lott put into the tax bill at the last minute for the benefit of the tobacco industry, no hearing, no markup, no legislative consideration and we found out about it after the fact, and guess who the largest single contributor to the Republican National Committee by far is? Yes, the tobacco industry. Now, should weI want to ask the Attorney General a question. Is this a matter that we could have special counsel, is there any way that we can begin to investigate this? Notice it was pulled out after it was discovered. But it was put in withI think there were about 400 members that didn't know anything about it in the beginning. Is this the quid pro quo that they keep looking for in some of these statutory violations, Madam Attorney General?
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Ms. RENO. I have been so busy focused on the issues of the investigation that I have not compared the statements made one to the other, but I think you have got to be very careful when you suggest that action taken in response to a constituent's urging is somehow a bribe when that constituent has given you a contribution.
Mr. CONYERS. Of course. There are no people in Washington more sensitive than the ones that you are addressing in this committee this morning. We are very sensitive about that.
Mr. FRANK. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. CONYERS. Yes.
Mr. FRANK. I think as an important part of that, this is something that may be new but the Attorney General appears to be suggesting somewhat boldly that we should apply a single standard in these cases and I am not sure she has fully thought through the implications and the difficulty of single standard justice. I thank the gentleman.
Mr. CONYERS. Well, let me go on. I now want to quote my friend, the chairman of this committee. Christian Science Monitor, March 5, 1996, article entitled ''Policing the Executive Branch, at What Price? '' Chairman Hyde urged fundamental reforms of the independent counsel law. Chairman Hyde argued that under these rules, mere allegations, assertions, rumors or hearsay can easily prompt a costly inquiry. Oh, boy, are you so right, Mr. Chairman. How about
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Mr. HYDE. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. CONYERS. I have to yield to my chairman, with pleasure.
Mr. HYDE. The updating or the Independent Counsel Act, which I have always supported and of which I was an initial supporter back with Ms. Holtzman, was stopped by Mr. Brooks and Senator Biden. They didn't want to change the law. We tried to change it and update it so
Mr. CONYERS. Those obstructionists are always getting in the way of us in the Judiciary Committee.
Mr. HYDE. Us progressives.
Mr. CONYERS. Yes, us progressives. Mere allegations, assertions, rumors or hearsay can easily prompt a costly inquiry. I agree with you. Now wouldn't you consider the allegations that the President's designation of a million acres of Utah wilderness as a national monument is a little bit far out to be making it a quid pro quo for the Democratic Party? I mean, does this fit the description that you were quoted only last year of saying? I think so. What about the President of Paraguay, and this is in your letter, we ought to investigate the President, President Clinton, for allowing the President of Paraguay to take refuge in the American Embassy. Was that a quid pro quo during a coup attack? I don'tdoes this meet the description of allegations, assertions, rumors or hearsay? I just ask you.
Page 154 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. FRANK. May the Attorney General get a chance to respond, Mr. Chairman? That has been the precedent.
Mr. HYDE. Of course. I assume that you want to take a pass on that one.
Mr. CONYERS. You would hope that she would, but I would hope she would not.
Mr. HYDE. I'm indifferent either way. The gentlelady does not wish to respond. The gentleman from Texas, and he will be the last questioner before a 30-minute lunch break, but I wanted to end on a high note. Mr. Smith.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Attorney General Reno, let me begin by reading excerpts from a column by Charles Krauthammer that appeared last Friday in the Washington Post. It says, ''To reduce the entire corrupt enterprise of the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign to a bunch of phone calls is to misunderstand the nature of the scandal. The real question is the mounting evidence of a conspiracy to subvert existing campaign laws.''
''The story is not a few phone calls, but those who used and directed Charles Trie, John Huang and the Riadys' munificent gardener and all the others who have fled the country or pled the Fifth.''
Page 155 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC ''The second charge that cries out for investigation is obstruction of justice. This White House has a long history of withholding and then miraculously discovering evidence.''
''Even if you believe that subverting our baroque campaign laws is not crime enough, you should at least be concerned about obstruction of justice.''
Attorney General Reno, you said in your opening statement a few minutes ago that more than 120 agents, attorneys and staff are working full time to get to the bottom of every allegation of criminal wrongdoing. My question is simple. Does that investigation include investigating anyone in the administration for obstruction of justice?
Ms. RENO. I cannot discuss the contents of any investigation except to say we are pursuing all leads, including those that you have discussed.
Mr. SMITH. Which would include obstruction of justice, then?
Ms. RENO. I cannot discuss it.
Mr. SMITH. You said earlier you couldn't tell whom or what you are investigating, but surely you can say whether obstruction of justice comes under the category of every allegation of criminal wrongdoing, can you not?
Ms. RENO. That would be something under the category of criminal wrongdoing.
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Mr. SMITH. Thank you. Let me go to the question I have in regard to Citizenship USA. In my judgment perhaps the worst abuse within Citizenship USA was that it made citizens out of dangerous criminals. Rather than becoming citizens, they should of course have been deported. In just one year, 180,000 people were given citizenship without having proper background checks. Another 80,000 people who had the checks, and turned out to have criminal records on file with the FBI, were given citizenship anyway. Justice Department officials have told us in the past that we cannot expect to discover all the mistakes made by the INS, much less fix them all, but they have promised to do the minimum research and sampling required to give us a good estimate of the total number of people with criminal records who were improperly granted U.S. citizenship.
First, Justice Department officials said that we would have that rough estimate by last May, then they said we would have it by the beginning of September, and here we are in mid-October and we still don't have that estimate. It might inadvertently give some people the impression that the Department of Justice is not forthcoming, so my question is this: When will we get the estimate of the number of people with criminal records who were improperly naturalized under the Citizenship USA program?
Ms. RENO. I am sorry you did not get the information beforehand, and I wish I had known that. But this is as of October the 1st. The INS has completed a felony review of the 1,049,000 applicants naturalized during 1996. Six thousand applications were found where the applicant was presumptively ineligible or the application needed no further review. And as of October 1, 1997, 1,268 of the 6,000 have been reviewed. Nine hundred thirty-two have been determined to be appropriate for notice of intent to revoke citizenship, and that notice has been served.
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Mr. SMITH. Thank you. Documents that I think you have seen, and that we have seen, show that as early as March 1996, Vice President Gore's assistant Doug Farbrother, who was working to speed up the citizenship program, predicted that it would lead to chaos in the criminal background check process. By May of 1996 the FBI was concerned enough to take the unusual step of sending a formal letter to the INS notifying them that they were moving too fast to do the background checks properly. So top INS officials, including Associate Commissioner Crocetti, who was supposed to be in charge of the naturalization program, knew that they had a disaster on their hands, although it is interesting to me that the INS did not admit to that disaster until a week after the November elections. The Justice Department has told us that it has simply been too difficult and takes too much time and money to track down and denaturalize all those who have improperly been given citizenship, but the Department of Justice has also assured us that they will make every effort to administratively denaturalize some of the worst felons, as we understand about 5500 cases.
How many denaturalization actions have been initiated by the Department of Justice and how many have been completed? I might add that the statute of limitations is very rapidly running out on a number of these individuals, so I think it would be proper for the Department of Justice to expedite the process.
Ms. RENO. My understanding is that 932 have been determined to be appropriate for a notice of intent to revoke citizenship and that the notice has been served. To my knowledge, the processes on those 932 are not complete, but I will verify that for you.
Mr. SMITH. Have any of the several thousand people actually been denaturalized?
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Ms. RENO. Not to my knowledge.
Mr. SMITH. Attorney General Reno, my last question goes to the situation that occurred in the 1996 elections in Dallas, Texas. Employees of the Dallas district office of the INS began uncovering illegal voting. The U.S. Attorney in Dallas sought help from INS headquarters and found that, quote, ''Our efforts to obtain the cooperation of the INS in Washington have been unsuccessful.'' I assume that you are aware of the probe of voter fraud in Dallas, and if so, why is the INS not cooperating with the U.S. Attorney in investigating the voting fraud?
Ms. RENO. My understanding is that INS is cooperating and is continuing to. In doing so, however, the INS must ensure that any information it provides to another agency concerning United States citizens and lawful permanent residents meets the standards for disclosure under the Privacy Act. There have been consultations amongst the INS, legal experts at main Justice and the U.S. Attorneys Office on this matter to develop a common understanding of the parameters for disclosure in this case. I understand that the U.S. Attorney hopes to finish the preliminary investigation shortly.
Mr. SMITH. Attorney General Reno, let me quote from Associate Deputy Attorney General David Ogden when he testified before our subcommittee recently as far as the Privacy Act goes. He said, ''Although the Privacy Act prevents executive branch agencies from providing certain information on individuals and third parties, there is an exception that permits INS to release immigration citizenship status information for law enforcement purposes, including purposes related to the integrity of elections.''
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So it seems to me that we can't hide behind the Privacy Act, and I would hope that you would order the INS to cooperate with the U.S. Attorneys Office to get to the bottom of the vote fraud in Dallas. Is that something you have done and intend to do?
Ms. RENO. As I indicated, INS, the U.S. Attorneys Office and main Justice are working together to resolve the disclosure issues. I don't think that there is any intent on the part of INS not to cooperate. I think with respect to the Privacy Act, it is an issue that has to be addressed, and I think it is from all that I have seen responsible on the part of everybody to make sure that it is done right. My understanding is that the U.S. Attorney is involved in this effort.
Mr. SMITH. I hope the INS staff in Dallas and in Washington will take your words to heart because the U.S. Attorney is still saying that he is not getting cooperation from the INS.
Very quickly, have any deportation proceedings been initiated against any of the illegal voters in Dallas or even in California where there were several hundred there, too?
Ms. RENO. I will be happy to check for you.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. The committee will stand in recess for 30 minutes and will resume at 20 minutes to 1.
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[Whereupon, at 12:10 p.m., the committee was recessed, to reconvene at 12:40 p.m.]
Mr. HYDE. The committee will come to order. It is the turn for a Member of the Democrat contingent, so, Mr. Nadler, you are recognized for 10 minutes.
Mr. NADLER. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. Mr. Chairman, first I would like to ask unanimous consent to insert an opening statement in the record.
Mr. HYDE. Without objection, so ordered.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Nadler follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF JERROLD NADLER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Mr. Chairman, it is my understanding that this hearing was called to address a variety of issues under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. The Justice Department has been extremely successful in a number of areas that are of major concern to the American people.
For years, crime has been among the top issues of concern for the American people. Working closely with Congress, the Department of Justice has been extremely active in fighting crime by implementing the Violence Against Women Act, the Brady Law, the Assault Weapons Ban, and many more programs that attempt not only to fight crime, but to prevent it. The Administration's COPS program has awarded grants to increase the number of police on the beat by 57,500more than halfway toward the goal of 100,000 community police officers by the year 2000. I understand that as a result of your efforts the national violent crime rate dropped for the fifth year in a row, marking the longest period of decline in 25 years. Between 1994 and 1995 violent crime dropped 12.4 percentthe largest since the Department's Survey began in 1973.
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I am pleased that the Department has been so active and so successful in bringing crime rates down, and I look forward to working with the Justice Department, and hearing from you, about efforts to further reduce crime, domestic violence, hate crimes, and gun violence, so that Americans can continue to reclaim their communities from drug dealers, gangs, and criminals.
As the Member of Congress who represents the World Trade Center in New York City, I am also deeply concerned about terrorism and the Department's efforts to protect the American people from terrorist attacks. I am interested in hearing about your efforts to investigate terrorist activities, crack down on violent domestic militias, and prevent fund raising by foreign terrorist organizations like Hamas.
I am also interested in how the Department is handling the implementation of the new Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and some of the consequences of that law. Furthermore, I am disturbed by reports from people in my district and in the press, that appear to indicate unfair or unnecessarily harsh treatment of legal immigrants and foreign visitors by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
I hope you will have the chance to address some of these issues here today.
Mr. NADLER. Thank you.
Madam Attorney General, we have been talking today, you stated, I think, that you had 120 people investigating all the various allegations and questions about the fund-raising for the President's campaign last year. In 1994, and again I believe in 1996, it was reported in Roll Call magazine, in Roll Call newspaper and never denied, in fact confirmed that the Republican leaders of the House, Messrs. Gingrich, Armey, DeLay and Paxon, if memory serves, called in the directors of most of the business political action committees in Washington and essentially criticized them for giving too much money to Democrats and not enough money to Republicans and, according to the newspaper reports which again were never denied, stated that you had better change this and if you don't change this, none of the Republican committee chairmen will talk to you, the implication being if you do change this, in other words, if you give sufficient money to Republicans and very little for Democrats, then Republican committee chairmen will talk to you about your legislation, but if you give too much to Democrats and not enough to Republicans, you will be, I think the phrase was, you will be completely shut out. Now, I think this meets the textbook definition of extortion. Is the department investigating this? How many people are on the investigation and if not, why not?
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Ms. RENO. I am not aware of an investigation. I will be happy to check on it for you, sir, and report to you.
Mr. NADLER. Would you agree that if the facts were as stated, this would raise serious legal questions?
Ms. RENO. I would prefer not to make a judgment because it would be done in the context of that matter, and I would rather just review it and see if there is any matter pending in the department.
Mr. NADLER. Thank you. Let me ask you a question on a different subject.
I have a number of questions concerning the Immigration and Naturalization Service. I have been disturbed by reports by people in my district as well as in the press that appear to indicate unfair and in fact downright sadistic treatment of immigrants and foreign visitors by the INS. I want to mention a number of these and ask for your comment and if you know anything about these. Some of these have received press attention.
The first is the case ofand I am going to take a little time on thisof Lulseged Dhine, an Ethiopian Jew who fled Ethiopia in 1991 after his parents and brothers were executed, and he was tortured because of their religious beliefs. He has been detained by the INS for the last 7 years in jail. I have been informed that Mr. Dhine is already suffering from a grave medical condition which requires surgery, recently was even more seriously injured and that he was involved in an accident in which his wheelchair in jail was knocked over and he is now wearing a neck brace and that he is basically immobile. It is my understanding that in his 7 years in prison he has obviously suffered greatly and poses no threat to society whatsoever. It is my understanding that the authorities in Arizona, where he is being held, have concluded that he presents no threat to society, is not a flight risk. They have recommended his release.
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However, since he was originally transferred from New York, and he was transferred from New York in 1994 after officials of the Anti-Defamation League raised questions about his status and wrote to your office, the officials in New York retained jurisdiction. I have written to the New York District Director Edwin McElroy several times over the past several years and have received no response.
Now, I can read from an article that appeared about this in the New York Times as far back as 1994. This was June 11, 1994. It talks about a letter from the longest held detainee at Varick Street, Lulseged Dhine, being read and described as being held for your attention. News coverage of the rally focused on other things but Mr. Dhine's plea, his letter was read; it said that if released I will leave all bitterness behind and will dedicate much of my time to helping INS detainees.
His plea apparently did not go unnoticed because that night at 4:30 in the morning he was awakened and put on a plane to a detention center in Arizona, separating him from his lawyers and supporters. The agency says Mr. Dhine was moved for his own benefit. A spokesman, Charles Troy, said it was ''to accommodate his request for fresh air and outdoor recreation.'' But a well meaning gesturethis is the New York Times op ed piece I am reading from June 11, 1994a well meaning gesture shouldn't require action without warning in the middle of the night. Besides, Mr. Dhine and his lawyer had rejected a move to Arizona the previous month, fearing it would lengthen his incarceration.
Mr. Dhine, a 31-year-old Ethiopian Jew, 31 years old in 1994, entered the U.S. legally as a 15-year-old in 1978 as a conditional entrant refugee. In Ethiopia his parents and brother had been executed, he had been tortured. He had begun using marijuana as a teenager, was convicted a few times of misdemeanor charges of marijuana possession. After he served a short sentence the INS took him into custody, began deportation proceedings, even though an immigration judge had ruled that ''he had shown an ability to rehabilitate his ways.''
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There are virtually no Jews left in Ethiopia as a result of the airlift in 1991 to Israel and thus no community for him to return to. Ethiopia has refused to take him back. Yet the INS persists in running him through its seemingly endless series of hearings and appealsthis is 3 years ago. His lawyer says his research has uncovered no case in which someone with such a well-founded fear of persecution has been deported for misdemeanors.
Mr. Dhine could be making a contribution to society and paying taxes instead of costing taxpayers money while wasting away in confinement. Montgomery Carlin, a lawyer who saw him while visiting clients at Varick Street, was so impressed by his facility with languageshe translated detainees' complaints from the Italian, Spanish, French and Chinesethat he testified that he would give Dhine a job if he were released. He has also been assured of housing by Jewish agencies.
Perhaps it is Mr. Dhine's willingness to help fellow detainees that has prolonged his plight, since he wrote legal appeals forsummarizingfor Federal detainees.
Then it goes on to talk about the terrible conditions at Varick Street. Mr. Baruchthen it goes on to say that he was denied access to the outdoors for 4 years; his windows are sealed, et cetera. He told me, the author of the article, that his prayer shawl and other religious items had been frequently seized. Guards have spat in his food and hurled anti-Semitic taunts, calling him a bloodsucking Jew and a baby seller. The INS has denied none of this but said only that it would look into the charges.
Page 165 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Baruch has petitioned the INS to return Mr. Dhine to New York and grant him a discretionary release. I spoke with Mr. Dhine after he arrived in Arizona. Although he had hardly eaten, they hadn't provided him with kosher food, his spirit wasn't broken. This is 1994. I have written at least 3 letters to the district director. The Anti-Defamation League has written a letter. I have one here dated July 7, 1994 to Doris Meissner.
He is still in detention for no good reason as far as we can tell, because the INS wants to detain him to a place where he will undoubtedly be tortured or executed because of an ancient misdemeanor conviction for marijuana possession which probably 30 or 40 million people in this country have done. Do you know anything about this case or could you
Ms. RENO. No, I don't, but I will check on it, sir, and report back to you.
Mr. NADLER. Let me just say one other thing. I could quote, and I will in my next round of questioning because I see the orange light going on, 5 or 6 cases of people being horribly mistreated because of people misusingthe old adage, if you give some people a little power they terribly misuse it. It seems to me that the INS is an agency out of control, worse perhaps, I hesitate to say because of my friends on the other side of the aisle, but worse perhaps than the IRS. What can you do to exercise some oversight so that sadism at the INS will be curbed?
Ms. RENO. Let me check on any of those cases and get back to you with the responsible comment.
Page 166 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. NADLER. I will give you the other cases a little later. Thank you.
[The information follows:]
Mr. EDWIN J. MCELROY,
|Congress of the United States,|
|House of Representatives,|
|August 6, 1997, Washington, DC.|
NY District Director,
Immigration and Naturalization Service,
New York, NY.
Re: Lulseged Dhine #A29 056 650
DEAR MR. MCELROY: I am writing once again on behalf of Lulseged Dhine (#A29 056 650), an Ethiopian Jew detained by the INS for the last seven years.
I have recently been informed that Mr. Dhine, who is currently suffering from a grave medical condition which requires surgery, has been even more seriously injured. According to reports he was involved in a recent accident in which his wheelchair was knocked over, and is now wearing a neck brace. As a result of these injuries he has become basically immobile. In his seven years of prison, Mr. Dhine has obviously suffered greatly and in his current position poses no threat to society.
Page 167 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is my understanding that the authorities in Arizona have also concluded that Mr. Dhine is rehabilitated, presents no threat to society, and is not a flight risk. They have recommended his release. Inasmuch as New York retains jurisdiction in this case, his release is subject to your recommendation. I urge you to review this case as soon as possible and take the appropriate action.
Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter. I look forward to your response. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of assistance.
|Member of Congress.|
Mr. EDWIN J. MCELROY,
|Congress of the United States,|
|House of Representatives,|
|July 21, 1997, Washington, DC.|
NY District Director,
Immigration and Naturalization Service,
New York, NY.
Re: Lulseged Dhine #A29 056 650
Page 168 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC DEAR MR. MCELROY: I am writing once again on behalf of Lulseged Dhine (#A29 056 650), an Ethiopian Jew detained by the INS for the last seven years.
It is my understanding that Mr. Dhine was moved from the Varick Street facility to one in Florence, Arizona in the summer of 1994. I have been informed that since then the authorities in Arizona have concluded that Mr. Dhine is rehabilitated, presents no threat to society, and is not a flight risk. They have recommended his release. I understand that Mr. Dhine is currently suffering from a grave medical condition which requires surgery. Inasmuch as New York retains jurisdiction in this case., his release is subject to your recommendation. I urge you to review this case as soon as possible and take the appropriate action.
Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter. I look forward to your response. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of assistance.
cc: RoseAnne Sonchick, Phoenix District Director.
|Member of Congress.|
Hon. DORIS M. MEISSNER, Commissioner,
|New York, NY, July 7, 1994.|
Page 169 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCImmigration & Naturalization Service,
DEAR MS. MEISSNER: The Anti-Defamation League is deeply troubled by information we have received regarding the Immigration and Naturalization Service's handling of the case of Lulseged Dhine, an Ethiopian Jewish political asylum applicant. As you are probably aware, Dhine's case was recently the subject of the attached op-ed column in The New York Times.
According to his attorney, Douglas Baruch, Mr. Dhine is a very religious Jew who fled Ethiopia after his parents and brother were executed because of their religion. Mr. Dhine himself was beaten and tortured on account of his religious beliefs before his escape from Ethiopia in the late 1970's.
For the past four years, the United States has apparently been attempting to return Mr. Dhine to Ethiopia. Government attorneys have persisted in this ill-advised effort in spite of the fact that the Immigration Court and the U.S. District have both found Mr. Dhine's story to be credible, and have further ruled that his fear of persecution should he be returned to Ethiopia is well-founded.
In our judgment, the court rulings are absolutely correct. Many Jews who survived persecution at the hands of the Ethiopian Government in the past were evacuated and resettled in Israel with the assistance of the United States Government. The contention by INS attorneys that Jews should no longer fear religious persecution in Ethiopia due to a change in government there fails to consider the implications of sending a Jew back to a country whose Jews have all fled. We are convinced that sending Mr. Dhine back to Ethiopia would place him in considerable jeopardy.
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We are also extremely disturbed by reports that while in the custody of the Immigration & Naturalization Service, Mr. Dhine has been denied access to religious articles and kosher food, and has been the target of anti-Semitic slurs from INS personnel. When his attorney raised these issues, the offending officers were not disciplined. Instead, Mr. Dhine was transferred to a facility in Arizona, far away from his attorney and supporters.
Mr. Dhine's continued detention, and the handling of his case by INS personnel, raise questions which we believe warrant your urgent, personal attention. When the INS, a branch of the Justice Department, contributes to depriving someone of his fundamental rights instead of protecting those rights, it tarnishes not only the Department's reputation, but our nation's as well. We have a right to expect better.
We would appreciate your prompt attention to this matter, and we will look forward to hearing from you.
cc: Hon. Janet Reno.
|Steven M. Freeman, Director,|
|Legal Affairs Department.|
Hon. Gary Ackerman.
Hon. Jerrold Nadler.
Page 171 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Jess N. Hordes, ADL Washington Representative.
INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 62 HERE
July 22, 1994.
Hon. DORIS MEISSNER,
DEAR COMMISSIONER MEISSNER: Last month the INS transferred our friend Lulseged Dhine (A29056650) from its detention center at Varick Street in Manhattan (where he languished, unconscionably, for four years) to the detention facility in Florence, Arizona. This move was made over the objections of Mr. Dhine and his attorney, Douglas Baruch. Though your agency insists that the move was motivated by the INS's wish to grant Mr. Dhine access to outdoor recreation, we believe that the move was a form of retaliation against Mr. Dhine's outspokenness about substandard conditions at Varick Street. The purpose of our letter. however, is not to argue about where Mr. Dhine, is detained, indeed, holding him at all, as far as we're concerned, is an egregious violation of human rights in the name of misplaced measures against drug trafficking. Mr. Dhine has never sold drugs, has never committed any felonious crime, and he certainly presents no danger to society; yet on a draconian and irrational technicality, the INS brands him as an ''aggravated felon'' and therefore ignores all mitigating information and appeals to basic decency. The idea that the United Stateswhich participated actively in airlifting the vast majority of Ethiopia's Jews to safety in Israel would now attempt to return a Jew to Ethiopia boggles mind and morality.
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Of course we have expressed these opinions to you before (and our April 26 letter remains unanswered); moreover, you have received appeals to grant Mr. Dhine discretionary release from hundreds of American citizens. from rabbis, from officials of major Jewish organizations, from leaders of Christian communities. all pointing to promises of housing support from Jewish agencies and employment for Mr. Dhine from private businesses, not to his ability, in Judge Haight's words, ''to rehabilitate his ways.'' Even Representatives of Congress have urged Mr. Dhine's release. Is the INS accountable to none?
All this is well-known to you. We can't imagine, however, that you are aware of the telephone scam the INS has going in its detention centers.
As we are among Mr. Dhine's closest friends in the U.S., he has called us regularly since his summary transfer to Arizona. A few days ago we received our first phone bill since his transfer and were absolutely flabbergasted to learn that a 20-minute collect call (the only kind INS detainees may make) costs more than $37.00 (twice as much as it costs us to talk to family and friends in Tel Aviv!) More astonishing, we have learned that the INS takes in 35 cents on every minute charged by the automated phone company. This is a scandal. It's bad enough that our tax dollars are misspent by the INS; we see no reason why exercising our rights to free speech and association should subsidize the agency further. No doubt the INS chose phone companies whose bids promised the highest return for the INShardly the appropriate criterion for the agency of a government that claims to value due process and human rights.
Even without the INS taking a cut, the phone calls cost nearly three times as much as AT&T would charge for the same service. And this is what is provided for the least protected, and often most impoverished, people in our country. Though such bills are a hardship for us, we at least have been able to accept Mr. Dhine's phone calls and are always happy to hear from him; not all detainees are as fortunate. Some whom one of us met on a recent trip to Florence told her that the high cost of calls prohibits them from phoning their relatives and friends, and even from phoning those who might produce documents necessary for their release. The expense and collect-only system also interferes with the ability of detainees to secure legal counsel, and even to reach bondspersons when bail is an option.
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We urgently request that you look into this costly monopoly and take action to correct it. In the meantime, we believe that the INS should return at least the roughly 35% of our phone bill it has been pocketing. After all, it was the INS that carried Mr. Dhine off to Arizona, preventing us from visiting him at least weekly, we had done when he was at Varick Street. The INS claims that the move was not meant to detach Mr. Dhine from his support network. Perhaps that was not the intention, but it is certainly an effect.
We are eager learn how you will improve phone access for detainees, and we await instructions on how to recover our exorbitant phone expenses.
cc: Attorney General Janet Reno.
|Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark and Alisa Solomon. |
Honorable Alexander Aleinikoff.
INS OIC Phillip Crawford, Florence AZ.
Representative Gary Ackerman.
Representative Jerrold Nadler.
Douglas Baruch, Esq.
Mr. Lulseged Dhine.
Hon. JERROLD NADLER,
Member of Congress,
New York, NY.
DEAR CONGRESSMAN NADLER, Thank you for your letter of June 9. with enclosure from Rabbi Hillel Friedman regarding the case of Mr. Lulseged Dhine (A29 056 650), who was recently transferred from the Varick Street Detention Facility in New York to a facility in Florence, Arizona.
With reference to information concerning Mr. Dhine, an alien from Ethiopia. we hope the following information will assist you. Mr. Dhine was taken into custody as a result of a conviction of a drug related offense. Under current definitions and guidelines of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Mr. Dhine was determined to be an aggravated felon. Mr. Dhine has a history of drug related offenses and convictions. Because of these convictions, Mr. Dhine was subsequently found excludable and deportable from the United States pursuant to Section 212 (a)(23) of the INA, 8 USC 1182 (a)(23) in 1988. In March of 1992, this decision was upheld by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). As a result of the BIA decision, this case was appealed to the Federal District Court in New York under a Writ of Habeas Corpus. The District Court ordered the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to grant Mr. Dhine political asylum and to release him from custody. Appeal on behalf of the INS was made to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and a motion to stay Mr. Dhine's release from custody was granted on June 1, 1993.
On August 26, 1993, the Second Circuit reversed the District Court's decision and held that Mr. Dhine had been properly denied asylum and found excludable. On October 8. 1993. The Second Circuit denied Mr. Dhine's petition for rehearing and for rehearing en banc. The case was remanded back to the District Court in November 1993, for that court to address whether the BIA properly denied Mr. Dhine's application for withholding of deportation This portion of the case was pending before that court for 7 months, until remanded to the BIA on June 27. Mr. Dhine remains in the custody of the INS pursuant to laws and regulations of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1990.
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In addition to his drug related convictions, Mr. Dhine had a history of failing to appear for court on two prior occasions which led us to a reasonable conclusion he may abscond or fail to appear.
Because we believed Mr. Dhine's custody will continue for an indefinite period of time due to his appeal still pending before the BIA, he was moved to a facility located in Florence, Arizona, to better meet his needs while in custody. Mr. Dhine will be afforded an environment which is more suited to long-term custody, as well as his special program needs, including his dietary requirements, and his religious needs.
As you know. Mr. Dhine brought suit, Luseged Dhine v. District Director, over the legality of his transfer to Arizona. On July 5, Judge Charles S. Haight, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, ruled in favor of the Government. We have enclosed a copy of Judge Haight's opinion, which addresses the issues raised by Mr. Dhine in his lawsuit, and by Rabbi Friedman in his letter.
We appreciate your interest In this matter. If we may be of assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to communicate with this office.
FOR THE COMMISSIONER
Hon. JANET RENO,
|Congress of the United States,|
|House of Representatives,|
|Washington, DC, October 15, 1997.|
Attorney General of the United States,
Department of Justice, Washington, DC.
DEAR ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Enclosed please find several articles from The New York Times that I brought to your attention at the hearing today, regarding apparent mistreatment of individuals by the INS.
I urge you to exercise any oversight over the INS to insure that this type of unnecessarily harsh treatment of foreign visitors and legal immigrants does not continue.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
|Member of Congress.|
INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 63 TO 69 HERE
Page 177 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HYDE. Thank you, Mr. Nadler.
Mr. Gallegly of California.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you for calling this hearing today, but I must admit in all candor it is not a pleasure to be here today. Madam Attorney General, you know when you first came on board, in fact well before that, I think that both privately and publicly it is a matter of record that I was one of your greatest supporters and was very encouraged through the nomination process and the subsequent appointment. That relationship, I think, continued to even grow as we got involved in a couple of incidents. In fact, a very unfortunate incident happened down in Florida after a bipartisan trip that I led to a detention center regarding the INS. Subsequent to returning from that trip, we were notified by 50 some members of the staff down there that high level members of the INS had done everything possible to mislead the Members of Congress. They had compromised public safety and public health by releasing criminal aliens, drug smugglers, alien smugglers into the streets, individuals with highly communicable diseases into the public streets of Miami for the sole purpose of deceiving Members of Congress as to the true situation with the detention center at Krome in Miami. You were very quick to respond and asked for an IG investigation. That investigation took the better partwell, it took well over a year, led by Michael Bromwich, whom I believe to be a very capable investigator, costing the taxpayers of this country well over a million dollars in investigative costs. That investigation found clearly and conclusively that many members, high level members, most making well in excess of $100,000 a year, not only had in fact done these terrible acts but further exacerbated the problem by lying. In addition to lying to Congress, they refused to cooperate with the Inspector General and they destroyed documents. They thought they were being cute by, after they had been requested certain documentation, refusing to provide them without a subpoena, and during the course of the time between that request and the actual subpoena being offered, they went in and deleted key information from their E-mail but were not smart enough to purge that information.
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In the final analysis, the Attorney General recommended punishment and to date there has been very little more than a slap on the wrist to most. And even more, the architects of this, Madam Attorney General, were key political appointees that serve at the will of the President and at your will, and based on their performance can be hired and fired at will. Unfortunately, most of these folks are still around, making well over $110,000 a year.
This has at best compromised the very positive working relationship we have had over the years and I trust that maybe we will be able to work with that in the upcoming months. Whether it is a matter that you have just inherited, some high level, arrogant misfitsthat is, I guess, perhaps part of the problem, but it is still nevertheless on your watch.
I would like to shift back now to really more the issues of the day and talk a little bit about some
Ms. RENO. May I comment on that, Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman, I think it might be easier for me to comment if he is going back.
Mr. HYDE. Surely. Does the gentleman object to having it?
Mr. GALLEGLY. If you could make it brief because we have a very limited amount of time.
Ms. RENO. I will wait and answer it at the end, Mr. Chairman.
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Mr. HYDE. It is really important to be fair to witnesses, not to ask a barrage of questions.
Ms. RENO. I will be happy to wait until he is finished and then answer both questions as thoroughly as possible.
Mr. HYDE. Please proceed.
Mr. GALLEGLY. With all due respect, I agree with the chairman and with our Attorney General. Those questions were pretty much rhetorical, I think, in nature, so I think we know the answers. In any event
Ms. RENO. I would like to provide an answer, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. You shall be given every opportunity.
Ms. RENO. Thank you, sir.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Very well. On issues I think more directly relating to today's hearing, Madam Attorney General, I would like to just take a moment and review some of the facts as it relates to the connection with China. Are you aware in June of 1996 that the FBI advised several Members of the House and two United States Senators that China might try to influence them through illegal campaign contributions?
Page 180 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. Congressman, much of that relates to classified information that I don't think should be discussed.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Okay. Madam Attorney General, are you aware of the fact that the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach, California accounts for over 25 percent of the entire import trade from China?
Ms. RENO. No.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Are you aware of the fact that in April of 1996, China's state-owned shipping company, COSCO, the China Ocean Shipping Company, signed a lease for the Port of Long Beach with the active endorsement of President Clinton?
Ms. RENO. I am not aware of the details. I am aware of the general issues.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Are you aware that it is true that the Clinton administration endorsed this deal without seeking any additional national security review?
Ms. RENO. I believe you are getting into a matter now that I should not further comment on since it is part of a pending investigation.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Okay. Are you aware that the lease for the Port of Long Beach was signed only 3 weeks after one of COSCO's ships, the Empress Phoenix, was discovered smuggling Chinese arms in clear violation of the law, including 2,000 AK47 assault weapons?
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Ms. RENO. Mr. Chairman, I don't think I should further comment or address this line of inquiry because I think it is getting into details of an investigation.
Mr. HYDE. The gentlelady can provide that answer by refusing to answer, but I think he is entitled to ask the question.
Mr. GALLEGLY. I respect that. Madam Attorney General, is it true that on February 6, 1996, shortly before the raid of the Empress Phoenix, President Clinton hosted the president of the Chinese company, Polytechnology that produced these weapons at one of the White House coffees?
Ms. RENO. Again, I would not comment.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Has the Justice Department determined how Mr. Huang, an international arms dealer who is employed by the Chinese Communist government, was able to gain access to the White House without the normal security clearance?
Ms. RENO. Again, Congressman, I would not comment except to say that we are pursuing all leads.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Has the Justice Department determined how U.S. policy was changed to allow COSCO to gain access to the most sensitive U.S. ports with one day's notice instead of 4 days' notice shortly after the White House coffee and a $50,000 campaign contribution by Mr. Greene?
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Ms. RENO. Again I would not comment for the reasons I previously stated.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Mr. Chairman, we have a lot of witnesses today. I have some things that I would like to get into regarding Paraguay, but in the interest of time I am just afraid that I would get started on this, all we are going to do is probably have the same responses. I would ask that I might be able to submit some further questions to the Attorney General and any responses that we have would be made a part of the record of this hearing.
Mr. HYDE. Certainly if you wish to correspond with the Attorney General.
Mr. GALLEGLY. There are some specific issues, and the light is on, that I think would be germane to the text of this hearing and I would like to be made a part of the record of the hearing with unanimous consent.
Mr. HYDE. Would the gentleman yield to me whatever few seconds you have?
Mr. GALLEGLY. Yes.
Mr. HYDE. I think the details of investigations shouldn't be compromised. But it just seems to me the questions of whether there really is an investigation, how thorough it is, how rigorous it is, and whether the right people are being interviewed, borders on information we ought to have. I know there is a fine line. But to exclude all responses by saying that is under investigation is a little frustrating to us, although again it is a fine line.
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Ms. WATERS. It is not frustrating to me.
Mr. HYDE. Did somebody say that?
Ms. WATERS. No, you said it is frustrating to us. I said it is not frustrating to me.
Mr. HYDE. The lady is not frustrated.
Mr. GALLEGLY. Mr. Chairman, while the red light is on, if I could just reclaim 10 seconds to thank the Attorney General for appearing here today. I trust that we will have an ongoing dialogue and I hope that before this is all over, we will be able to maybe repair some of those rocky roads.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. FRANK. May I make an inquiry, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman will state the inquiry.
Mr. FRANK. You said earlier the Attorney General could respond.
Mr. HYDE. I think she was just about to.
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Ms. RENO. First of all, thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I understand the situation. If I get into a comment, I have to explain how I may differ in an understanding that gets into the facts of the investigation. And I think it is very difficult to even comment.
I would renew my pledge to you to try to be as open as I can without impairing an investigation. I am sorry, Congressman, that you feel that it has been a rocky road because, as you point out, when I received your letter and when I got your information, we immediately referred the matter to Mr. Bromwich. With no holds barred, he conducted an investigation, which I just heard you compliment and which I think is indicative of what he does.
The matter was then referred to career people in the Department of Justice so that there would be no conflict with INS, and the disciplinary actions were taken. The matter has now been inand I believe you are aware of it, and I think it is something you and I should address in a thoughtful dialoguereferred to the Merit Service Protection Board, over which I have no control and I cannot direct it, but which I have put a lot of effort into these issues.
I will continue to do everything I can to see that the disciplinary actions are carried out, but I think we should look at the whole process, and that might be a fruitful avenue for further discussion, and I would be delighted to come talk to you about it some day when it is appropriate and when I can.
With respect to political appointees who were the architects of this, I don't know to what you refer, but I do know that I think with Mr. Bromwich's action and the disciplinary action taken, it has been important that we move forward now, and I look forward to continuing to work with you, rocky road or not, in every way I possibly can.
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Mr. HYDE. I would ask the distinguished gentleman if he couldn't hold further remarks until the next round.
Mr. GALLEGLY. I would be very happy to hold further remarks and continue the dialogue with the gentlelady at another time.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you.
The gentlelady from Texas, Ms. Jackson Lee.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the chairman very much.
Almost 3 hours into this testimony, I think it is appropriate, first of all, to say good afternoon, Madam Attorney General. We are in the afternoon. We welcome you and thank you for your presence here.
I argued vigorously for the opportunity for an opening statement because I believe that would have set appropriately the parameters. But inasmuch as we did not have individual opportunities for an oral statement, let me try to focus on the concept of this hearing. It is an oversight hearing with responsibilities of the House Judiciary Committee, and I truly believe it has a responsibility to the American people.
That is that as we proceed here doing the business in Washington, that they understand that this is government working and that they view this as a democratic process of government working.
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Though I know there are many issues that we have discussed as it relates to the independent counsel, let me see if I can recap some of the points you made in your opening statement. First of all, you acknowledged, as the Attorney General for this administration, that you have at least appointed an independent counsel two times; is that correct?
Ms. RENO. More than two times.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. You indicated more than two times.
Ms. RENO. Let me just clarify one point. I don't appoint them. I have appointed one special counsel before the independent counsel statute was passed again.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. You recommended there is a process. That is correct; I thank you for that correction. You also, I think, made it very clear that your concern is to do the right thing, that you are looking at the law, you are looking at the evidence, and you are looking at the independent counsel statute. Is that capturing what you offered to say to us?
Ms. RENO. Yes.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. With that in mind, then, I think it is appropriate for us toor for me to pursue where I think we are going.
Page 187 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me just say as an aside, I do appreciate the staff that I have had the opportunity to work with at the United States Department of Justice. Many I have disagreed with, but many have responded quickly, and we have been able to solve some problems. And I particularly am gratified for your deputy attorney general Eric Holder. We had a very extensive conversation on some issues that I was concerned with; and also your Tax Division counsel, Ms. Argrett; and I know there are many others. I am looking forward to working with the new assistant attorney general for civil rights, and I will get to those in questioning.
But I do think it is important we focus on where this hearing called by the Majority is going. Frankly, I believe that we are attempting today to get the Republicans Watergate. For some reason or another, they are not satisfied with the process moving as it should, and maybe that is where this hearing might be going. I would offer to believe that it is extremely important that we understand some of the variables that are before us.
The Pendleton statute, or law, has to doand I am paraphrasingas I understand, with a government official soliciting on government property. Is that the simplicity of the basis of that law?
Ms. RENO. That is correct.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. The independent counsel statute sort of requires a two-prong: As I understand it, there is a threshold inquiry that is made by you, and then there is a determination to go furtherand I am going to drop off, and I know there are some other pointsfor a 90-day. Is that my understanding of how that proceeds, Madam Attorney General?
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Ms. RENO. The first official threshold in which formal action has to be taken is the instigation of the 90-day preliminary investigation. When I receive information that a covered person may have violated the law, I have 30 days to trigger that or not to trigger that, pursuant to 592.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Excellent. And I view that sort of as a two-prong, but it doesn't have to be 30 days. My understanding is that you have triggered the preliminary investigation for the President of the United States and for the Vice President. Is that my understanding?
Ms. RENO. That is correct.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. So in actuality, you are in the midst of following through under the laws required by you of the independent counsel statute.
Ms. RENO. That is correct.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me, as I said, go back to where I started. The 1995 Encyclopedia Americana indicated that the Watergate affair has been described as the worst political scandal in U.S. history. It led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon after he became implicated in an attempt to cover up the scandal. Narrowly, the Watergate affair referred to the break-in and electronic bugging in 1972 of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate apartment and office building complex in Washington, D.C. Broadly, the term was also applied to several related scandals. More than 30 Nixon administration officials, campaign officials, and financial contributors pleaded guilty or were found guilty of breaking the law.
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To this date, how many of the officials of this administration have either pleaded guilty or been found guilty, to your knowledge?
Ms. RENO. You mean with respect to this ongoing investigation?
Ms. JACKSON LEE. With respect to the overall concerns of government in this administration, so you can reach beyond what we seem to be focused on today.
Ms. RENO. So just in the 4 and a half years I have been Attorney General?
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Yes, that is correct; I'm sorry; that is correct.
Ms. RENO. I can't recall any. Webb Hubbell, but he, at that point, was not an official. But Webb Hubbell would be, I think, the only one.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. That is clear enough. What you are suggesting is, he had served but he was not at that time.
But you have only cited one.
Let me also bring to the attention of this committee some distinctions, since we are getting into some inquiring of the facts. ''Dean Firm on Nixon cover-up knowledge.'' That is in the Washington Post, June 30, 1973: ''Senate renews hearing today, Dean on stand.'' New York Times, June 25, 1973: ''Ex counsel will testify publicly on President's role in Watergate.'' None of these factors have yet been determined. The Watergate hearings determined that.
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The Senate investigation, proceeding under another body, has not had one individual come forward and suggest wrongdoing on the part of the President of the United States.
Let me quickly move to two other points, and then I would like to continue my queries. The President is being investigated for phone calls. I am reminded as a parent that you don't tell your children in disciplining them, or you don't respond to them, saying someone else did it. You try to set the guidelines and the rules for your household or your direction.
But let us be reminded. A tape in the Reagan library shows then President Reagan calling a fund-raising event from the White House and asking the assembled donors for support. Newsweek has reported that Senator D'Amato, while acting as chairman of the national Republican and Senatorial Campaign Committee, brought some 2 dozen lobbyists to a phone bank in the Senate room and had them all call contributors to raise money for the national Republican Senate campaign, October 2nd, 1995, it was reported.
Without inquiring into the investigation that is now under way, I assume there are some 120 lawyersI understandor more, involved in this. You are not yet at a point to answer any of the questions. If I was to say precisely what the President did and how it violated the law, you are still in an investigatory process; is that my understanding?
Ms. RENO. That is correct.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Would it be premature at this time for you even to say, I know I will implement the process of getting an independent counsel appointed, even though you don't appoint them? Would it be premature?
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Ms. RENO. That would be premature. And let me hasten to point out once more, you made reference to 120 lawyers. What I have said is, the task force is composed of 120 lawyers, agents, and other staff.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me move, very quickly, to some of the facts that we may have forgotten on Watergate.
October 21, 1973, in the Washington Post: In the most traumatic government upheaval of the Watergate crisis, President Nixon yesterday discharged special prosecutor Archibald Coxthis preceded the independent counseland accepted the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus. It was a dispute as to whether he was discharged or fired. Richardson resigned allegedly when Mr. Nixon instructed him to fire Cox and Richardson refused. When the President then asked Ruckelshaus to dismiss Cox, he refused. In a closing statement, that Cox indicated as he leftthis is after FBI agents seized the offices of Ruckelshaus and Richardson and Cox under the auspices of the President of the United States
Mr. HYDE. The gentlelady's
Ms. JACKSON LEE. If the chairman will allow me to read this final sentenceand I know I will be able to conclude in my second roundI would appreciate the indulgence to get this in the record.
Cox said: Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws, not of men, is now for Congress and ultimately the American people.
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I would commend that to this committee, because we are in the process of seeing the laws unfolded and we should let them do that without intimidation and threats.
I thank the chairman for his kindness.
Mr. HYDE. The gentlelady's time has expired.
The gentleman from Florida, Mr. Canady.
And if you are going to talk about past experiences, rather than dwell on the Attorney General's Department of Justice, stop at Teapot Dome, would you. Don't go too far back.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CANADY. I will try, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madam Attorney General, we appreciate you being here today. I want to begin by reading you a passage from our September 3rd letter to you. [The letter is set out above.] The passage is as follows:
On August 19, 1997, the NBC Nightly News broadcast an interview with Mr. Johnny Chung in which he alleged that in October 1995, he sought a meeting with Hazel O'Leary, then the Secretary of Energy, on behalf of Chinese businessmen. Mr. Chung first attempted to arrange the meeting through the Democratic National Committee. He donated more than $360,000 to the DNC from 1994 to 1996. His attempts to the DNC did not succeed, but he did get a letter from DNC Chairman Don Fowler to Ms. O'Leary urging her to see the Chinese. It also led to his introduction of a lobbyist and an aide to Ms. O'Leary. From the aide he received instructionsthat is, the aide to Ms. O'Learyhe received instructions that he could get the meeting if he made a $25,000 contribution to an Africare dinner the next night. Ms. O'Leary served as national honorary chair of the dinner, and she supported the group. Mr. Chung made the donation the next day. Mr. Chung also asked for an invitation letter signed by Ms. O'Leary which he received. However, when the Energy Department arrived to pick up the donation check, he asked for the letter back because the Department lawyer determined the letter was not legal. Ms. O'Leary met with the Chinese businessman that afternoon.
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Now, Madam Attorney General, in that case, you have begun a preliminary investigation under the independent counsel statute; is that correct?
Ms. RENO. Yes, sir.
Mr. CANADY. Now let me read you another passage from the same letter which we sent to you. In March
Ms. RENO. Which page are you on?
Mr. CANADY. Bear with me. I can't give you the page reference.
Mr. HYDE. You are reading from the letter.
Mr. CANADY. Yes. This is a letter which I am sure you are familiar with. March of 1995, Johnny Chung, a Democratic National Committee trustee and a businessman from Torrance, California, brought six officials of the Government of the People's Republic of China, of state-owned companies, including chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International TradeI am informed it is on page 5 of the letterand president of China Petrochemical Corporation, to hear the President give his regular Saturday radio address.
The letter then refers to various press accounts. Early on, Presidential Spokesman Mike McCurry said the White House was mystified as to how officials got into the White House, and he admitted that the National Security Council concluded that they should not have been at the event. President Clinton personally expressed his concern that he wasn't sure we would want photos of him with these people circulating around.
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The letter goes on: A recent interview with Mr. Chung reveals how the officials were admitted. On March 8, 1995, he came to the First Lady's Office in the White House seeking various favors for the officials, including admission to the radio address. Aides to Mrs. Clinton, Margaret Williams and Evan Ryan, suggested that Mr. Chung could get the favors if he helped Mrs. Clinton with her debts to the DNC for holiday parties. The next day he, Mr. Chung, gave Ms. Williams a check for $50,000 and received a lunch in the White House mess, a picture with Mrs. Clinton, and admission to the radio address for himself and the officials. Records indicate that on Friday, March 17, 1995, Mr. Chung donated $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee and on April 12, 1995, he donated an additional $125,000. In commenting on the solicitation in the White House by the First Lady's aides, Mr. Chung saidand I quote Mr. Chung hereI see the White House is like a subway; you have to put in coins to open the gates.
That is the end of the quotation from Mr. Chung and the end of the quotation from our letter.
Now, it is correct, isn't it, Madam Attorney General, that with respect to these facts, or these allegations, you have not begun a preliminary investigation? Is that correct?
Ms. RENO. That is correct.
Mr. CANADY. And in justifying your decision not to initiate the preliminary investigation, you concluded that the President selling access would not support a charge of bribery or would not support any other charge of a violation of the criminal laws; is that correct?
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Ms. RENO. What we concluded was that involving mere access would not provide a basis.
Mr. CANADY. Well, Madam Attorney General, I am having a difficult time understanding the difference between the facts with respect to access that Mr. Chung sought to Ms. O'Leary and the access he sought to the President.
In the case of Ms. O'Leary, you have concluded that the granting of access in exchangeor I believe you have concluded that the granting of access in exchange for the $25,000 contribution to this Africare organization did raise a question of a violation of the law, which required you to move forward with the preliminary investigation. Now isn't that correct?
Ms. RENO. The notification to the Court speaks for itself and points out that we have not been able to determine whether it is specific and credible and that the 90-day trigger should then be imposed.
Mr. CANADY. The issue here is not whether you have been able to verify that all these facts are accurate. There is an underlying legal issue here of whether giving access in exchange for the payment of money to someone is a violation or potential violation of the Federal criminal law.
Now in your letter to us in response to our letter, you said it would be inappropriate to commence a criminal investigation every time an elected official took an action that benefited any contributor in the absence of actual evidence that there may have been a quid pro quo.
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You go on to say: Moreover, several of the transactions to which you refer based on available information involve mere access to the President or the White House purportedly obtained by virtue of political donations.
You then go on to say: To the extent that the allegations you have set out suggest simply a decision by an elected politician to provide access to political contributors, we conclude that no Federal violation is suggested.
Well, it seems to me the issue of whether there is a quid pro quo is a central issue here.
Now is it your view, for instance, if a Member of Congress told someone seeking an appointment with the Member of Congress in his office in the Capitol that he would be happy to see him but he would need to make a contribution to that Member of Congress's political party, do you think that would not be a violation of the Federal criminal law?
Ms. RENO. I would have to look at the specifics. One of the things I don't do
Mr. CANADY. Well , accept this hypothetical
Ms. RENO. It is very difficult to do ''what ifs.''
Mr. CANADY. Well, what is the difference between these two situations?
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Ms. RENO. Which two?
Mr. CANADY. Involving Mr. Chung at the White House and Mr. Chung at the Department of Energy.
Ms. RENO. In one instance you are addressing campaign contributions, and in another instance you are addressing another type of contribution. I cannot comment on the pending preliminary investigation to distinguish for you the situation.
Mr. CANADY. Okay. You are making a distinction here between campaign contributions which one can solicit for access and other types of contributions which one cannot solicit as an exchange for access.
Ms. RENO. What I am trying to do is give you as much information as I can, but I cannot comment on the pending details of the preliminary investigation to give you the specifics which you seek.
Mr. CANADY. Well, let me refer you to your notification of preliminary investigation which was filed with the United States Circuit Court of Appeals. In that letter, you say Johnny Chung alleged in a television interview that he had been solicited for a bribe in exchange for a meeting with the former Secretary. That is in the notice that you filed with the Court. That seems to be central to why you have initiated the preliminary investigation. Is that not correct?
Page 198 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. The notification speaks for itself.
Mr. CANADY. Have you changed your mind about the law since this notification was filed?
Ms. RENO. No.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentlelady from California, Ms. Waters.
Ms. WATERS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
First, I would like to thank Attorney General Janet Reno for the tremendous service she has provided for this Nation as Attorney General. I would like to say to her in a way that I have never said before that when she came to this job, she came as a breath of fresh air, and I remember all that she said about her vision for the job. I read about her background and her interest in youth. She came out to California in my area, met with young people, and she has done a remarkable job. I would like to remind her that she is kind of an aberration.
You don't fit the model of the back-slapping, party-going, cocktail-sipping, ''I want to be in with everybody'' person in Washington, D.C. You have profound credibility, and people don't know how to take you. When anybody questions your credibility, really, in my estimation, what they are saying is, I can't intimidate you, I can't lure you, I can't get you to do what other people do who have positions like yours.
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So you should be very proud of that. I think the American people know the difference. And no matter what kind of hat anybody on this committee will try and place on you, trying to say that you are not doing your job, that you are covering up, alluding to any attempts to impeach you, it won't fit. It won't work with the American people because of the way you have handled yourself.
You are a woman of impeccable integrity, and I think the American people are proud of you, and I know for sure, the women of this Nation are very proud of you. And I just want to say that in a very public way. And you know I have disagreed with you from time to time, and I know a lot of people have disagreed with you, and I know that you are a very straightforward, no-nonsense woman. And because you are the way you are, a lot of people are not going to like you, including some people you work with in the administration. So I want to put that on the record.
Having said that, I am going to attempt to stay out of your investigations. You have said over and over today what your responsibility is and what you are doing, and it would appear to be nonsensical on my part, and anybody else, in my estimation, who will keep delving into the areas you have defined so clearly as areas that you can't talk about. And when we do that, I think the American people understand what we are doing and the politics that we are playing and the fact that we are really not trying to get at any answers.
I thought it would be interesting to do a little bit of education for the American public as it relates to the Pendleton Act and all of the discussion about the use of telephones or Federal property in soliciting campaign contributions.
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As I understand itand I would like you to clarify this for me if you would like toas I understand it, this kind ofthis law was designed to keep public employees from being shaken down by their bosses, that when the law was originated, it specifically was put into that portion of the U.S. Code that deals with Federal employees, and it is really trying to protect employees, and particularly those who would feel overpowered perhaps by a supervisor, people in high positions, from being shaken down.
Is that your understanding of the basis of this law?
Ms. RENO. That was the original basis. But at this point, we are currently considering 607 and its application, and that is what this period of preliminary investigation is in part involved in, and so I don't think it is timely for me at this point to discuss all of it.
Ms. WATERS. All right. Then let me just startleave that and go to some quid pro quos.
I have heard a great deal of insinuation about favors for Democratic donors, so-called quid pro quos, although the only concrete example offered by the Republicans, Mr. Roger Tamraz, seems to involve a donor who absolutely did not get what he wanted from the Clinton administration despite giving fairly enormous donations.
Let me call everybody's attention to specific and credible evidence that Republican officeholders have on numerous occasions intervened in government policy in a way that benefited Republican contributors. I am not saying that any of these examples constituted a quid pro quo, and indeed I have no evidence that such is the case, but neither, of course, is there any such evidence in the Clinton administration examples.
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In September of 1994, after meeting with the lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company called Direct Access, Newt Gingrich wrote to the White House Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta, seeking to pressure the FDA to approve a drug manufactured by Direct Access. One week later, the president of Direct Access contributed $5,000 to a political account controlled by Gingrich. Over the subsequent few months, both Direct Access and its parent company, Johnson and Johnson, contributed over $30,000 to the same account.
In April of 1994, the Georgia Power Company made a $7,500 contribution to a Gingrich account. Ten days later, Gingrich wrote to the SEC on behalf of Georgia Power's parents company.
During 1988, Occidental Petroleum donated $100,000 to the Republican Party. In February of 1989, the Bush Department of Energy settled a case against Occidental in which the DOE had originally asked for a $710 million fine for $150 million.
If you appoint an independent counsel on the basis solely of evidence showing that a Democratic donor benefited from one or another policy decision by the Clinton administration, I guess the question isand you don't have to answer thiswill you also seek an independent counsel to investigate the episodes I have recorded?
I mentioned these because this is what you have been trying to tell us all morning, that a contribution that does not necessarily mean you have been bribed or you gave access in some way, that has violated the law.
Page 202 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There are millions of examples. This is what happens in this political body day in and day out. Contributions are made to Democrats and Republicans. Democrats and Republicans do their jobs, some contributors may benefit, but to say that every contribution somehow is a purchase of policy is an absolute outrage, and I think both Membersall Members on both sides of the aisle know that.
Let us look at contributor access. Republicans who are calling for a special counsel have repeatedly claimed that the Clinton administration improperly traded something called access for contributions.
I think we can stipulate that members of the Democratic Party and particular members who were seeking election to office in 1996and that includes President Clintonattended numerous fund-raising events attended primarily, if not exclusively, by people who donated money to the party or its candidates. We can also stipulate that many of these events included refreshments, whether it be dinner, coffee, or what-have-you. I am fairly certain that many Republican candidates have engaged in similar practices.
In particular, there is specific credible evidence that the following events took place: The Republican Party held a fund-raising breakfast on May 13, 1997, for $250,000 contributors. The invitation promised that Senate Majority Leader Lott and House Speaker Gingrich would attend, pose for photos with the donors, and discuss the donors' opinions of our party's issues and strategies for the 105th Congress. That was reported in the New York Times, April 17, 1997.
Look at November 1996: The Republican congressional leadership hosted a luncheon for $250,000 donors. The invitation stated that the lunch would provide, quote, the best access to Congress, quote/unquote, New York Times, January 27, 1997. In February of this year, the RNC held a 3-day winter meeting for team 100 members. Those are people who have donated at least $100,000
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Mr. HYDE. The gentlelady's time has expired.
Ms. WATERS. Well, I think that is enough. You get the picture.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Waters follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF MAXINE WATERS, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. Chairman, I am deeply troubled by today's hearing. It is an outrageous abuse of the proper and important oversight role of this Committee. While the stated purpose of today's hearing may be to discuss the work of the Department of Justice in the administration and execution of federal lawswe all know what is really going on here today.
The television cameras and reporters jammed into this room know that the real purpose of today's hearing is to take partisan cheap shots at the Attorney General, and score points back home as a prelude to next year's congressional elections.
What today's hearing is not about is getting to the bottom of the allegations of improprieties and illegalities in campaign fundraising. Very few will deny that big money is corrupting the electoral system. Both parties are locked in an insatiable drive to get corporate money to finance the next campaign. This cannot continue. These laws need to be changed.
Page 204 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But, this hearing won't address reforming the campaign financing laws. The House Republican leadership has continually stonewalled efforts to bring campaign finance reform before this body while they enlist the support of special interest groups like the National Rifle Association and the Christian Coalition to fight these reforms.
Nor will this hearing conduct a serious review of the work of the Justice Department.
What this hearing really will achieve is to slow down the investigation and distract attention from the real and serious issues at hand, by forcing members and staff of this Committee and the Justice Department to prepare for a volley of partisan attacks against the Attorney General.
I want to thank the Attorney General of this United States, Janet Reno, for appearing before us today. As we go through this hearing I encourage my Colleagues to treat her with the respect and honor that she deserves as this nation's chief enforcer of our laws.
I want to say that I find the manner in which the Attorney General has been treated to be particularly disturbing. Comments by the Speaker of the House referring to her as a ''nice lady'' and saying that she ''looks like a fool'' for her failure to appoint an independent counselare particularly disrespectful.
Janet Reno's accomplishments as the State Attorney of Florida prepared her particularly well for the work she has done in serving our country over the past four years.
Page 205 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC From the outset of her tenure as the Attorney General she has outlined a truly bipartisan law enforcement agenda that includes ''making our streets safer, eliminating the scourge of drugs, reducing youth violence, strengthening our borders against illegal immigration, protecting our environment, ensuring civil rights, combating violence against women and assuring equal justice for all.''
Attorney General Reno also has made significant progress in advancing an agenda to combat domestic and international terrorism, to enforce civil rights laws and to implement a new approach to increase public safety that combines purpose and compassion.
With the Anti-Violent Crime initiative that creates partnerships between law enforcement agencies, the Attorney General established relationship between the state and local law enforcement and communities that we have not seen before. She also significantly increased the number of community police officers. These are important and positive approaches to violent crime reduction and she should be commended for them.
What frustrates meand I imagine must frustrate the Attorney General even moreis that she has been hampered in her efforts to do the work of the Justice Department, by continued partisan efforts to undermine both her and the Administration.
Allegations of illegal activities on the part of the President and Vice-President are serious and must be fully and vigorously investigated. And that is exactly what she and her department have been doing. 120 career professionals, under the direction of the Attorney General, are investigating the allegations in the current fundraising matters. The Attorney General has started preliminary 90 day investigations into allegations dealing with former Secretary Hazel O'Leary, and Vice-President Gore, and as of yesterday, the President of the United States.
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As is stipulated in the Independent Counsel statute, she has displayed her rigorous approach by initiating a preliminary investigation into the allegations surrounding telephone solicitations because she ''was not able to resolve the complex factual and legal issues presented by th[e] matter and therefore was unable to determine whether the information available . . . was sufficiently specific and credible as to warrant further investigation,'' as required by the statute.
In other words, for all those non-lawyers among us, she didn't cave under political pressure. She initiated the next phase of the Independent Counsel process because her investigation was not yet completed and making a decision on this matter would be premature.
As she has consistently demonstrated to the American people, she will abide with both the spirit and the letter of the law. Janet Reno determined she had not completed a thorough and complete review of the facts and couldn't say one way or another whether the information was sufficiently specific and credible.
There is no question in my mind that a thorough investigation will be done. When the Attorney General has completed her work, the American people will know the answers to the serious questions facing us in these matters. Janet Reno has never flinched from making the tough decisionseven when it subjected her to intense criticism and second-guessing. She has appointed an Independent Council four times.
It appears that some Members are playing upon this country's real and understandable frustrations with the political system for their narrow political advantage. This is unacceptable.
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So, today I challenge myself and my other colleagues to this hearing with the integrity and dignity that goes with our role as lawmakers and public policy makers. Let us not cheapen ourselves before the American publicthe American people will not and should not accept anything less.
Mr. HYDE. Don't answer that question, Madam Attorney General, whatever it was.
Ms. WATERS. Whatever.
Mr. HYDE. The distinguished gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Goodlatte.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Reno, welcome. We are pleased to have you here today.
I don't want to talk to you about access in exchange for contributions, although I am very concerned about that and I think it should be pursued with great diligence by you and your Department, but I want to talk about something I consider far more serious, and that is changes in official Presidential policy in exchange for contributions.
The Boston Globe ran a story on January 16 of this year entitled, ''Clinton policy shift followed Asian-American fund-raiser.'' [The Boston Globe story is attached to Chairman Hyde's December 16, 1997 letter which is reprinted in the appendix.] The story highlights some of the facts surrounding the administration's last-minute immigration policy switch in 1996 when Congress was considering reforms to our legal immigration system. Let me quote a few excerpts from the story.
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''President Clinton made a last-minute about-face last year on his immigration policy, a reversal that brought the White House in line with the top priority of Asian-Americans who had paid $12,500 each a month earlier to attend a fund-raising dinner with Clinton that generated $1.1 million. Clinton made his reversal after the Democratic National Committee Vice-Chairman John Huang waged an intensive effort to influence Clinton's immigration policy. Huang, for example, sent Clinton a strongly worded memo that said contributors at the February 19 dinner were alarmed about Clinton's position on a provision that could have blocked a million Asian siblings of U.S. citizens from immigrating to the United States. The dinner, held at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, set a record as the most successful Asian-American political fund-raiser in U.S. history. Huang, who hosted the event, is now the center of allegations that Democrats raised money illegally from foreign sources. Clinton changed his view on immigration policy in a way that addressed what Huang's memo to Clinton called the, quote, top priority, end quote, of Asian-Americans, allowing foreign-born brothers and sisters of naturalized American citizens to immigrate to the United States. Clinton had previously opposed this sibling preference based on the recommendation of a commission the Chairwoman of which he appointed.''
That commission, as you, I know, are well aware, was referred to as the Jordan commission, named after its chairwoman, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, a very, very respected former member of this committee and whose commission recommended the elimination of that particular category under the immigration law.
''White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis acknowledged that Clinton changed course over a 7-day period last March within a month of the fund-raising dinner. A memo to the President from Huang said that the immigration issue was the key to drive political involvement among Asian-Americans and gave Clinton a, quote, heads up that the top priority'' of Asian Americans was to oppose the House legislation because of its detrimental effect on the Asian Pacific American community.
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On March 20, Clinton administration officials signaled that Clinton had reversed himself. As result, on the following day the congressional effort to eliminate the sibling preference fell apart and a House bill was passed that retained it. Clinton signed the final version into law on September 30. The immigration issue offers a new insight into the drive at the DNC and the White House to try to solicit millions of dollars from Asian Americans during the 1996 campaign.''
I am continuing to quote from Boston Globe. ''While contributions from a handful of wealthy businessmen with foreign interests have drawn much attention, much of the Asian-American money raised by Huang came from people who are largely concerned about immigration.''
Madam Attorney General, the best authority for determining whether a bribery charge has been committed is title 18 of the United States Code, section 201, the bribery statute; is that not correct?
Ms. RENO. I don't know the number off the top of my head.
Mr. GOODLATTE. But the bribery statute would be the primary place you would go to determine whether or not political policy was sold for campaign contributions, would it not?
Ms. RENO. I would go first to the evidence and then to the law.
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Mr. GOODLATTE. And section 201 states that, quote, whoever gives or offers anything of value to any public official with intent to influence any official act shall receive a fine and up to 15 years in prison, and the public official receiving the bribe shall receive a fine of up to 15 years in prison.
Is that a correct reading of that particular statute?
Ms. RENO. I don't have it before me, sir. It sounds correct.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you.
The term ''official act'' is defined as follows: Quote, any decision or action on any question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding, or controversy which may at any time be pending or which may by law be brought before any public official in such official's capacity or in such official's place of trust or profit.
Is that your correct understanding of what it means for something to qualify as an official act?
Ms. RENO. I do not have it before me, so I can't verify the exact language.
Mr. GOODLATTE. I wonder if we can make that available to her.
Page 211 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Assuming that is a correct reading of the statute, it would follow that if there is a switch in official White House policy position in exchange for campaign contributions, it would fall under the definition of an official act set forth in the bribery statute. Would you agree with that?
Ms. RENO. I don't know, sir. I would have to look at the evidence.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Let me ask you this. As part of the extensive investigation by your Department and the 120 attorneys and other employees of the Department, have you looked at that particular issue with regard to whether or not this very substantial $1.1 million in campaign contributions were related to a sudden and subsequent switch in the President's policy?
Ms. RENO. We have received no specific and credible evidence of a quid pro quo, but we are continuing to pursue all allegations, and if in the course of the pursuit of those allegations we come up with evidence that would indicate a quid pro quo, we would trigger the independent counsel statute.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Have you come up with any reasonable alternative reasons why the President would back away from the Jordan Commission recommendation and make that switch in that short of a time span after receiving that large contribution, other than for that reason?
Ms. RENO. I would not comment on the pending investigation. Again, that would relate to steps we were taking with respect to the whole investigation.
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Mr. GOODLATTE. As the Attorney General, and being responsible for the implementation of immigration policy, since the Immigration and Naturalization Service is under the jurisdiction of your Department, do you have any personal insight into the reason why that switch took place?
Ms. RENO. I would not comment on the pending investigation, sir.
Mr. HYDE. Would the gentleman yield to me for a second?
Mr. GOODLATTE. I would, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. Would you ask the Attorney General if that answer, ''I would not comment on the pending investigation,'' means there is an investigation, or is it noncommittal in that regard?
Mr. GOODLATTE. Well, I would ask that question, Madam Attorney General.
Ms. RENO. What I have suggested to you, Mr. Chairmanand I would like to address it, since you asked the questionis I am trying to take every transaction. It is almost as if everybody focuses on, well, why haven't you triggered the independent counsel statute?
Page 213 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC When a transaction is raised, I try to pursue the transaction. For example, if I saw a house burned, church burnings, we look, it appears to bewe don't know whether it is an arson or not an arson. We make a determination that it is an arson. We check to see who is responsible for it, and we are going to pursue each lead, and we are in the process of doing that.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, if I might reclaim my time, I would like to ask this point, and I think this gets to the very crux of why I signed the letter, along with the chairman, dated September 3rd, asking you to appoint an independent counsel.
Ms. RENO. Let me remind you, sir, I cannot appoint the independent counsel.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Well, I understand thatinitiate the process asking the Court to appoint an independent counsel. And that is this. If you cannot answer the question regarding your own insight into what caused this policy change, as the Attorney General responsible for the implementation of the immigration laws of this country, how is it that you can separate yourself from this investigation and not step aside and appoint or request the implementation of the procedure to appoint an independent counsel when you yourself are involved in this very issue, if you can't answer the question that I just asked you?
Ms. RENO. I don't understand your question. If your question is, do
Mr. GOODLATTE. My question is, can you tell me, as Attorney General, regarding the change in immigration policyand considering the fact that the implementation of the immigration laws are under your jurisdictionwhy you cannot tell me why that change took place?
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If you say you can't do so because you are in the process of investigation, it would seem to me you are saying you are investigating yourself if you can't tell me the answer to that question.
Ms. RENO. Your original question to me was concerning whether this was a bribe.
Mr. GOODLATTE. I want to know what insight you have into that change in policy since, as Attorney General, I presume you have been consulted on that change in policy.
Ms. RENO. And what I am responding to you is that we are pursuing this allegation. I do not believe I have a conflict, and I cannot discuss the details with respect to the investigation.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Madam Attorney General, that gives me great concern.
And I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. RENO. I understand, sir, that you have great concern, and I would like very much to be able to sit down with you and go over the whole detail so you understand. But suffice it to say, in this instance we find, at this point, no specific and credible information that indicates that there was a quid pro quo and that a covered person may have violated the law.
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Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Delahunt.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I want to associate myself, Madam Attorney General, with the sentiments expressed by Ms. Waters. Your integrity is unimpeachable, no pun intended. I have known you or of you for some years as both our careers, on occasion, would intertwine as States' prosecutors. You have a reputation as a consummate professional, and I have absolutely no concern with the way that you are proceeding in terms of this particular investigation.
I sense a great sense of frustration, however, and I think maybe this is the time to educate the American people in some respects as to why you are unable to reveal the details in the evidence, in the information, that you have already secured.
You made a reference to the fact that you didn't want to tip your hand, and maybe you could expand on that. I presume that in every single investigation that has ever been initiated, it just is common sense not to reveal the details of an ongoing investigation, in the event that at some point in time there might be a potential subject of that investigation. And I would entertain your comment on that.
You also made reference to the fact that you are bound by the grand jury statute. You indicated that there is an ongoing grand jury proceeding. Obviously a vast amount of material.
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But even beyond that, even beyond that, there is something that I remember from when I was a prosecutor about a canon of ethics, whereby prosecutors were proscribed by court rule from discussing ongoing investigations and that there were sanctions, both personal in naturecensure, for example, disbarment if it was egregiousand with respect to the investigation itself, in the event that there were ever an indictment, and if there were ever a prosecution resulting from an investigation, that that prosecution could very well be jeopardized, could very well be the subject of a motion by defense counsel seeking dismissal because of prosecutorial misconduct.
I just would ask you to respond to those observations that I justI understand your frustration, and I share your frustration, and I know you are working on this, but maybe you can expand and give us your perspective on my observation.
Ms. RENO. Well, first, I wish I had the actual documents here, both the Justice Department documents and statutes relating to the grand jury.
Mr. DELAHUNT. If I may interrupt, I happen toI have just been handed the U.S. Attorneys Manual provision on commenting on investigations. I presume this has been in existence for a considerable period of time. Let me just read the general policy:
''Components and personnel of the Department shall not respond to questions about the existence of an ongoing investigation or comment on its nature or progress, including such things as the issuance or serving of a subpoena, prior to the public filing of the document.''
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That is your own policy.
Ms. RENO. That is my own policy, and, as you note in terms of this investigation, which has had such scrutiny, we have addressed some of these issues. But to get into the details, to get into the facts, investigations should be conducted the right way. If charges result, the case should be tried in court, not in the headlines. If a person is convicted, they should be convicted in court, not in the headlines. And if they are convicted, they should have a conviction that stands up on appeal, one that is put together in a professional way by professionals who are focused on seeking justice.
Mr. DELAHUNT. A solid professional prosecutor will not try a case in the newspapers or in the media. Is that a fair statement?
Ms. RENO. I think that is a fair statement.
Mr. DELAHUNT. That is a fair statement.
But, again, let me go back to my last observation about extrajudicial statements occurring during the course of an investigation. I mean, is it a fair statement to say that if you or a member of the Department of Justice should freely disseminate information about an ongoing investigation, and we hear today that 500 subpoenas have been issued, 120 members of your Department are working on this task forceif that information should be disseminated, then any potential prosecution could very well be jeopardized. Is that a fair statement?
Page 218 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. That is a very fair statement, Congressman.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Thank you.
You know, I also sense a lot of impatience, and I think it was Ms. Jackson Lee who indicated the statute does outline a time schedule, and from what I hear todayand maybe you can relate to us that time schedule, 30 days, 90 days, possible expansion of 60 daysyou are operating well within the ambit of the independent counsel statute; you are proceeding in an orderly, sequential, professional manner. But could you relate to us and the American people the time frame as enunciated in the statute?
Ms. RENO. As I indicated, the first really official point in the statute is the triggering of the 90-day preliminary investigation.
If at any point during the course of the investigation I receive information indicating that a covered person has violated the act, I have 30 days, not from the time I determine that the act is triggered but from the time I learn of the information, and so that is more of a statute of limitations, as opposed to a triggering mechanism.
A triggering mechanism is the notice to the special division of the Court that I have determined either that I have specific and credible evidence that a covered person committed a crime or that I have not been able to determine it and that it is triggeredthat the information causes it to be triggered.
I then, during those 90 days, have time to make some further determinations that I could not prior to that time, once receiving the information, and that is, I can address the issue of intent, I can address the issue of Department practice, and that is the situation we are in with respect to the President and the Vice President.
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At the end of the 90 days, if I have not completed it, as I recall, I can ask for an extension of 60 days, and at that point, if there is a reasonable basis for further investigation, then I must trigger the statute and request the Court to appoint an independent counsel.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Thank you.
I would also make an observation that, you know, you have been workingyou have convened this task force. It has been in existence some 11 months; is that correct?
Ms. RENO. That is correct.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Well, I would note that the independent counsel, Mr. Starr, only this past July, after some 3 years, subsequent to his appointment, finally concluded that Mr. Foster committed suicide. These are painstakingly long investigations, and I dare say that in the case of Mr. Starr, that period of time certainly caused the family of Mr. Foster considerable pain and anguish.
My colleague from Virginia quoted the Boston Globe, my hometown paper, and just this past week, I think it was several days agoand I cut this article out''Foster killed self, Starr also concludes.''
My understanding is, according to this newspaper article, that it was the fifth investigation, the fifth investigation into the suicide of Mr. Foster. It is interesting to note
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Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. Buyer of Indiana.
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Chairman, I would like to ask the committee members for unanimous consent that I give my time to Mr. Bryant, who then has to leave, and I may then be allowed to ask questions in his stead.
Mr. HYDE. You want to switch with Mr. Bryant?
Mr. BUYER. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. Very well. Since both of your last names begin with B, we can do that. Mr. Bryant is recognized for 10 minutes.
Mr. BRYANT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I thank my colleague from Indiana for doing this for me.
Madam Attorney General, welcome to the committee.
First, before I jump in and start criticizing you, I want to pass on a compliment to the Marshals Service, which you have supervision over. Yesterday the U.S. Marshal Serivce made a very important arrest of a fugitive judge out of Tennessee. He was hiding in California, and I will not go into any more detail but would congratulate the Marshals Service. And if you could pass along my public appreciation to them for their very good work in this, I would appreciate it.
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Ms. RENO. I certainly will, sir. Thank you very much.
Mr. BRYANT. You know, coming to Washington and coming out of a practice of law which included a stint as U.S. attorney, as did two of my other colleagues here, I certainly respect and understand your situation of not being able to come in and discuss an ongoing investigation. And you alluded to the words ''second guess'' earlier, and I thought my colleague from Indiana said appropriately that second guessing to one is oversight to another. And I suppose that is what we are all about today.
We certainly are, involved as a Judiciary Committee in an oversight role here, hampered in part by the fact that you are indeed legitimately, in good faith, hamstrung in discussing ongoing investigations. I think we all understand that, and it is important we go about our task in a way that will not politicize this too much.
But I think we all recognize the name of the game in Washington is politics, and if you were appointed by a Republican President and we had a Republican President and Vice President in the White House right now and we were in this process, I think the roles would be completely reversed. We would be in here defending the President and Vice President, and our colleagues on the other side of the aisle would be attacking and trying to raise the allegations to the forefront, as we are doing.
And some can say, well, that is politics, but what we are really about here are the checks and balances, and this is good, this is healthy for our system, and that is what we are trying to do on this side. I don't think either side has the high holy ground, as some seem to think.
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We are both going about our business, and we are somewhat cynical on this side, in terms of exactly what is going on, how aggressively some things are going on. I know I keep citing back to the Vice President Gore case and the hard money/soft money issue.
A very elementary investigation would have disclosed that that is a basic technique, when that was such a key element of whether that was a crime or not, not to have asked, where did that money go? something that, thank goodness, the Washington Post did. Again, that is basic, that is first year law school stuff, and that does raise our concerns as to some of the other things.
I think my colleague from Florida, Mr. Canady, points out very aptly a concern over the two situations involving the Department of Energy and the First Lady, and as I sit here and listen to him explain the facts, I honestly can't tell the difference, but yet you initiated an investigation, triggered an investigation in one and didn't in the other. And I think these are legitimate questions that we have.
I think my colleague from Virginia, Mr. Goodlatte, when he talks about, you are in control, like the marshals, you have control over the INS, and apparently there was a change in policy last year about election time involving Mr. Huang and some things, immigration policy that you should have known about.
And you tell us you are investigating those. But like he said, how can you investigate yourself in this instance and the fact you didn't know or should have known why this immigration policy was changed by the INS, which points out, perhaps, the need for an independent counsel?
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But let me go on to a couple questions that I think are very important, and I am going to probably have to ask you to give me an answer later on because some of these might involve some additional work outside this hearing.
Mr. BRYANT [continuing.] On or about September 23 I was in the office and I was watching the NBC Nightly News. That night, NBC reported that the administration was stepping up their efforts to lobby you, and that is exactlyas I remember itin effect, to oppose you appointing or asking that a special counsel be appointed. Already given the precarious position which exists when a President is being investigated by his Attorney General, and to hear that they were stepping up their efforts to lobby you, I was frankly shocked at that point. It stuck in my mind.
As such, I would ask, if you could, in writing after the factjust as soon as you can, I would like a list and short description of all the contacts that the administration has had within a week or two, or maybe the week before the 23rd and the week after the 23rd of September, all the contacts, whether they were in writing or e-mail or mail or in person, with you or those people who represent you in these allegations. I am not talking about everything that flows between those two organizations, but again related to these allegations, any types of contacts that you would have had or they would have had with you. Because, again, that very much concerns me, again given the position that you are in as Attorney General and the fact that they would publicly be proclaimed as stepping up efforts to lobby you on this very important investigation.
Mr. BRYANT. Secondly, I would pass along to youand I will not do this right this minute because no one is handybut apparently this is an article out of the magazine Human Events that was given to me this morning. [The article is attached to Chairman Hyde's December 16, 1997 letter which is reprinted in the appendix.] It purports to identify 50 fugitive friends of the President. That is their wording, ''fugitive friends.'' All are in some way associated with the allegations surrounding the campaign violations that we are talking about today in large part, both the President and the Vice President.
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On that list of 50 people it identifies that six have fled the country, 13 have refused interviews, and the other 31 have invoked the fifth amendment. I would simply like, again at a later date, for you to review this list of 50 people, and just simply confirm to me that the Department of Justice can verify that these six people have indeed fled the country, they are not locatable; that the 13 other people identified have refused an interview in some fashionit does not matter, a grand jury or whatever. I am sure there are other instances in which you could question these people outside of the grand jury. The other ones are invoking the fifth amendment, the 31.
I would like just verification by each one of these names, exactly what their status is, because again we look at issues of Mr. Trie somewhere, perhaps in China, giving television interviews, and is he locatable? Can we not get our hands on him and bring him back? Can we not work through the State Department with their state department and locate these people and further this investigation along?
Mr. BRYANT. With those two points aside, and I will give you this after the hearing, I would like to ask you about the issue of the hard money-soft money, and section 607 regarding the solicitation in a government office.
I think we all agree that I cannot have a fund-raiser in my office at 408 Cannon. I am sure that would be a problem, wouldn't it? Nor can I make telephone calls from my office in attempts to raise money. But as I understand it, the Vice President has conceded to making phone calls from the White House. And since he has no residence there like the President does, there should be no factual question on that issue.
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And since the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justiceand the Department of Justice, as I understand, over the years has interpreted that statute to mean you cannot do this kind of stuff from a Federal office, and even White House Counsel Abner Mikva back a few years ago for President Clinton indicated you couldn't do any of these things in the White Houseis there really any question in your mind that the Vice President has violated the law in making these phone calls soliciting campaign funds from the White House?
Ms. RENO. Congressman, first of all, thank you very much for your comments about the marshals. I will pass them on.
Secondly, with respect to your point about second-guessing oversight, that is what I mentioned to the Chairman at the beginning. I think the oversight function is very important, and I have always tried to work with the Chairman and work with this committee in every way I possibly could to assure the most open process possible.
At the same time, when you are conducting an investigation, having someone second-guessing you and saying, or having the power to say, I want you to interview that person rather than this person, and I want you to do this rather than this, because the polls say this, that does not seem to me to be the right way to conduct it. So what I have tried to do is be as open as I can, while at the same time doing everything I can to see that the investigation is conducted in an effective manner.
You say you don't want to politicize it too much. I say I don't want to politicize it at all. You say you are somewhat cynical. I have tried my level best since coming to this city not to become cynical, because I think public service is one of the great opportunities that anyone can undertake. There are days that I get a little bit cynical and a little bit impatient, but for the most part, this has been an extraordinary experience.
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So don't get too cynical. You are a lawyer. You know how important evidence is. You know that when you see a headline like this and then you read it, that those people aren't fugitives in the name of the law. You know that there are six. To do something like that just isn't right. You say, if the situation was reversed and your Attorney General was sitting here, if I were sitting over there, I would be reminding people of what it is like and how important it is to secure justice in this world, and to do it right, based on the evidence and the law.
I am going to take each one of these points that has been raised along the way, constructive points, and I am going to consider each one, and I am constantly reviewing it. I go to bed at night thinking, what have I missed? What have I done wrong? I wake up in the morning thinking about the same thing. But so far I have still gotten a good night's sleep because I know I am trying; if I am making mistakes, I am still trying to do what is right.
With respect to September 23rd, we will give you that information, but I can assure you that nobody in the White House has said boo to me about anything to do with this investigation. I can tell you that last year people said, oh, you are going to get in trouble if you ask for an independent counsel statute, an independent counsel to be appointed, and the year before and the year before. And I have never gotten in trouble with the White House or anybody in the White House for what I have done, because I think they know I have tried to do what I think is right.
With respect to the hard money-soft money, the whole purpose of this preliminary investigation is to review all aspects of 607 and do it in an orderly way, and when we have completed that, we will make our statements known.
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Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Florida.
Mr. WEXLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have had a working relationship with the Attorney General dating back to 1992. As chairman of the Florida State Senate Criminal Justice Committee, I often relied upon the advice of then State Attorney for Dade County, Florida, Janet Reno. Under State Attorney Reno's leadership, among others, Florida rewrote its sentencing guidelines to stiffen penalties against violent offenders, eliminate automatic early release programs, and modernize our approach to combatting drugs.
Ms. Reno earned a well-deserved reputation in Florida as a hard-nosed, tough, disciplined prosecutor. Most especially, it was Ms. Reno's fairness and honesty that earned her the public's trust. It is therefore with much consternation that I read the accusations and attacks hurled by some leaders in this body at the Attorney General.
I am dismayed not because Ms. Reno is a fine lady from my home State, which she is, but because some Members of this body choose to articulate their points of view by belittling her. I would not be so dismayed except that in this case the belittlers are so wrong.
In my experience, if this Attorney General has a fault, it is that she refuses to bow down to the overinflated egos that often consume Washington. Over and over and over again Attorney General Reno has conducted her public duties in just one way. She applies the law as she sees it, and the chips fall where they may.
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Madam Attorney General, it is clear to me that the American people appreciate your candor and your honesty, and it would serve, I would respectfully suggest, certain leaders of this body well to emulate rather than to belittle your integrity.
Turning to the President and the Vice President, and whether their campaign activities violated any laws, one thing seems certain: The whole campaign finance system stinks. With all due respect to the Democratic leadership, which controlled this House for decades, they did little to clean up the abuses of money in politics. And now, regrettably, the Republican leadership is afflicted with the same refusal to act.
Mr. Chairman, rather than debating whether the President should make his phone calls from this room or that room in the White House, or from the convenience store across the street, if you may, I would respectfully suggest that we do what seems plainly obvious to the American people: outlaw $20,000 and $50,000 checks. Stop the partisan BS, because no corporation, no individual, and yes, no labor union should write such a large check to any political party, candidate, or so-called independent cause. Stop the finger pointing, because the American people know full well that the Democrats have taken the big checks, and yes, the Republicans have taken those same big checks.
This committee in the past has supported constitutional amendments to preserve our flag, to balance our budget, and to protect crime victims' rights. If need be, we should at least have the political courage to be willing to do likewise to safeguard our democracy from the ever-encroaching influence of money in politics.
Page 229 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Madam Attorney General, since this hearing was advertised as an oversight hearing of the Department of Justice, I would like to ask you about the FBI, the crime lab, and whether the Inspector General of the Justice Department should be given expanded authority to independently investigate the FBI.
I have had the opportunity to listen to much testimony in the House and in the Senate detailing troubling aspects of false testimony given by certain FBI agents, and the fabrication and suppression of evidence by the FBI. My question, Madam Attorney General, is why should the Inspector General of the Justice Department be handcuffed by statute when investigating the FBI, and why should he have to ask the Attorney General's permission to investigate when no other Inspector General in the Federal Government is so constrained?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. RENO. With respect to the FBI lab investigation, that is a historical situation which I inherited. I think Mr. Bromwich has done a splendid job in investigating, and doing it in a very positive way with great experts to whom I owe a great deal of gratitude for the fine and very professional review they have provided.
The FBI had under way improvements. Yesterday, as I understand it, the new Director, a person with very distinguished credentials, was sworn in as the Director. They are seeking accreditation, and I think the effort that is under way is a great example of what can be done by people like Director Freeh and with work such as has been done by the Inspector General.
Page 230 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think with respect to the Inspector General, he has never asked me, really, whether he could undertake something until I have the sense that we have something that is broken. I think the present system is working well, because we have checks and balances as between the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility, the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility, and the Inspector General, and I think that is a healthy, invigorating situation.
Mr. NADLER. If I may, will the gentleman yield for a second?
Mr. WEXLER. I will be done in 15 seconds and I will yield.
We have offered bipartisan legislation analyzing, altering, expanding, if you will, the authority of the Inspector General; and at the appropriate time, if you would be so kind, if you could review it and please consider supporting it, if you are able.
Mr. NADLER. Thank you, Mr. Wexler.
I just wanted to make one comment on something the gentleman from Florida said a moment ago when he said that the Republicans have, in this Congress, so far stopped all campaign reform; legislation, and the Democrats, when they controlled Congress, did not pass legislation, either.
The fact is in the last two Congresses that the Democratic Party controlled the 102d Congress and the 103d Congress. In 1991 a very good and very fundamental campaign finance reform bill that provided for campaign contribution limitations, whether we have now PAC limitations, reduced-cost air time, a limitation on expenditures for people who opted into the system, passed the House and the Senate and was vetoed by President Bush. In the 1993, in the 103d Congress, the Gejdenson bill, which Common Cause and all the other so-called good government groups said was a wonderful campaign reform bill, passed the; House; and although it got a majority of votes in the Senate, it failed in a filibuster led by Senator Dole.
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One can argue that the people who passed those bills back in 1991 and 1993 or 1994I forget whichwere insincere, that the only reason the Democratic Congress passed it was because they knew Bush would veto it; the only reason the House passed it in 1993 or 1994 was because we knew that Senator Dole was going to lead a filibuster. But I don't know how you read people's minds.
The fact is that in 1991 the Democratic Congress passed a very strong campaign finance bill, only to see it vetoed by President Bush. In 1994, the House passed a very strong bill, only to see it defeated by a filibuster by Senator Dole.
I was here only the second of those two times, and I recall that we had high hopes that that bill would pass, and unfortunately, the filibuster vetoed it. So I don't want to see history rewritten. I have seen it too many times recently.
The fact is that the Democrats, or at least in the House and Senate, have been at leastconsistently since 1991, at least when in the majority and in the last 2 years in the minority, trying to pass strong campaign finance reform legislation; and I hope that the Republicans will join us and that we will succeed in doing that.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
I am personally gratified that we don't have a rule of germaneness here, or all of these discussions on campaign finance reform would be out of order, because they are not relevant to the purpose of this hearing, which is to oversee the Department of Justice.
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The next speaker is Mr. Buyer of Indiana.
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Chairman, I suppose the relevance is that you have individuals that are crying for campaign finance reform, but for me, the issue is that individuals follow the law that is already on the books. We can talk all we want about creation of new laws, but the issue is, were the laws that were on the books followed.
Madam Attorney General, I came out here this morning from Indiana. I was conducting town meetings all across northern Indiana. I represent 20 counties, so I have conducted 12 of my town meetings so far, and I will return tonight and I will go back and I will do them again tomorrow and finish up on Saturday. I have been in 12 of my counties. In 11 of 12 of my counties, the issues which we are talking about today have been brought up by my constituents, so it is something that is on their minds. So when it is an issue on their minds, I take great concern about that, because we are also talking about public confidence, not only just about public confidence in those who serve in public service, but also those who have to execute the laws of the land, that being you, as a chief official representing the executive branch to oversee our laws.
Earlier I took note and listened to the discussions between you and the Chairman over polls, and we all recognize that. But the real issue here is the public must have the confidence that a fair and impartial investigation has been conducted, and without that confidence, an investigation neither serves the public interest nor gives full exoneration to those who are investigated.
Page 233 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So they should rightfully be cleared, if in fact there isif there is no evidence, then we anxiously want that exoneration. If in fact criminal wrongdoing has been done, so be it. You follow the evidence. You didn't break the laws, they broke the laws.
One thing that has been brought up that I noted in six of my town meetings, so I had to look into it a little more, so I was anxious to ask you, constituents have been reading about, I guess you had made some comments offhandedly one time to some reporters that you had made a phone call to the National Security Council Director, Anthony Lake, informing him of Communist China's effort to funnel money into last year's Federal election, and that you tried toand I just want to hear it from youyou made an effort to call him, but he wasn't in, and the matter was dropped?
Can you correct this matter for me?
Ms. RENO. No, it wasn't dropped, sir. There was a joint determination made at that time that Congress should be advised and the National Security Council should be advised. Traditionally, I was asked to alert the National Security Council. I made a call. I don't think he was in. I don't think I left a message, because I think I was then on travel. And since the briefers were going to brief, they briefed.
Mr. BUYER. That was done. Then was Congress notified?
Ms. RENO. Yes.
Mr. BUYER. All right. I serve on the Committee on National Security. It is one of those things where it never gets down to me, then.
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Mr. HYDE. Would the gentleman yield?
Mr. BUYER. I would be more than happy to yield to the Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. The memos I have indicate that there were Chinese intercepts, intercepts to certain Chinese people, involving Chinese money in our elections. And you called Tony Lake at the National Security Council. You didn't get through to him, and the matter just dropped.
You didn't pursue it, have him call you back, and you didn't make a second call. Is that not correct?
Ms. RENO. It is what I just indicated to the Congressman.
Mr. HYDE. What was that?
Ms. RENO. That I called Mr. Lake. He wasn't in. The briefers were to brief and I was to give him a heads-up. The briefers went ahead and briefed the National Security Council. It was not dropped.
Mr. HYDE. When did that happen, the briefing? How many days after your phone call?
Page 235 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. I don't know, sir. I will be happy to check and let you know.
I mean, I do know
Mr. HYDE. But you are satisfied the job got done, and just your heads-up phone call didn't go through?
Ms. RENO. That's correct.
Mr. HYDE. You didn't make contact?
Ms. RENO. That's right. But
Mr. BUYER. Reclaiming my timeI am sorry, go ahead.
Ms. RENO. All right.
Mr. BUYER. I also pay attention closely to what you are saying, and I agree with you that you don't want to prosecute innuendo. There is a difference between innuendo and logical conclusions that reasonable minds conclude, based upon evidence or facts or circumstances. So when people take a step back, you see some people don't overthink this one. That is where we have to be somewhat careful. But when you are alerted that China has the intention of influencing America's election process, and it concerned you so much that you wanted to place a call to the President's national security adviser, and then for some reason that matter was handled by briefers instead, it must have concerned you a lot.
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Now we are months down the road, and we have now been learning that there are many individuals who have been involved in money-laundering processes throughwhether it is Indonesians or Asian influences or, in fact, the Chinese that in fact influenced the American political process. If I were the acting Attorney General, I would feel a bit peculiar at the moment. Do you have any sense, looking back at this, whether you did the right thing, or you could have done more?
Ms. RENO. I have looked at it, sir, and I don't feel peculiar. I am not quite sure what you mean.
Mr. BUYER. I suppose I would feel peculiar if I was bordering neglect of my duty. Duty and obligation as the Attorney General goes far, far beyondlet me show you something.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I have a point of order.
Mr. HYDE. The gentlewoman from Texas wishes to make a point of order. Please state your point.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, there have been allegations or calls for the impeachment or resignation of the Attorney General. When we begin to talk about neglect, is this a hearing to set the Attorney General up for impeachment or to demand her resignation? I have asked this question.
Page 237 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HYDE. The gentlewoman is experienced enough
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I think I can ask this question, Mr. Chairman, without attacks on the Attorney General's performance that is not related to this hearing.
Mr. HYDE. Is the gentlewoman through?
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I am asking a question, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Mr. HYDE. The answer is no. The gentleman will continue.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I am sorry, Mr. Chairman. No, this is not a hearing for her impeachment or resignation?
Mr. HYDE. That is right, it is not a hearing for her impeachment; and nobody has said that on this committee that I know of.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I just hope the questions can be directed in that light.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. I find it difficult as Chairman, with all the vast power at my command, to dictate questions. I can't do it, and the Members are going to ask the questions they want to ask. If they are insulting or out of line, I will certainly bring it up, but I have not heard that yet.
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The gentleman will
Ms. JACKSON LEE. I do thank the Chairman for his answers. Thank you.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you for thanking me. Please continue. Ms. RENO. I would say, sir, it is an oversight hearing, so if there are performance issues, I am happy to address them. With respect to classified information, I cannot discuss it in this hearing, and
Mr. BUYER. Ma'am, the reason I got into the national security questionsand your duties are no different than my duties on the Committee on National Securitywe can go out and buy all the planes and aircraft carriers and tanks and missiles and all kinds of things based on threat assessments, and we think of those always as being overt. But there are tremendous covert threats to national security which you play an integral part in, the FBI does, along with the CIA and its counterintelligence operations, correct?
Ms. RENO. That's correct, sir.
Mr. BUYER. That's correct. And those are the matters which you are uncomfortable discussing here today.
Ms. RENO. I am not uncomfortable in discussing them here today for any reason other than that they are classified information and it would not be appropriate to do so.
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Mr. BUYER. Then I would like to make a suggestion to the Chairman.
Very often, Mr. Chairmanand to the Ranking Memberwe hold closed session hearings in the Committee on National Security on matters of national security and intelligence. If there were matters of issues of importance that were brought to the attention of the Attorney General that dealt with China's attempt to manipulate these elections in the United States, then we should know about it. And if it means calling back the Attorney General to testify in a closed session before this hearing, then I recommend that we so do that. I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. FRANK. I move to close the rest of this hearing, if you want to do that.
Mr. HYDE. I appreciate the helpful suggestion from the gentleman from Massachusetts, and I appreciate the gentleman yielding back his time.
Mr. FRANK. Even more.
Mr. HYDE. Close.
The gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Rothman.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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Madam Attorney General, thank you for being here. Thank you for sitting so patiently and listening to and responding to the questions of this committee for the last 4-1/2 hours.
I believe that the American people have a big headache. The big headache is listening to all the partisan bickering surrounding the now old-time practice in America whereby people who want to get elected to office have to raise money in an outdated, obscene system of campaign financing. And, Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, the failure of the campaign financing system in America has brought about some of the worst excesses of both parties, the Democrat and Republican parties, not only historically but even as currently as today. So it is highly relevant.
But my question for you, Madam Attorney General, has to do with the standard by which you operate. A lot of people say, well, what is the Attorney General going to do? Is she going to order an investigation, an independent counsel, or recommend an independent counsel be appointed to address all these wild allegations that the Republicans are making? And they want to know how you come to make up your mind as to whether to recommend that an independent counsel be appointed by the courts.
I have heard you say earlier today many times, and I have read your letter to Chairman Hyde which says that you will quickly and without delay recommend the appointment of an independent counsel when there is any specific and credible evidence to support a conclusion that a crime has been committed, and that so far, with 120 members of your stafflawyers, investigators, and other agents of the Justice Departmentand after 500 subpoenas, there has not been any specific or credible information that a crime may have been committed.
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But you are not satisfied, you are still pursuing it, you are keeping all your options open. You are going to follow every lead, every allegation; as wild and farfetched as some may bring forth, you are following them to the bitter end, wherever they lead. But so far the results have come up empty.
Madam Attorney General, if there were any credible and specific information presented to you that a person covered by the law may have committed a crime, would you have any hesitation about recommending an independent counsel?
Ms. RENO. No, I would not. But let me just remind you of the sequence that we go through. The first step is determining whether we trigger the preliminary investigation by notifying the court, and that produces the 90-day preliminary investigation. At the end of that, the issue is not specific and credible evidence, but is there reason to further investigate? That is the standard in the statute.
The first standard is specific and credible evidence that a covered person may have violated the law, or an inability at that time, because of a time constraint of some sort or because of the need to address the issue of intent or the practice of the department, that it also be referred for preliminary investigation.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Madam Attorney General, the American people, as fed up as they are with all of these allegations about campaign fund-raising by both parties, by both parties, various United States Senators from both parties, Members of the House from both parties, have admitted to the kind of conduct that is alleged against the President and Vice President, the American people just want the truth. Can you tell the American people that you will follow every allegation, and no matter where the chips fall, you will recommend an independent counsel if you determine it to be necessary and consistent with the law?
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Ms. RENO. I have said that.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Even if it is the guy who appointed you to the job, President Clinton?
Ms. RENO. I have said that again and again. In the past 4-1/2 years I have asked for an independent counsel, and on a number of occasions I have referred matters. I have asked for it at times when people saidnot to me, because I do not think they do those things, but they have said in the pressthis is just a dangerous time for her to do something like that. What is she risking? Why does she risk it?
I don't pay any attention to that; I just try to do the best I can. I try to keep my eyes and ears open. I try to listen to comments that are made. I try to listen to suggestions and make sure thatI continue to try to review every matter to make sure that we have handled it correctly.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Madam Attorney General, your answer is not a surprise to me. It is not a surprise, I think, to the vast majority of Americans who have seen you come before this committee and other committees, who know of your backgrounda Harvard lawyer, a distinguished
Ms. RENO. Some people say I am slowly overcoming that disadvantage.
Page 243 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROTHMAN. A lot of people think to some degree it indicates scholarship.
They know of your record of integrity and accomplishment as a local prosecutor, as a career prosecutor, and know that you, in your 4-1/2 years as Attorney General, have behaved with the highest degree of integrity and ethical standards. So your answer that you will pursue this wherever it goes is not a surprise to me.
So I will say on behalf of the people that I represent, do not be bullied by the partisan politics going on today in Washington, in the media, and by the Majority party that now holds the control of the Congress, who want to bully you to make this a partisan matter, to force an independent counsel so tens of millions of dollars more will be spent on this nonsense, so that the President and Vice President can continue to be held hostage to all of these allegations.
I say, and my constituents say, follow the evidence, let the chips fall where they may, and let us let you and the distinguished people in your Justice Department do your job. Follow the law wherever it leads. I think that is what you have been saying all afternoon.
Ms. RENO. Thank you.
Mr. ROTHMAN. I do want to make one other point about campaign finance reform, which is that it has been several years since President Clinton and the Speaker, Mr. Gingrich, shook hands in New Hampshire saying that they were going to set up an independent commission to take the politics out of reforming the campaign finance laws. There is a bill, H.R. 1614, and that bill ought to be brought to the floor for a vote so we can fix this broken and obscene campaign finance system.
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I want to give some time to two distinguished gentlemen who have asked for it, Mr. Conyers, and then my distinguished colleague from Florida, Mr. Wexler. But first, the Ranking Member, Mr. Conyers.
Mr. CONYERS. I thank my colleague very much, but I find that I am going to be next up, so I will let you use your time.
Mr. ROTHMAN. Then if I may, Mr. Chairman, I yield some time to my colleague from Florida, Mr. Wexler.
Mr. WEXLER. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, if I may, with all due respect, I would respond to what, whether or not intended to be, was, I think, a gratuitous comment as to the relevance of my comments regarding campaign reform. And respectfully I would suggest that if that is the conclusion of the Chair, that he has misread the concerns of the American people. I would suggest that the American people are less concerned about the history and the specifics of the Pendleton Act and the 501(c) status of a certain Buddhist temple than they are with the ever-influencing element of money in politics. I would take exception to any characterization that a discussion of campaign reform is not entirely relevant to the President's and the Vice President's activities.
Mr. ROTHMAN. I just want to reclaim my time for the 10 seconds that I have left to say that a gentleman, earlier, on the other side said this was all about pursuing illegality. I agree, and I made that clear, we ought to pursue the law wherever it takes us.
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But I think the American people believe that the Congress representing the greatest country on the Planet Earth can do two things at the same time, pursue any alleged wrongdoing and prosecute where it is appropriate and justified, where the evidence points to it and justifies it; and number two, we can fix a system that, in great part, may have contributed to appearances or even violations of the law. We can do two things at the same time, pursue wrongdoers and fix our campaign finance system now.
I ask the Speaker of the House and the Republican Majority in Congress to allow all of the bills that they have been holding up on campaign finance reformto allow us to vote on them in the House of Representatives.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Ohio is recognized.
Would you yield to me briefly?
Mr. CHABOT. I would be happy to.
Mr. HYDE. You know, campaign finance reform is not within the jurisdiction of this committee. I would like to stay within the jurisdiction of this committee as much as we can. I am happy to discuss campaign finance reform, although it seems a little anomalous to me. If you can't obey the existing laws, why in the world are you going to obey new laws?
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We are looking at breaking the existing laws which we believe has occurred. I welcome campaign finance laws if you can find a way to exercise your First Amendment rights and yet have the government control how much advertising you can buy and when you can buy it and what you can say. If you are satisfied with that tampering with the First Amendment, wonderful. I am not.
Secondly, you talk about filibustering and not getting anywhere on campaign finance reform. When you treat labor as you treat the business community and you look for this level playing field, I am sure a lot of us will be much more receptive, but that hasn't happened. You talk about reform, but it isn't reform. It is your way of skewing the campaign laws to get back in the Majority, and you are kidding nobody.
Mr. FRANK. Did we just get jurisdiction over labor, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. HYDE. Over labor?
Mr. FRANK. You said we would stick to our jurisdiction, and then labor sneaked in. I wondered if our jurisdiction got expanded over lunch.
Mr. HYDE. That is a non sequitur. I am talking about what is wrong with the bills you keep bringing up, you don't treat labor the way you treat everybody else. I wonder why.
Page 247 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CHABOT. Reclaiming my time, Madam Attorney General, I believe it is very important that you are here and that the Justice Department is being given an opportunity to update this committee on the status of the ongoing investigations, and to explain in many instances the embarrassing mishaps that have plagued many of your department's recent efforts.
Unfortunately, instead of shining a white light into the shadowy reports of wrongdoing, the Justice Department's task force seems to be conducting its investigation in the dark. Time and time again critical evidence is discovered not by your career prosecutors or those that you have appointed, but instead by news organizations. From hard money to videotapes, important leads are not thoroughly explored, and public confidence in the Department's ability to conduct a fair and impartial investigation is further eroded.
Let me read to you a bit from a recent editorial that appeared in my hometown newspaper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, which raises concerns about the White House obstruction and demonstrates the growing public concern over your Department's handling of this investigation. This is from the Cincinnati Enquirer.
''The timing alone defies credibility. On October 3rd Attorney General Janet Reno, under legal deadline, ruled that evidence was lacking to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Bill Clinton's fundraising role at White House coffees. The very next day the White House released videotapes of the President schmoozing with wealthy donors at 44 coffees. Ms. Reno says she is mad, but she won't change her closed mind and investigate. That should make voters mad enough to demand an Attorney General who is not humiliated by the President and embarrassed by newspaper reports that are miles ahead of her people. There is also the question of obstruction of justice. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee had been asking White House lawyers since April if videotapes existed of Clinton White House coffees. The videotapes were found before Ms. Reno's deadline and withheld until the report was released. It is a strange rerun of the sudden appearance of Hillary Rodham Clinton's legal billing records in her private quarters, and harks back to the secret tapes that incriminated President Nixon. Such blatant deceit adds to Mr. Clinton's notoriety for mendacity. His tacky coffees have already cheapened the presidency. The people's White House should be off limits as a prop for political panhandling. Clinton aides call it donor servicing. When the Attorney General was kept in the dark they pleaded incompetence. They had failed to type the right word'coffee' in computer searches. It was just an accident, the President said.
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''Preserving the integrity of our presidency is a compelling public interest. It is a sorry spectacle to witness a President, an Attorney General, and others sucked into another damage control charade that insults the intelligence of the American people. If such smoking gun evidence does not persuade Ms. Reno to investigate, she will never persuade us that she has the credibility and integrity to enforce the law.''
This is the Cincinnati Enquirer just a couple of days ago.
I have a few comments that I would like to
Mr. DELAHUNT. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. CHABOT. I don't have the time at this point. If I have any time at the end I will be happy to yield.
Referring back to a couple of items that were in here, you issued your report saying that there was insufficient evidence to investigate further the so-called White House coffees, and then the next day the White House announced that they have hundreds of tapes basically showing these coffees that we have all seen on television now.
How do you think that this reflects on the comprehensiveness of the investigation that the American people and this committee think is being undertaken at this time? I would like to hear your comments on that.
Page 249 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. Having been on the receiving end of editorials that are not pleasant and then the next week being on the receiving end of those that are, I understand editorial writers, and I understand that they sometimes miss the news and some of the comments concerning the news.
What I said in the letter and what I have said all along is that this letter is a snapshot with respect to where we were on the issues raised with respect to the coverage of the Independent Counsel Act. What I have said repeatedly today, and I say to you directly so that you can appreciate it, is that we are pursuing issues with respect to the coffees, we are pursuing other issues. I can't discuss all of them in detail.
Mr. CHABOT. Does it bother you that they waited until the day after you had released this letter to release
Ms. RENO. I have already made reference to my feelings about it. But what I am trying to explain to you again and again and again today is that we are pursuing these issues, we are going to pursue every lead. Because there is not specific and credible evidence that indicates a covered person may have violated the Federal law does not mean that we do not pursue the transaction or other allegations with respect to the transaction.
Mr. CHABOT. Are you concerned that it took the White House 8 months to locate these tapes, despite the fact that they had been essentially subpoenaed 8 months earlier?
Ms. RENO. Yes.
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Mr. CHABOT. Do you buy the White House's explanation that they merely failed to type the right word ''coffee'' into their computer searches?
Ms. RENO. Again, I cannot comment.
Mr. CHABOT. Another aspect of the investigation that is troubling is the tremendous amount of foot-dragging and stonewalling by the White House in its production of other subpoenaed material, particularly with regard to the investigations by the House and Senate investigating committees.
Do you believe that the White House is acting in bad faith and possibly obstructing justice in their production of these subpoenaed documents, or are they just incompetent, as they would like us to believe?
Ms. RENO. I don't have direct information with regard to the experience that the House and Senate committees have had.
Mr. CHABOT. Do you believe that the White House's hindering of this investigation is indicative of an intention to hide or cover up something?
Ms. RENO. I don't know what you
Mr. DELAHUNT. Mr. Chairman, I would like to just point out that what you are really referring to is germaneness.
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Mr. CHABOT. I have not yielded time, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DELAHUNT. On the question that is being posed as to the White House, I just wanted to make that observation.
Mr. HYDE. It is noted. Please continue.
Ms. RENO. What was your question?
Mr. CHABOT. The question was, do you believe that the White House's hindering of this investigation is indicative of an intention to hide or cover up something?
Ms. RENO. Again, I would not comment, because we are pursuing certain matters.
Mr. CHABOT. You have mentioned a number of times, for example in the letter that you sent us, this whole concept of having to have specific and credible evidence. Now, if it has not been produced, or if it has been destroyed, that would, in essence, halt an investigation or continuing ability to get more information about that if they are withholding information, isn't that accurate?
Ms. RENO. What we are going to try to do and have been trying to do is if there is any indication that information has been wrongfully withheld, we are going to try to get that. If there is any information that we do not have that is relevant, we are going to try to get that. And we are going to look at that information and make appropriate determinations based on the evidence and the law as to how to proceed with the investigation and whether or not it triggers the Independent Counsel statute.
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Mr. CHABOT. Let me ask you this: if the White House possesses specific and credible evidence that someone may have committed a criminal act, if it simply hides or destroys the information, the task force essentially then can't proceed, isn't that accurate?
Ms. RENO. That would depend on whether the task force had information that that was done or not.
Mr. CHABOT. I yield back the balance of my time, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Barr.
Mr. BARR. Mr. Chairman, I have two brief film clips at this time.
Mr. CONYERS. Wait a minute. Mr. Chairman
Mr. HYDE. Do I hear a motion to show the video clips?
Mr. BARR. So moved, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. CONYERS. Could we have some discussion on this? Maybe we can forego a roll call.
Mr. HYDE. All right. I am prepared to discuss it.
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Mr. CONYERS. All right, thank you. If the Chair would yield to me?
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman is recognized.
Mr. CONYERS. Could I just ask my friend, Mr. Barr, could you give us just a clue as to what film strips we are going to be subjected to?
Mr. BARR. You are going to view two very brief clips of DNC dinners that were purportedly filmed by the White House Communications Agency, one brief part of the film on February 19th, 1996, and one on July 30, 1996. One of these was referred to earlier by Mr. Sensenbrenner. They have been made public. They are available also in the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight.
Mr. CONYERS. Well, since that is the case, what is the point in showing them? I concede that you have them and that they exist and that they have been seen publicly, but why now?
Mr. BARR. Because they are relevant to this hearing.
Mr. CONYERS. Well
Mr. BARR. Mr. Chairman, I move that the videotapes be received as evidence.
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Mr. CONYERS. Just a moment, sir. I am trying to short-circuit this.
Mr. BARR. You are short-circuiting by talking.
Mr. CONYERS. I apologize for talking.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman from Michigan has the floor. Go ahead.
Mr. CONYERS. What I am suggesting, Mr. Barr, is that when Members of the Committee on the Judiciary have extraneous material, exhibits, documents, videotape, it is customary that they notify, if not the Ranking Member, somebody on the Democratic side, so that we can work on an agreement.
As you know as a former justice person, you don't walk into a trial and start throwing exhibits and videos around, nor do you in a Committee on the Judiciary meeting, especially one of this significance and importance.
Mr. HYDE. Then I take it unanimous consent will not be given, is that correct?
Mr. CONYERS. You take it very correctly.
Page 255 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HYDE. A motion has been made to show these video exhibits, and a roll call is requested.
Is there a Clerk here who can call the roll? Will she call the roll?
The CLERK. Mr. Sensenbrenner.
The CLERK. Mr. McCollum.
The CLERK. Mr. Gekas.
The CLERK. Mr. Gekas votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Coble.
The CLERK. Mr. Smith.
Page 256 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CLERK. Mr. Schiff.
The CLERK. Mr. Gallegly.
The CLERK. Mr. Canady.
The CLERK. Mr. Canady votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Inglis.
The CLERK. Mr. Goodlatte.
The CLERK. Mr. Goodlatte votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Buyer.
The CLERK. Mr. Buyer votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Bono.
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The CLERK. Mr. Bryant.
The CLERK. Mr. Chabot.
The CLERK. Mr. Chabot votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Barr.
The CLERK. Mr. Barr votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Jenkins.
The CLERK. Mr. Hutchinson.
The CLERK. Mr. Hutchinson votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Pease.
Page 258 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CLERK. Mr. Pease votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Cannon.
The CLERK. Mr. Conyers.
The CLERK. Mr. Conyers votes no.
The CLERK. Mr. Frank.
The CLERK. Mr. Frank votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Schumer.
The CLERK. Mr. Berman.
The CLERK. Mr. Boucher.
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The CLERK. Mr. Nadler.
The CLERK. Mr. Nadler votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Scott.
The CLERK. Mr. Scott votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Watt.
The CLERK. Ms. Lofgren.
The CLERK. Ms. Jackson Lee.
The CLERK. Ms. Jackson Lee votes no.
The CLERK. Ms. Waters.
The CLERK. Ms. Waters votes no.
Page 260 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CLERK. Mr. Meehan.
The CLERK. Mr. Delahunt.
The CLERK. Mr. Delahunt votes no.
The CLERK. Mr. Wexler.
The CLERK. Mr. Wexler votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Rothman.
The CLERK. Mr. Rothman votes aye.
The CLERK. Mr. Hyde.
The CLERK. Mr. Hyde votes aye.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Watt, are you recorded?
Mr. WATT. Mr. Watt is undecided at this point.
Mr. HYDE. Put him down as leaning.
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Mr. FRANK. He wants to see it first.
Mr. WATT. Yes. Can we have a viewing, a voir dire?
Mr. HYDE. The Clerk will report.
The CLERK. Mr. Chairman, there are 14 ayes and 4 noes.
Mr. HYDE. Then the committee will receive the video presentation.
Mr. WATT. Mr. Chairman, is the clock on or is the clock off?
Mr. HYDE. The clock is now on.
Mr. WATT. Thank you, sir.
Mr. BARR. That was February 19, 1996. The second brief clip we will see is July 30, 1996.
Page 262 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BARR. That is all we have from that one.
Madam Attorney General, the first tape of February 19, 1996, I believe is interesting for several reasons. Among the individuals seated at the President's table in the first tape was Charlie Trie, Pauline Kanchanalak, Ng Lap Seng, and Ted Sioeng, all central figures in the fund-raising scandal unfoldings, none of whom were available to either this committee or the Government Reform Committee.
The videotape appears to have been edited to exclude remarks made by Congressman Bob Matsui just prior to the President's remarks. The videotape clearly shows Charlie Trie seated on the President's left side. It shows Pauline Kanchanalak seated on the President's right side. Trie and Kanchanalak account for almost $1.5 million in contributions returned either by the presidential legal expense trust or the DNC.
The videotape may show other individuals, but we don't know what some of them, such as Ng Lap Seng, looked like. Perhaps somebody at the Department of Justice some day will be able to identify Ng Lap Seng. The President's comments at the beginning of his speech make it clear that he had prior discussions with John Huang and other DNC officials about that particular fundraising event with the persons there, as I indicated.
The President says when he; that is, John Huang, told me this event, that this event was going to unfold as it has tonight, I wasn't quite sure I believed him, but he had never told me anything that didn't come to pass. The dinner raised over $600,000 for the DNC, a substantial percentage of which, at least 20 percent, has been returned to date.
Page 263 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The second tape, July 30, 1996, at the Jefferson Hotel, is interesting for many reasons. I played it here to simply show that the President was attending a dinner which, if you exclude Senator Dodd who was there and DNC officials and Mr. Huang, was primarily attended by non-U.S. citizens. A dinner which raised nearly $500,000 included large contributions from individuals who did not attend the dinner.
Madam Attorney General, I believe that these clips are relevant for purposes of both our hearing today, as well as your deliberations on whether or not the preliminary burden for seeking the appointment of an independent counsel are satisfied.
One could, as has seemed to
Mr. DELAHUNT. I wonder if the gentleman would yield for a question?
Mr. BARR. To put the gentleman's mind to rest, no.
It seems to me, Madam Attorney General, that you could take any one of these films, perhaps any one portion thereof, and fly speck it, put it under a microscope, treat it as the Department seems to have treated pieces of evidence that have come before it or that this committee has provided to it, put it under a microscope, parse it, dissect it just as carefully as possible, much like, for example, if there is a traffic cop coming upon the scene of a 50-car pileup, takes out a microscope, looks at the 37th car in line and determines that the taillight wasn't working. It may be very technically proper and within the jurisdiction of prosecutorial discretion of that police officer to look at the taillight on that 37th car, ignoring the other 49 cars and perhaps deaths.
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The point that the American people I think have a right to expect is, is the Department of Justice, is the Attorney General, within her rights, within the Department's rights, to look at a particular piece of evidence, move on to the next particular piece of evidence, put it under a microscope, dissect it, parse it, and determine that it may not fit within prosecutorial discretion, guidelines, or what not, but forget that there is a larger picture here, there is a larger picture that is portrayed by these films, there is a larger picture, Madam Attorney General, that is portrayed by an administration that seems to be and seems to have been, particularly during the 1996 election cycle, so intent on raising money from wherever and however it could that it has sold, systematically sold, according to a scheme, the attributes of the White House itself, the attributes of the presidency. We have evidence, it has been in the papers, that the President signed off on a checklist, a price list, almost like a telethon; so much money for such and such an event.
Madam Attorney General, I think what we are looking at here is a scheme, something that myself and other prosecutors are very familiar with. We are very familiar also with the fact that you take any particular piece of that scheme and simply indict; where that one little piece of it you probably wouldn't get a conviction, because it may appear to people de minimis, yet when you put it together, weave it together as a fabric, it very clearly indicates a scheme to defraud or a scheme to commit other illegal activities.
You mentioned in your written remarks, and I think you also, Madam Attorney General, went over in your oral comments as well, you say the average citizen has a right to ask what is taking so long. And I think the public is asking that. But then you go on to recount the proof that is necessary for a criminal conviction, that it takes a great deal of time and a great deal of evidence gathering and analysis to, quote, we have to convince 12 people beyond a reasonable doubt, close quote. That is not really the standard, though, in determining whether or not an independent counsel should be required.
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I think we are now starting to see that there is a considerable body of evidence, and I would ask you, is that not part of the question, a legitimate question, that Congress and the American people are asking, why is it taking so long, and do you not see a difference between a particular act that might have occurred and a scheme to sell off the attributes of the White House, perhaps a 641 violation?
Ms. RENO. I see a difference between one part of a matter such as what you have just shown, and I see when that is shown to me, or when Congressman Sensenbrenner mentioned it this morning, that that is not specifically credible evidence to indicate that a covered person may have committed a crime. At the same time, as I have testified, we are pursuing the whole situation, and if it leads to a conspiracy, we are prepared to pursue it, wherever it leads and to whomever that conspiracy takes us.
Mr. WATT. Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman will state his inquiry.
Mr. WATT. Is there some way to put a U.S. citizen under a microscope and determine whether he is a U.S. citizen?
Mr. HYDE. If the microscope is big enough.
Mr. WATT. Just wondering.
Page 266 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HYDE. Doing my best to answer.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. I will interrupt for a moment. For the committee's information, the second round, which will commence as soon as Mr. Pease is finished, we will reduce the time to 5 minutes instead of 10 so we aren't here for another 4 or 5 hours, but everybody gets a reasonable shot at saying what they want to say.
Ms. WATERS. May I inquire of the chairman if he really feels it necessary to have a second round?
Mr. HYDE. I do, yes.
Ms. WATERS. I think we have just about played this one out, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. The gentlelady is free to leave. No one here is under duress.
Ms. WATERS. No, I can't leave. I have to keep you in check. I have to stay.
Page 267 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FRANK. Mr. Chairman, there is one person here under semiduress, and I wonder if she wanted to take a break at some point. She has been here for a couple of hours' stretch.
Mr. HYDE. I am amenable to whatever.
Ms. RENO. I appreciate the Congressman's thoughtfulness, but
Mr. HYDE. You would rather go ahead. I understand.
Mr. Hutchinson is recognized for 10 minutes.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank the Attorney General for her patience today and her diligence in answering these questions. Some people have raised the issue of integrity today, and I want to assure you that in my view integrity is not the issue. I am speaking of your integrity. I believe that the issue today is a matter of judgment, a matter of discretion and properly interpreting the law, and I think that we can in good faith disagree on an exercise of judgment and discretion, very strongly disagree, but at the same time have respect for one another's integrity.
I wanted to follow up specifically on a line of questioning initiated by Chairman Hyde concerning your potential conflict of interest. In yesterday's New York Times and other national publications, it was reported that, and I quote, ''the White House and the Justice Department are negotiating an agreement under which President Clinton would voluntarily answer questions about his knowledge of Democratic fund-raising efforts during his reelection campaign, government officials said today. The tentative outlines of an agreement have been under discussion for days, et cetera,'' end of quote.
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My question is, can you as an appointee of the President, without having a conflict of interest, negotiate an agreement whereby the President would give testimony or a statement to those who are investigating this fund-raising matter?
Ms. RENO. I don't see any reason why we can't make arrangements for allowing the President to testify.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Of course, one question is making arrangements for him to testify, and I can understand why he would want to give his point of view on this matter. But it is clear that the parameters of the President giving a statement must be set, and the negotiation for those parameters would be by an appointee of the United States, which the American public could very well view as a conflict.
Ms. RENO. Well, Congress provided for a preliminary investigation period of 90 days. We are in that period. That preliminary investigation is conducted by the Attorney General and the Department of Justice. And so if it is to be changed, I think it would have to be changed by statute.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. And the second concern in regard to the President giving testimony would be in the questioning. There would certainly be cross-examination or questioning, and there would be the temptation for one of your employees or your task force attorneys, not to ask a question and it might not be intentional, but it might be very subtly done or the pressure subtly come about because, of course, the fact that their boss, you, are an appointee of the United States. Can you not see the appearance of a conflict of interest there?
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Ms. RENO. Again, Congress has set up a very orderly procedure by which there is a preliminary investigation that precedes the triggering of the Independent Counsel Act and my seeking the appointment. I think that is doneCongress was specific in what it limited because it said I can inquire, I can helpby I, I mean the Department of Justice's investigators can talk to people, they can talk to the subject. They just simply cannot use the grand jury, nor can they use the subpoena power, nor can they grant immunity. So Congress has addressed this. If you think there is a problem in it, it is going to have to be corrected by legislation.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Are you, in fact, negotiating an agreement with the President on the terms of his testimony?
Ms. RENO. Again, I would not comment on what we were doing in the particular investigation.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Madam Attorney General, this past April, you declined to initiate a preliminary investigation with respect to Vice President Gore's White House fund-raising calls, and I believe the reason that you cited was because you had concluded that he had solicited only soft money. Am I correct in that?
Ms. RENO. That is correct, sir.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. On what basis did you arrive at this conclusion, that the Vice President was only soliciting soft money in his fund-raising calls?
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Ms. RENO. Because we checked the existing records that we had, and it indicated that it was received as soft money.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. What records were those?
Ms. RENO. The campaign records.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. At that time, the Vice President indicated that he was raising money for the DNC on these calls?
Ms. RENO. I don't think the Vice President was interviewed at the time.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. His public statements.
Ms. RENO. That is as I understand it.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Which would indicate that they would be soft money calls.
Ms. RENO. That is correct.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Of course, now at this point we know that the records were clear that the money that he raised went into hard money accounts at the DNC. The appearance again would be that perhaps you gave deference to Vice President Gore's public statements that he was raising soft money, and therefore an argument that he is not covered by the Pendleton Act, and that you gave deference to his statements in contrast to looking at the records that were available to you that would indicate that he was, in fact, raising hard money.
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Ms. RENO. I don't quite understand your question, but trying to understand it, what happened with respect to those calls as the investigators verified that the money was going for soft money, that as the investigation went on and, as I testified earlier, more records came in, the investigation was proceeding according to an investigative strategy. They did not go back and check the new calls that they had information on and compare them because that was going to be something down the road. It then appeared in the Washington Post, and at that point I thought that it should be triggered.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. And so the initial inquiry by your task force did not go as far as the Washington Post did in their review of the fund-raising money?
Ms. RENO. I am sorry?
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Let me go on to another area of questions. Mr. Barr and others
Ms. RENO. I didn't hear your question, and I apologize, because somebody handed me a note, so don't take my silence as one way or another.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. I know you were distracted on that point, but let me go on.
A number of Members have asked questions concerning the coffee videotapes, and, of course, you indicated that you were angry by the fact that they were notI think ''mad'' may have been the word that was useddisclosed and made available in a timely fashion. I am not improperly characterizing your action, am I?
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Ms. RENO. You are properly characterizing it.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. And I think all of America has that similar concern, and particularly, I think, a case can be made that there has been a history of foot-dragging, and delays by the White House in producing documents in response to subpoenas and proper requests for information.
My question to you is what confidence do you have now that, as we speak, the White House is not withholding evidence from you?
Ms. RENO. I don't have any reason to believe that they are knowingly withholding evidence from me.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Your past experience is not a guide for the future or for the present?
Ms. RENO. I don't have any reason to believe that they are withholding evidence from me.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Can you give the American public assurance that you have all the information from the White House that is necessary for you to properly conduct the investigation?
Ms. RENO. At this point, we are receiving every information that we have requested. I am not advised of anything that the White House has promised us as of this date that we have not received. If I am in error, I will correct that for you.
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Mr. HUTCHINSON. I guess that is a difficult thing. You are having to rely upon the assurance of the White House.
But let me move on. I am going to be running out of time here. I am concerned about circumstantial evidence. In your response to Mr. Hyde's letter requesting appointment of independent counsel, you talk about specific and credible information that covered person may have violated a criminal statute. What role does circumstantial evidence play in your determination whether independent counsel should be appointed? It would appear to me that circumstantial evidence, a pattern of conduct, is a relevant consideration. We are talking about a quid pro quo, a pattern, circumstantial evidence, you can convict somebody, and your U.S. attorneys can convict sombody in Federal court on this kind of evidence. Are you considering circumstantial evidence in determining whether an independent counsel should be appointed?
Ms. RENO. Yes, we are.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Mr. Chairman, that was a quicker answer than I thought. I should have asked a longer question. I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. HYDE. The Attorney General is nothing if not quick.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Madam Attorney General.
Ms. RENO. I would point out, it has been stated to me that the Vice President did not say he was raising soft money, but that it was a conclusion based on the records available.
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Mr. HYDE. Thank you.
The gentleman from Ohio. Indiana, I am sorry. I am always wanting to transfer you to Ohio. I am sorry, the gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Pease.
Mr. PEASE. Mr. Chabot points out I should be so lucky, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madam Attorney General, it is pretty clear by now that we are not going to receive responses to many of the specifics that have been at issue here today, and I understand your reasoning as to why you will not respond, and though I disagree with your conclusions, let me start by saying that I have tremendous respect for you personally and for your office, and I have respect for your conclusions. Therefore, I would like to move in a different direction and discuss with you for a little bit the administration of the Department of Justice in a more general way.
What is the relationship between the Office of the President or the President as an individual and the Department of Justice as it relates to both policy formation and implementation?
Ms. RENO. With respect to policy formulation, we may institute some ideas within the Department of Justice, say, with respect to terrorism issues, the development of an antiviolent crime initiative, in which we reached out to State and local officials and developed partnerships. And we bring that to the White House through my deputy chief of staff, or people like that will talk to their counterparts in the White House, and in some instances it will be announced by the White House. It will be implemented by other agencies in conjunction with us. The Treasury Department and the Department of Justice will come together with the White House and implement that policy.
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In other instances, it may be a White House policy with respect tofor example, the President is a very strong believer in religious freedom and was very supportive of the Religious Freedom Act. We will have a situation where we could go either way with respect to an appropriate determination, and the President will indicate that his position with respect to religious freedom is one that is very important to him, it is one that we feel comfortable with, and so that is a specific instance in which I can recall.
Mr. PEASE. When you are formulating policy either initiated by the White House or by the Justice Department or collaboratively, how frequently do you or your representatives meet with the President or his representatives?
Ms. RENO. I have a regular meeting, a weekly meeting, sometimes it is adjusted for a weekwith the White House Counsel just to make sure that there is communication on the general issues between the Department of Justice. Sometimes they relate to specific matters. Other times it relates to more general matters and matters of policy. There will be Cabinet meetings in which policy is discussed. There will be Domestic Policy Council meetings, and there will be individual meetings with one person in the White House in which I am involved.
There are a number of other situations on a regular basis in which representatives from the Department of Justice will meet with the White House on matters with respect to the follow-up on Adarand, with respect to procurement regulations, with respect to the hate crime initiative that is now under way, with respect to tobacco and other areas like that.
Page 276 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PEASE. I assumed, but it is helpful to know from you, that that sort of interaction is, I assume, helpful, important in the development of policy and a review of policy, and that is why I was a little bit troubled by a newspaper article quote that was referred to earlier in today's hearing, I think, by the chairman where the President is quoted as saying, I have gone out of my way to have no conversation with her, meaning the Attorney General, about this, meaning the campaign finance investigation or, frankly, anything else.
What are we to conclude about your ability to be an effective part of an administration team if the President says he is not communicating with you about anything?
Ms. RENO. I have not sensed that there has been any problem. I have not had recently any need to talk directly to the President about a matter of policy. I think we have a strong communications system on a number of fronts with respect to the White House Counsel, and the National Security Advisor, Acting Associate Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General have points of contact, and they join me on occasions and in these meetings, and I have simply not seen any impact whatsoever in our ability to address issues of policy and to address issues of implementation.
Mr. PEASE. I assume the President must have been misquoted in his statement?
Ms. RENO. I don't know whether
Mr. PEASE. Or misunderstood.
Page 277 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. I don't know that he has gone out of his way not to talk to me, but I don't have any sense that we are failing in any way to communicate with the White House.
Mr. PEASE. I appreciate that. This sounds as though, well, this is a leading question. Do you believe it is important that the Department of Justice be administered in a way that is both, in fact, proper and that avoids even the appearance of impropriety?
Ms. RENO. I do, with one issue, which leads to the independent counsel statute, because the issue has been raised. You may not have an actual conflict, but you have an appearance of conflict. And this arose in the Senate oversight hearing back in April. We carefully researched it again because questions were raised about our interpretation that concluded that when the statute was reenacted, it specifically provided for an actual conflict and eliminated provision for an appearance of conflict.
Mr. PEASE. I understand that. But I am really talking in the larger context of the importance of all officers of the court to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and the results of the events of the last 10 months, which seem to be growing to a conclusion among the American people that the Department is dragging its feet because the press seems to be doing a better job, appears to be doing a better job, at ferreting out the truth than the Department.
Now, I don't believe that that is true, but I believe the appearance is there, and I am concerned how you as the Attorney General address that issue, aside from the specific statute that might or might not be triggered in this case, about dealing with the confidence of the American public that there is nothing improper in the Department of Justice.
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Ms. RENO. What I have tried to do, and the chairman alluded to it earlier, really, in his opening statement in which he quoted me talking last Thursday morning, expressing the frustration that I could not let the American people know in detail what we were doing, and stating that if they did, I think that they would appreciate where we stood, and many of their questions would be answered, but that it was important to note some of the things that we were doing.
One of those points is that the American people think when we say there is no independent counsel to be appointed, that the statute isn't triggered, that the whole investigation is closed, and I have tried to make the point again and again today that that doesn't close the investigation. That is only with respect to whether the Independent Counsel Act is triggered. I am going to try to continue to make that point so that people understand, but at the same time I can't comment in detail, and there will be situations whenever you have a massive investigation like this when people have questions and I won't be able to answer them. Ultimately what we do and how we do it is going to have to speak for itself.
Mr. PEASE. I appreciate that as well.
Do I understand you to say, then, that unless there is a specific violation under the statute that is defined as a conflict of interest, you feel you can do nothing outside of the statute to address the issue of the appearance of impropriety?
Ms. RENO. What I am saying, the statute itself, by presuming and by making the covered persons automatically covered so that it presumes the conflict and that I have to trigger it, that creates the situation to perhaps which you refer. But with respect to the second provision of the act it said refers to the conflict, if I am investigating a noncovered person and conclude that the Department of Justice has a conflict in thatby that investigation, if that noncovered person has specificif we have specific and credible evidence that that person may have committed a crime, then I have discretion to trigger it, but I don't have discretion when it is simply an appearance of conflict. And at this point I do not feel, short of the people that are covered by the statute, that I have a conflict.
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Mr. PEASE. Thank you.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired. We will now conduct a second round of questions, and we will limit ourselves to 5 minutes instead of 10 minutes so that we can get through at a decent time. And the Chair will wait while the gentlelady refreshes herself, and I will commence the second round. As I say, this will be 5 minutes only.
Madam Attorney General, I have got the statute in front of me on independent counsel, and I don't see anything about real conflict of interest or apparent conflict of interest. It is silent as to that entirely, and I would refer you to section 591(C). So it is here, and I don't see any distinction about perception, or real, or actual, that you seem to see.
The Attorney General has quite rightly advised one of our Members not to become cynical, and that is good advice, but at the same time one shouldn't become naive, either. To look at the whole picture rather than isolated elements of it, I have some nonconfidence-building elements of the picture insofar as the Justice Department is concerned.
We can forget Waco and Ruby Ridge, although we are entitled to mention those since we went back to Watergate, but we won't. But Filegate is still hanging out there. Some 900 FBI files somehow found their way into the White House, into the clutches of a man named Craig Livingstone, a former bouncer in a Georgetown bar, who became chief of security at the White House. Nobody knows who hired him. He is truly a mystery man. But we do know 900 files of Republicans ended up in the White House, and how that happened, as I say, the Lord only knows.
Page 280 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Travelgate, where Billy Dale and his career professionals were summarily swept out of office, and Mr. Dale was indicted and tried by the public integrity section. The jury was out 3 hours, I understand, and found him not guilty.
Yes, it took Mr. Starr 4 years to find out Vince Foster committed suicide. We still don't know what was taken from his office, who went in there after his death and ransacked the office and what they took.
The hard money versus soft money. There is the taking of soft money and allocating the first $20,000 of it to hard money without notifying the donors. They might well then be in violation of the law, having overcontributed; and there is the late learning of that which was not a confidence-building measure any more than reading in Bob Woodward's column that hard money was made out of soft money, much like the alchemists used to do, many months afterwards.
And the Attorney General then decides to change the leadership of her task force who are just fresh from receiving monetary awards for splendid work; the late turning up of the tapes, the finding of them on Wednesday; the meeting with the Attorney General and the White House Counsel on Thursday, never mentioning the tapes to her, and her finding out on Saturday, which precipitated a very deserved outburst that she was mad; the failure to interview important witnesses: James Riady, Johnny Chung, John Huang, Arief Wiriadinata, Jack Quinn, the former White House Counsel. Have you interviewed Dick Morris? I don't expect Mr. Carville would have too much knowledge about this, but I would think Morris would. He has certainly written as though he does. Harold Ickes and Richard Sullivan were just interviewed very recently, despite the long-standing tenure of the task force.
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Now, in Cook County years ago, we had a sheriff. They called him Blind Tom O'Brien because he couldn't see anything. He never saw anything that was wrong anywhere, and he is remembered in history as Blind Tom O'Brien. Now, I do not accuse you of being related to him in any way, not even in visual acuity, but I just thought it would be helpful to mention good old Blind Tom because he doesn't get mentioned very often.
Your own words when you were testifying in 1993, and let me once more repeat them to you, I hang on every one of these. The pressure, the divided loyalty, are too much for any manI guess that excludes womanand as honorable and conscientious as any individual might be, the public could never feel entirely easy about the vigor and thoroughness with which the investigation was pursued. Some outside person is absolutely essential. Words to live by.
The rationale for the independent counsel statute, and I was present at the creation, is the real or perceived conflict of interest. It started with Hamilton Jordan. We all felt that Griffin Bell couldn't and shouldn't prosecute Hamilton Jordan, they were too close, officially if not unofficially, and so this kind of an act was generated.
Mr. FRANK. Mr. Chairman, do you want me to yield you some extra time?
Mr. HYDE. I am just getting started.
Mr. FRANK. Just a couple of minutes.
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Mr. HYDE. If you are willing to yield me two minutes.
Mr. FRANK. If I get two, I will give you two.
Ms. WATERS. I want two.
Mr. HYDE. I will yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. FRANK. Mr. Chairman, I tried, but the rest of them wanted to get in on the act.
Mr. HYDE. You certainly did.
The gentleman from Michigan Mr. Conyers.
Ms. RENO. Mr. Chairman?
Mr. HYDE. Yes, ma'am.
Ms. RENO. I believe we wrote you, but if we did not, let me make sure we provide you the information we provided Senator Hatch when he asked about the legislative history and the appearance of conflict and what we base our determination on.
Mr. HYDE. My staff tells me they did get that letter. They keep things from me, for which I publicly rebuke them.
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Mr. FRANK. Mr. Chairman, under your rules I assume if the gentlewoman wanted to respond to your comments, she would be allowed to do that.
Mr. HYDE. Absolutely.
Ms. RENO. Do you have a biography of Blind Tom?
Mr. FRANK. Yes, it's in Braille.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Conyers is recognized.
Mr. CONYERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Like Maxine Waters, I wasn't quite clear as to why we needed a second round, but I guess if you only get an Attorney General up for oversight once every blue moon, we try to keep her here as long as we can, as long as she can take it, and as long as we can take it, and here we are in the final 5-minute round. Thank you, Madam Attorney General.
Now, it must have beenI lost track of the count, but it must be about 27 times or more that you have explained to my colleagues that both under title 18, rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, you are not able to divulge the nature of materials, your relationship, the work in progress, the conversations and what you plan to do about any of this material. Is there any Member that doesn't quite yet comprehend this as this comes to a close? Is there somebody that wants to get some explication or they want to have the precise words in title 18 read, which I did earlier?
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Mr. HYDE. Will the gentleman yield, and I will give him extra time?
Mr. CONYERS. Of course, yes.
Mr. HYDE. I will give you a memo of information provided by the CRS, which indicates that rule 6(e) is not intended to forbid all disclosures to Congress, and that among things we are entitled to get memoranda, notes, investigative files and other records of FBI agents. You may have this. Put that in your archives.
[The information follows:]
REGARDING DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION TO CONGRESS
There are several potential arguments for withholding information
Since the Kennedy Administration, policy directives have established that executive privilege must be asserted only by the President personally.
Page 285 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Where a statutory confidentiality or non-disclosure provision is not explicitly applicable to Congress, the courts have consistently held that agencies and private parties may not deny Congress access to such information on the basis of such provisions.
Pending and Closed Civil and Criminal Cases
The Congressional Research Service has written: ''[A] review of congressional investigations that have implicated DOJ or DOJ investigations over the past 70 years, from the Palmer Raids and Teapot Dome to Watergate and through Iran-Contra and Rocky Flats, demonstrates that DOJ has been consistently obliged to submit to congressional oversight, regardless of whether litigation is pending, so that Congress is not delayed unduly in investigating misfeasance, malfeasance, or maladministration in DOJ or elsewhere.''
Grand Jury Materials
Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides a general rule of secrecy for ''matters occurring before the grand jury.'' Promulgated as an exercise of congressionally delegated authority and reflecting pre-existing practices, Rule 6(e) is not intended to address disclosures to Congress. Summarizing the case law, the Congressional Research Service notes that Rule 6(e) would not preclude disclosure of the following:
Documents within the possession of the Department of Justice concerning a particular case or investigation, other than transcripts of grand jury proceedings and material indicating the identities, of witnesses or jurors, the substance of testimony, the strategy or direction of the investigation, the deliberations or questions of jurors, and the like. Material that would not otherwise be identifiable as grand jury material does not become secret by Department of Justice identification.
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Immunity letters, draft pleadings, target letters, and draft indictments.
Plea agreements as long as particular grand jury matters are not expressly mentioned.
Third party records which pre-exist the grand jury investigation even if they are in the possession of the Department of Justice as custodian for the grand jury.
Memoranda, notes, investigative files, and other records of FBI agents or other government investigators except to the extent those documents internally identify or clearly define activities of the grand jury.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, just for your illumination, that is for confidential hearings of the Committee on Judiciary. This, sir, is a public hearing being televised to every citizen with a television set, and those rules, and I am so glad you brought this up, have absolutely no application to the inquiries that have been addressed over 27 times to the Attorney General of the United States requiring her to explain yet again that she cannot divulge the contents of potential information that might be going to a grand jury, nor can she divulge information that is built on a case that may end up with an independent counsel or a special prosecutor.
And so once again, I am glad the chairman wanted me to yield. Is there anybody else that doesn't get it? If they do, I will yield to them. She can't tell you. She cannot. She is restricted by the law.
Page 287 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Okay. I think at 3:30, I think we have all got this straight, Madam Attorney General. We can't ask you the questions about what you are doing about these matters. I thank all of my colleagues for finally getting this message.
Now, we have a couple of other things that need to be said in my closing comments. How many people on this committee want another Ken Starr? Raise your hand. I would like to see it. Who wants another Ken Starr? It is okay.
Here is a fellow loaded with conflicts of interest in the way that he has mismanaged his government responsibility, spent over $30 million, 3 years, and as I repeat before, has produced nothing, nothing. Nobody caught by the independent counsel under him has ever been convicted of anything, of the covered officials.
Mr. HYDE. Webb Hubbell.
Mr. CONYERS. Webb Hubbell was not a covered official.
Mr. HYDE. He was just the number two man in the Justice Department.
Mr. FRANK. Regular order.
Mr. CONYERS. But, Chairman Hyde, you really need to learn this. Webb Hubbell was consequently in the Attorney General's Office. The crime that he was prosecuted for was before he got there. For God's sake, learn that if you don't know anything else, since we have been going since 10:30. I will yield to you if you want me to.
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Mr. HYDE. No. I regret to say that the gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. CONYERS. Oh. Well, then that is okay.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. McCollum.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Madam Attorney General, there are a couple of questions that I would like to submit to you in writing one of them concerning the Department's interpretation of a statute and use of it with the Miranda rulings and another with regard to the Prison Litigation Act. I will do that because I don't have time today to go into that with you.
I trust that you will respond to those questions. I would rather come back to where we were this morning. I did ask a question rather late in the time allotted, as the chairman said, to which you responded about senior officials at the Department putting a little bit of a clamp on what the FBI could do with regard to asking questions of and interviewing senior officials at the White House and of the Democratic National Committee. You responded to me after the time clock had run to the effect that in due course they would be able to ask those questions; that yes, there was some timing question, and at that particular time during the course of the last year, there indeed were restrictions, limitations. They were not permitted at that timeas I understood your answerto investigate or to interview those senior White House officials. I just want to know if my understanding of your response is correct because it was under the kind of stress of our time up here.
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Ms. RENO. I frankly don't know whether they were prohibited from doing it, or whether everyone agreed with consultation with the supervisors that it would be better to time it in a certain way, or there were other limitations and there was not a threshold and supervisors agreed. But at the present time I can tell you based on my conversations with Director Freeh, it appears to be going in the direction everybody thinks it should be proceeding.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. I am glad to hear that, but I do want you to know that Director Freeh had made his views and his concerns pretty widely known several months ago that he was being hampered in that regard. It was reportedI think very accurately in that regardon October 3 in the Washington Post that a number of people were very concerned about that. One Justice Department lawyer is quoted as saying, ''You can't ask someone whether a covered person committed a crime.'' Of course, that person didn't want to be, identified publicly.
My concern is with the idea that, if indeed this statement is trueand apparently it wasthat there were some restrictions placed on the timing of these interviews over the summer, that time is of the essence. If the FBI is not allowed to ask questions of senior White House officials about something as important as these campaign finance allegations, then we can lose evidencewe can lose it for all time because people's memories fade. I think thatI wasn't privy to thisif the FBI Director was upset about this with whoever headed the task force (Ms. Ingersoll at the time) or with you or with whomever, I would say he was justified. And I would just say, as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime in particular, I hope that is exaggerated in the press. I hope that wasn't true, and certainly would not wish for it to be ever repeated again because I think the FBI needs the latitude to go ahead and interview those individuals at least privately.
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Secondly, I wanted to bring up again the issue of what I mentioned this morning about Carl Jackson's allegations to the Governmental Affairs Committee over in the Senate. I bring it back up to your attention because, as I understand, the trigger mechanism for appointing the independent counselor at least for the preliminary inquiry such as the one you have done already with the President on one issueis based upon specific and credible evidence of wrongdoing. Mr. Jackson said that John Huang solicited funds in a nonresidential working space. He said it was in the Map Room at the White House and that the President was a host at the event where it occurred. That quite likely puts the President in violation as principal under section 2 of title 18 as aiding and abetting in this regard if he acquiesced in it. He thanked him for it, if you read the testimony.
I just encourage you to look at that transcript again because if that is the case, I think at that point in timeif you read ityou have an allegation with specificity from a very credible sourceJackson being a former advisor to the Presidentand I believe that you should consider initiating a preliminary inquiry with regard to the President on this issue. Would you not agree that that is serious enough to look at in that regard?
Ms. RENO. We will always review any matter like that, sir.
Mr. MCCOLLUM. And if you find it justified a preliminary inquiry, you would initiate one?
Ms. RENO. If I found that it justified a preliminary investigation, I would notify the court.
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Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Massachusetts Mr. Frank.
Mr. FRANK. Mr. Chairman, I was struck by your opening series of statements of 7 minutes in length to the Attorney General, because you ranged very widely even back to the Bush administration with Ruby Ridge, and I take that as confirmation of the absence of a solid case.
What we have here is the Attorney General has been attacked for following the law, but now I think she is really being criticized for following the principles of mathematics. She is denying that a whole can be significantly greater than the sum of the parts. The gentleman from Georgia said, well, think of it as an automobile accident; there are 50 cars all banged up, and don't just look at one car. But before you can make that argument, you have to show the accident.
I have gone over their evidence. I hope people will read the letter the Majority sent to the Attorney General. It is air. There is nothing here. It is a combination of inconsistency and zero.
Let's go back over. It says bribery. Here are the elements of bribery. One was that the President was bribed by the Lippo Group. This is what they seriously say they want investigated, to declare a national monument in Utah because he wanted to help the Lippo Group's call.
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Well, let's get everybody. I have a list here I would ask to put into the record of the coconspirators, the 147 members of the Utah Wilderness Coalition who lobbied for this. I mean, let's have the Grand Canyon Trust and the Ancient Forest Rescue and the Arizona Bear Coalition and the Ban Waste Coalition, and the Blue Mountain Audubon, and the Yakima Audubon, and the Oklahomans Unitedthat sounds suspiciousand Orange County People for Animals. Let's get them in here, too.
And then there is another bribery charge. He actually opposed a military coup in Paraguay. That is right in here. The President of the United States opposed the military coup in Paraguay, and some people who gave him money were also opposed to the military coup in Paraguay, and this is what is supposed to rise to the level of specific and credible evidence.
We have another argument here that he did givehe allowed the city of Long Beachapparently he is in secret control of the city of Long Beachthe ability to lease a base, the COSCO situation. I was particularly struck to hear one of my colleagues who voted for Most Favored Nation treatment for China talk about the Communist Chinese Government. Didn't he know it was a Communist government when he voted to give them Most Favored Nation treatment? The majority of this House voted to give them Most Favored Nation treatment.
As far as Indonesia is concerned, when I moved last year in 1996 to cut off military assistance to Indonesia, the Republicans in the House voted 90 percent in favor of military assistance to Indonesia. Maybe Riady and the Lippo Group had more influence than we thought about.
Page 293 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The bribery is just preposterous, that the President should be indicted or investigated because he declared a national monument in Utah, he opposed the military coup in Paraguay, he approved the request of the city of Long Beach to grant a shipping situation. These are the issues that we are getting. And then we have access. I do not think I have seen hypocrisy more blatant than for members of this body to suggest that someone else ought to be criminally investigated because they give preferential access to campaign contributors. On the one hand, the members of the majority party talk about the constitutional right to give money and defend that strongly and then suggest that if you associate with the people who have done this, you have somehow been guilty of a crime. Another gross hypocrisy is to say, well, you let them into the building, you saw more people, they got more access. I don't know anybody here who doesn't give more access to contributors than to noncontributors. If there is anybody here who does not see his or her contributors more often than they see a random selection of the population. You may disagree with that politically, you may agree with it politically, but to suggest, A, that it ought to be criminally investigated and, B, to engage in the defamation of character of the Attorney General that we have heard because she has refused to give in to this kind of nonsense is really not worthy of a hearing or of this kind of activity. Yes, I believe in the independent counsel statute. I regret the fact that it has been so politicized. I still do. One of the problems we have with it is this and there are people who try to play it both ways. On the one hand, they argue for a very low trigger to get the independent counsel statute involved. Then once it is involved, they proclaim that whether or not anything had happened. In fact I will just take 30 more seconds, Mr. Chairman, and I will still have less time than you used.
Mr. HYDE. You might as well.
Mr. FRANK. I need even more time. Could I have an extra couple of minutes so I can reach your high standard?
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Mr. HYDE. You absolutely cannot.
Mr. FRANK. The Kenneth Starr investigation has been with regard to the Clinton administration and events that have happened since the Clinton administration took office, devoid of any result. They have alleged no crime against anyone in the Clinton administration since that administration took office. The fact that an independent counsel has been there for 3 years has unfortunately not put an end to the investigation, to the inference, so I wish people would heed the independent counsel statute fairly, but in particular I urge everyone to read this letter. The absence of substance is a great endorsement of the Attorney General's course of action to date.
[The information follows:]
INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 70 HERE
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Pennsylvania Mr. Gekas.
Mr. GEKAS. Thank you, I state to the chairman.
One of the items in the letter to which the gentleman from Massachusetts refers is the Vice President and the telephone calls from the White House, which you have concluded at some point had a credible source and therefore is ongoing; is that correct?
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Ms. RENO. We have concluded that at this point we need further time to determine if it is specific and credible.
Mr. GEKAS. That is, you triggered the 90-day examination?
Ms. RENO. We did.
Mr. GEKAS. And so you responded at least in portion to the letter in that fashion. But as to that, you have said a couple of times today that when the Washington Post reported, it was at that juncture that you concluded that a credible source existed, and therefore the 90-day avenue was opened; is that correct?
Ms. RENO. At that point we concluded that there was information that the Vice President may have violated the law and that we needed to pursue it.
Mr. GEKAS. From a credible source; is that correct?
Ms. RENO. At that point we had not determined that it was specific and credible. We are in the process of doing that now.
Mr. GEKAS. Well, then, what was the newspaper report to you, an indication that there might be?
Ms. RENO. The newspaper report indicated that it was hard money, that some of it might be.
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Mr. GEKAS. Was that specific enough for you to determine that the 90-day window had to be opened?
Ms. RENO. There are still issues outstanding in the 90 days.
Mr. GEKAS. But what was it about the Washington Post report that changed your mind completely, General Reno? That is what I want to know. I have to lay some groundwork. As chairman of the committee that has oversight over the independent counsel, this is critical to me from the standpoint of possibly developing ways to explore credible source and specificity and possibly, with your help, changing that statute if necessary.
But back to that, what was it about that report from the newspaper that changed your mind from a conclusion that you had reached that since soft money was the only thing involved, that, in fact, you were going to close the investigation; is that correct?
Ms. RENO. At that point when we determined that soft money was all that was involved with the first series of calls, we felt like we did not have specific and credible information that a Federal law had been violated. When I learned from the Washington Post that hard money may have resulted from the calls, it is at that point that I felt we should proceed.
Mr. GEKAS. The point is, General, that that Washington Post article apparently signaled to you some level of specificity or credibility of source that compelled you to change your attitude towards that inquiry; is that correct?
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Ms. RENO. No, it advised me that there was hard money involved, and we double-checked it with the campaign records and concluded that there was.
Mr. GEKAS. Well, hard money, isn't that a specific piece of information?
Ms. RENO. There is additional information with respectas I have indicated previously in my testimony today, there isprior to the 90 days, you cannot make a determination with respect to intent or with respect to the practice of the Justice Department, and we are involved in that now.
Mr. GEKAS. We know that. But I am appalled to hear that the Post article in one way or another triggered the 90-day avenue for the Vice President when a dozen or two dozen or three dozen other allegations that we have presented to you made by newspapers across the country to activities of the President and the Vice President did not find in your heart and in your investigators' heart the urge to investigate further to see if there was any credible source or specific information in those reports.
Ms. RENO. There was very specific information in the Washington Post article that was easily verified.
Mr. GEKAS. But did you check it out before you triggered the 90 days?
Page 298 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. We checked the Washington Post article against the campaign reports.
Mr. GEKAS. But wasn't it the same day or the day after the Washington Post article appeared that you announced that the 90 days was going to be sought?
Ms. RENO. I don't remember the timing of it. I will be happy to check it and get it for you.
Mr. GEKAS. Yes, that would be important to me.
I have no further questions.
Mr. HYDE. The next is Jerry Nadler, the gentleman from New York.
Mr. NADLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I want to make some comments on some of what we have heard so far today. I believe it is quite clear that muchthat some of what we have heard was done in the campaign last year was wrong, but I have seen no evidence whatsoever as of this date that any of it was illegal. Some of us believe that some of what the White House did and some of what many others have done on both sides of the aisle ought to be illegal.
I think the public is very cynical about the huge amounts of money that come in under the soft money especially, where elected officials now have two constituencies. You have to think about the donors as one constituency and the voters as a separate constituency. The donors get access. Mere voters can't count on such access to most of their public officials. This generates cynicism about whether we still have government of the people, by the people and for the people in this country. That is why our campaign laws ought to be changed. But none of that says that what was done was illegal. It should be made illegal. But that is not what we are talking about here.
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I also want to comment, and that is why also I have to say that what the chairman said before about some of the Democratic proposals for campaign finance reform do not treat labor the same, oh, yes, they do. The McCain-Feingold bill, for example, which every Democrat in the Senate is supporting, would codify the Beck decision that says that someone who pays union dues without joining the union because he is forced to as part of a union or agency shop could not have his funds spent for political purposes; but on the other hand someone who voluntarily joins a union, a democratically-governed, voluntary association, the majority through its elected officials there can decide to make political contributions. And if you want to change that and say, no, they can't, you have to get specific permission of every member. Then you would have to say the same about a corporation. They would have to get permission from every shareholder to spend corporate funds if you wanted to be the same equally.
Mr. NADLER [continuing.] But I want to come to the special prosecutor. It seems to me, I want to praiseI want to commend the Attorney General for being very leery, being very careful about appointing a special prosecutor. Mr. Hyde, in his comments in 1993 on the special prosecutor law, says the current threshold which potentially triggers all the provisions of the independent counsel statute is far too low. Under its terms, mere allegations, assertions, rumor or hearsay require that the time, manpower and resources of the Justice Department must be expended simply to conclude the negative. Offered allegations of criminal activity are prompted by political motives rather than real facts. I would agree that we have to be very careful of that, which is why I am very glad that the Attorney General is being careful about triggering that statute.
I also believe the standards for the scope of the independent counsel investigation are too lax. Again, you need merely look at Mr. Starr, who has spent over $30 million of the taxpayers' money, has taken 4 years and has gotten nowhere, has gotten far afield of Whitewater.
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Finally, I want to get and ask the questionI referred in my first statement to a Roll Call story of 1994 and, again, 1996 of Mr. Gingrich. I want to read a couple of sentences of what Roll Call reported Mr. Gingrich said.
''Mr. Gingrich warned that if Republicans take the House,'' this is October 6, 1994, ''the PACs which fail to support them this year could suffer the consequences. Gingrich told PAC directors, quote, 'Don't pick a specific race out, just put your money in any or all of them because when I become Speaker for anybody that's not on board now, it's going to be the two coldest years in Washington. It will not be good enough,' Gingrich reportedly added, 'for PACs simply to make debt-reduction gifts after the election to victorious GOP challengers.'''
And on November 3, 1994, Roll Call reported, ''Incoming House Republican Leader Newt Gingrich has crudely threatened business PACs with retaliation if his party wins control on Tuesday. It is unclear''
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. NADLER. Thirty seconds and I will be finished.
''It is unclear from that whether that is merely saying you won't have access or it is saying we won't listen to anything you say.''
I would suggest that this is at leastthis is far worse than anything anybody in the White House is accused of, and I would ask the Attorney General if she thinks this bears investigation.
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Mr. HYDE. Well, I will save the Attorney General answering that question because the time has expired.
Mr. NADLER. Mr. Chairman
Mr. HYDE. If she wishes to answer it, she may.
Ms. RENO. I don't think I should answer without a thorough review.
Mr. HYDE. I thank you.
Mr. NADLER. Thank you.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Florida, Mr. Canady.
Mr. CANADY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madam Attorney General, I wanted to go back to the line of inquiry I started during the first round of questions and ask you more about the incident involving Johnny Chung's visit to the President's Saturday radio address, which I understand occurred on March 9 of 1995.
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Do you know where that radio address was given?
Ms. RENO. No, sir, I don't. I will be happy to check and let you know.
Mr. CANADY. Do you think the location of the radio address would in any way be relevant to whether a potential violation of the law occurred?
Ms. RENO. Not that I know of.
Mr. CANADY. I'm not sure how you could have an opinion on the subject if you don't know where the radio address occurred.
Am I to conclude from the fact that you don't know that, that you think the location is irrelevant?
Ms. RENO. I will be happy to check and see what we can tell you publicly and report back to you, sir.
Mr. CANADY. This would not be a secret. As I understand, the radio address is something that is broadcast on CNN and would be publicly available information.
Ms. RENO. What I am suggesting to you, that as a responsibility of following up and responding to the Majority's letter, if there is an additional response that is necessary that we can make, we shall be happy to do so.
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Mr. CANADY. But you don't know where that radio address was given?
Ms. RENO. Not after all that has come today and that I have absorbed today.
Mr. CANADY. Madam Attorney General, do you agree that under the Federal criminal law, there is or may be such a thing as solicitation for a bribe in exchange for a meeting with a Federal official?
Ms. RENO. I don't know, sir. I will be happy to check and see.
Mr. CANADY. Madam Attorney General, I would suggest that, in the first place, you check this notification of preliminary investigation which appears to bear your signature. Did you sign this document that was filed with the U.S. court of appeals on September 19, 1997 with respect to the preliminary investigation of Hazel O'Leary?
Ms. RENO. Yes, I did.
Mr. CANADY. Do you recall that it has in it the statement, ''Johnny Chung alleged in the television interview that he had been solicited for a bribe in exchange for a meeting with the former Secretary''?
Page 304 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. I don't recall the exact language. It is here if you need it.
Mr. CANADY. I have it here.
Ms. RENO. Well, fine.
Mr. CANADY. Would you like to see my copy?
Ms. RENO. No, I have got a copy here.
Mr. CANADY. I am reading it accurately.
Ms. RENO. Okay.
Mr. CANADY. Well, would you answer my question then?
Ms. RENO. I don't remember what your question is after all that go-around.
Mr. CANADY. Well, do you agree that under the Federal criminal law there is or may be such a thing as solicitation for a bribe in exchange for a meeting with a Federal official? That is a simple question.
Ms. RENO. Yes.
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Mr. CANADY. You do believe?
Ms. RENO. If you are referring to the issue with respect to Hazel O'Leary.
Mr. CANADY. I am asking a question of law. I am not asking a question of fact.
Ms. RENO. I will be happyI am not answering the law in the abstract, sir. I will be happy to answer it in respect to specifics because I have got to deal with specifics.
Mr. CANADY. Well, if the Attorney General can't answerwell, I am somewhat mystified by this.
Let me say, Attorney General
Ms. RENO. One of the issues
Mr. CANADY. I would like to proceed because my time is expiring here.
Madam Attorney General, I know you to be a person of integrity. I have the utmost respect for you. I think thatI worked with you as a member of the Florida legislature before my colleague who has already spoken of that today. I believe that you are trying to do the right thing.
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But I am mystified by the inconsistent application of the law in the circumstances that I have outlined. You have said that the notification of preliminary investigation that you filed speaks for itself? Well, that is fair enough, but your letter which you submitted to the committee in response to Mr. Hyde's letter that we all signed also speaks for itself; and it seems to be inconsistent with the notification that you filed, and the treatment of Hazel O'Leary seems to be inconsistent with your treatment of the White House.
Now, you triggered a preliminary investigation with respect to Ms. O'Leary based on what your own notice says was an alleged solicitation for a bribe in exchange for a meeting with Ms. O'Leary, yet you have refused to trigger the preliminary investigation of the President with regard to allegations that are virtually identical and which also involve an alleged quid pro quo, an alleged solicitation of payment of a bribe in exchange for a meeting with the President.
This isn't about preferential access for campaign contributors; it is about an alleged, specific quid pro quo, opening up the President's office in exchange for the payment of cash. That concerns me.
Ms. RENO. I understand that. What I am trying to suggest to you is that we will review it if we can provide you with any further information that will help you understand it and respond to the Majority's's letter, we will be happy to do so.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired. The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Scott.
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Mr. SCOTT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I yield 15 seconds to the gentleman from Massachusetts.
Mr. FRANK. General, I would like an interpretation, if we could at some point, because I am troubled here and maybe it is my self-protective instincts for all of us, but the interpretation that a meeting which occurs only after someone makes a contribution is a Federal crime, does that mean that any Member of Congress who has a fund-raiser and admits to that fund-raiser only people who have paid the established price has been guilty of a crime, because that would be a case, it would seem to me, of people giving money in return for a meeting. Many of us go to fund-raisers and they are open to admission only to people who have given the money.
So I would just ask you if we can get a little free advice here from the Justice Department whether any of us who have fund-raisers where you have to pay something to get in are guilty because that is what it sounded like the gentleman was suggesting.
Don't rush this one, it is very important for our freedom, so I would like you to work on it.
Mr. SCOTT. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Chairman, General Reno, you have undoubtedly been following some of the hearings with Internal Revenue and many of the allegations of police misconduct. What is the Department of Justice doing to rein in government officials who are abusing their position?
Page 308 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. First of all, with respect to any allegation of unjustified use of force or any violation of law with respect to Federal officials exercising or violating the law or alleged to have violated the law, we have been working with the Inspector General, with the law enforcement agencies in the Civil Rights Division and the Attorney General's office in assessing our own ability and capacity and procedure for promptly following up on any abuse of discretion for any violation of law through the exercise of unjustified use of force, and are learning through that process anything we might that could improve the process and make it more timely.
With respect to State and local officials who may violate the civil rights laws through the unjustified use of force, we are working with State and local prosecutors across the country to ensure that our efforts are coordinated, that there is not duplication or fragmentation and that we work together in a harmonious effort to investigate and to develop the evidence and if the charges are proven, prosecute them in the forum that will secure the most effective result.
Mr. SCOTT. Along those same lines, there was a crime that was committed in southwest Virginia, the victim being Garnett P. Johnson. And I wanted to know what the process is for getting the Justice Department involved. And I say that as the conclusion. Right now, the U.S. attorney is already cooperating very much with the local prosecution. The local State prosecutor has already asked for and is prosecuting it as a capital crime. The FBI has been involved in the investigation.
And I guess my question is, what isand there are civil rights implications, a racial hate crime. What would be the process of getting your involvement?
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Ms. RENO. What we try to do in situations where hate crimes may be involved is make sure that agents in the field, assistant United States attorneys who handle these cases, are sensitive to the fact that there may be a civil rights violation.
We have tried to reach out to ATF to let them know that when they see what may be an act of violence, that it could have implications with respect to hate crimes, and then we are working with the local prosecutors, as we have in the Virginia case, to determine where the case can best be prosecuted to secure the most effective result. And in some situations, it may be more appropriately prosecuted in Federal court because the penalties derived from the Civil Rights Act may be more meaningful.
Mr. SCOTT. One other question while the chairman isn't looking. Can you tell us what the Department is doing on lending discrimination?
Ms. RENO. This has been an issue that we have focused on. We have worked closely with the American Bankers Associationand I was gratified by a statement made by one of their representatives recently that we have really had a good working relationshipin terms of outreach, to let them know what we have found and what they can do through self-assessment to correct problems that may have developed through inadvertence that result in discrimination.
We are constantly reviewing, both with respect to banking institutions and consumer lending institutions, information that would develop a case in which we could show discrimination, and I think we have made real progress. The number of loans for minorities has increased significantly, and this is an area that we have devoted great attention to.
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Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Goodlatte.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Reno, I would like to return to the issue of the administration's change in its immigration policy following the February 19 fund-raising event organized by John Huang.
Part of that event was shown on television at the request of the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Barr, and during that short clip that we saw, the President said something that I thought was very foretelling. He said, ''about Mr. Huang, he never told me anything that didn't come to pass.''
That is foretelling, because shortly after that event, Mr. Huang sent the President a memo exhorting him to change his policy regarding the immigration status of siblings of the United States citizens who are in other countries and said that that was the number one top priority, major issue, not of the Asian-American community as a whole but of the Asian-American political contributors.
Shortly thereafter, the President did indeed, as Mr. Huang foretold, change his policy and it did ''come to pass'' that that policy was changed.
Page 311 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, when I asked you before, you did not have a copy of the bribery statute in front of you, and we have since provided to your counsel a copy of that statute, and I hope he has made it available to you.
I would refer, again, to the definition of ''official act'' under that statute, which I readand you can verify, if you wouldany decision or action on any question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding, or controversy which may at any time be pending or which may by law be brought before any public official in such official's capacity or in such official's place of trust or profit.
I believe that is a correct reading of the statute, and I am concerned, when I asked you if you had any knowledge, as the Attorney General, with supervisory responsibility for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and its policyif you had any knowledge of the reason for that change, you indicated to me that you could not tell me what that reason might possibly have been.
Ms. RENO. I can provide you with all the information that is public from the Department of Justice on that. But I think the major issue, again, is that there is no express quid pro quo in this, no allegation of it. It is, again, just speculation.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Well, let me ask you, in response to our letter that we sent you on September 3rd, in your October 3rd letter you make no reference whatsoever to the bribery statute. The cases you cite are cases involving the Hobbs Act, and I find no reference to the bribery statute in the cases that you cite in your October 3rd letter to us stating no cause of action for bribery exists. Your letter makes no mention of the bribery statute.
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Shouldn't you at least reference, if not fundamentally rely upon, the bribery statute in determining whether there is a cause of action for bribery?
Ms. RENO. We will be happy to follow up with a response to the committee.
Mr. GOODLATTE. I would very much appreciate it if you would do that, because it does indeed trouble me that this is a matter that involves the Justice Department and one in which I am concerned that we need to separate you as the Attorney General from you as the investigator of something that involves the Department as well as the decision made by the President.
Mr. GOODLATTE. And at this time, Mr. Chairman, I would yield the balance of my time to you.
Mr. HYDE. How much time is that?
Mr. GOODLATTE. I wish I knew, but you can perhaps determine that very accurately.
Mr. HYDE. All right. I thank you for yielding. I just thought the record ought to include examples of specific and credible evidence that the President and Vice President may have committed crimes.
Page 313 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I see the yellow light is on, but I have six instances here. Charlie Trie brings Chinese arms dealers to White House coffee; permission granted to import 100,000 assault weaponsit is all set forth in this document, which will be made a part of the recordto Charlie Trie; contributions to the legal defense fund; President's old friend who has since left the country delivered a total of $789,000 to the President's legal defense fund. The President knew about these donations and concurred in an effort to conceal them.
That sounds like very strong language, but it is contained in an article in the Los Angeles Times, and I know it is just a newspaper, but it seems to me worth following up. Johnnie Chung brings six Communist Chinese officials to the President's radio address.
Mr. FRANK. Time is up, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. The Riady family places John Huang in the Commerce Department; and the sleepovers, et cetera.
So I will put the document in the record, and I thank the gentleman for yielding.
And you are right, that red light is on.
Mr. FRANK. I am always there to be helpful,
Page 314 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HYDE. Thank you. You are that, if nothing else.
[The information follows:]
EXAMPLES OF SPECIFIC AND CREDIBLE EVIDENCE THAT THE PRESIDENT AND VICE-PRESIDENT MAY HAVE COMMITTED CRIMES
1. Charlie Trie Brings Chinese Arms Dealer to White House Coffee; Permission Granted to Import 100,000 Assault WeaponsIn February 1996, Charlie Trie brought the leading arms dealer for the Chinese Communist government, Wang Jun, to one of the White House coffees where he met personally with the President. The President later said the meeting was clearly inappropriate. The same day, a Democratic fund-raiser, Ernest G. Green, who had written a letter supporting Mr. Wang's visa application gave $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee. Just four days before this event, Mr. Wang's company, Poly Technologies, received special permission to import 100,000 assault weapons into the United States. Poly's American attorney said ''All of a sudden, there was a breakthrough. I can't account for it.'' Possible Violations: 18 U.S.C. §201 (bribery); 18 U.S.C. §371 (conspiracy to defraud the United States); 18 U.S.C. §600 (promising of government benefits in return for political support); 18 U.S.C. §1341, 1343, 1346 (mail and wire fraud by defrauding the United States of honest services).
2. Charlie Trie Contributions to Legal Defense FundIn the spring of 1996, the President's old friend, Charlie Trie, who has since fled the country, delivered a total of $789,000 to the President's legal defense fund on three separate occasions. These donations were highly suspicious, including many sequentially numbered money orders that purported to come from different people in different cities. They were ultimately returned because they largely came from a Taiwan-based religious sect. The President knew about these suspicious donations and concurred in an effort to conceal them until after the election. Shortly after the first donation, the President appointed Mr. Trie to the Commission on U.S. Pacific Trade and Investment Policy. Possible Violations: 18 U.S.C. §201 (bribery); 18 U.S.C. §371(conspiracy to defraud the United States); 18 U.S.C. §600 (promising of government benefits in return for political support); 18 U.S.C. §1341, 1343, 1346 (mail and wire fraud by defrauding the United States of honest services).
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3. Johnny Chung Brings Six Communist Chinese Officials to the President's Radio AddressIn March 1995, Johnny Chung came to the White House seeking access to the President's weekly radio address for six officials of the Communist Chinese government. Mr. Chung said that he gained access to the President by acceding to the requests of the First Lady's aides that he donate $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee. After meeting personally with the Chinese Communist officials, Mr. Clinton expressed his concern that he ''wasn't sure we'd want photos of [himself] with these people circulating around.'' Mr. Chung later said of his donations: I see the White House is like a subway: you have to put in coins to open the gates.'' Possible Violations: 18 U.S.C. §201 (bribery); 18 U.S.C. §371 (conspiracy to defraud the United States); 18 U.S.C. §600 (promising of government benefits in return for political support); 18 U.S.C. §1341, 1343, 1346 (mail and wire fraud by defrauding the United States of honest services).
4. The Riady Family Places John Huang in the Commerce DepartmentSince 1991, the Riady family and other persons tied to Lippo have donated at least $475,000 to the Democratic Party and its candidates, including the President. The Clinton administration placed their top employee in the United States, John Huang, at the Commerce Department in a job for which his superiors said he was totally unqualified. He received a security clearance without a proper background check. During his tenure, he received 109 briefings on classified information and made at least 70 calls to Lippo. The President personally met with James Riady to see that Mr. Huang was transferred to the DNC where he raised at least $1.6 million in illegal or improper campaign contributions. Possible Violations: 18 U.S.C. §201 (bribery); 18 U.S.C. §371 (conspiracy to defraud the United States); 18 U.S.C. §600 (promising of government benefits in return for political support); 18 U.S.C. §1341, 1343, 1346 (mail and wire fraud by defrauding the United States of honest services).
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5. Lincoln Bedroom SleepoversIn his own handwriting, the President authorized a scheme in which donors would be allowed to sleep over in the Lincoln Bedroom in return for campaign contributions. The 938 overnight guests donated at least $10 million to the Democratic National Committee. Possible Violations: 18 U.S.C. §201 (bribery); 18 U.S.C. §371(conspiracy to defraud the United States); 18 U.S.C. §600 (promising of government benefits in return for political support); 18 U.S.C. §1341, 1343, 1346 (mail and wire fraud by defrauding the United States of honest services).
6. Vice-President Gore's Extortion of Campaign ContributionsBob Woodward's March 2 story on Vice-President Gore's fund-raising calls quoted at least two businessmen who said that the Vice-President shook them down for contributions. Possible Violation: 18 U.S.C. §201 (bribery); §872 (extortion by government officials).
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Watt.
Mr. WATT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I assume the chairman was reading from a newspaper article.
Mr. HYDE. No; a document prepared by the staff of the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.
Mr. WATT. That is pretty credible evidence, I would say.
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Mr. HYDE. Just about as credible as you can get.
Mr. WATT. Substantial, too.
I, having viewed the film clips of Mr. Barr, would like to make a unanimous consent request that had I seen it in advance, I would have voted yes on his motion at the appropriate point in the record.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's statement will appear in the record.
Mr. WATT. Thank you.
Madam Attorney General, I asked you this morning about the status of the investigation of tax fraud allegations against the Speaker of the House, and at that point you didn't have information about that. I wonder if you have had an opportunity in the interim to obtain any information about the status of that.
Ms. RENO. We have not received a referral from the ethics committee.
Mr. WATT. What is the process by which you all get referrals in these cases?
Ms. RENO. I don't know what process is used by the ethics committee, but my understanding is that it is received, I think depending on thereceived by the Justice Department and then referred to the particular component which might deal with it.
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Mr. WATT. All right.
I think that is all I have, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. FRANK. Will the gentleman yield to me?
Mr. WATT. I yield to Mr. Frank.
Mr. FRANK. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
The reason the ethics committee came up is, I thought that was very useful. I mean, the reason I asked him to yield, my recollection is that the House recently changed the rules of the ethics committee to rule out simple references from newspaper articles as a basis for ethics investigations.
So we now haveas I said, Madam Attorney General, you are in severe danger of implementing a single standard, and that probably more than anything else is what has people upset. You don't seem to understand the separation of powers which is that we sit here and make rules for everybody else but, to the contrary, we don't apply them to us.
I mean, no one in his or her right mind would think that you could look into people giving campaign access based on contributions and not think a single Member of Congress was relevant to that.
Page 319 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But I think we should note that with regard to the reform of the ethics process, the House Majority, in particular, voted to severely restrict reliance on newspaper accounts. They said that wasn't enough, the fact that something was in the newspaper. But apparently what is sauce for the ethics goose is not sauce for your gander, wherever or whatever your gander might be.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Frank, that is pronounced gender.
Mr. FRANK. Well, by some. And the point, again, has to be driven home.
There was one other point I wanted to make, and that was, the gentleman from Virginia said he couldn't think of any reason why we would have changed the immigration position of the administration on excluding siblings of people who are here, other than campaign contributions.
Well, I would note to him that large numbers of Americans thought that that was a terrible mistake. I am one of those who helped lobby the administration to change its position. It was not just Asian Americans, but Portuguese Americans and lots of others, and it may be a sign of the problem my friends on the other side have had with immigration policy that they can think of no other reason to support the policy of family reunification than money.
To many of us, money was not a necessary ingredient in changing that, and the notion that this major issue of immigration policy, which was widely debated, involves so many ethnic communities, was an example of the bribery for which the President should be indicted is another of the extreme acts of silliness that have marked this whole approach.
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I thank my friend for yielding.
Mr. WATT. I yield back all of the balance of my time, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. I certainly thank the gentleman for that act of kindness.
Mr. BARR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Attorney General, the two brief film clips we played earlier, had you seen those clips prior to this time?
Ms. RENO. No, I had not.
Mr. BARR. Has the Department of Justice, at any time, requested such films from the White House communications agency?
Ms. RENO. My understanding is, we have them, sir.
Mr. BARR. When were they requested?
Page 321 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. RENO. I can't describe the process by which they were requested.
Mr. BARR. I am asking about the timing, not the process.
Ms. RENO. Some months ago, as I understand it, unless these are the new ones.
Mr. BARR. These are some of the new ones.
Ms. RENO. What I will do is find out exactly when each item was requested and advise you so that I don't mistake the dates.
Mr. BARR. But you haven't seen them prior to this time.
Ms. RENO. No, I have not.
Mr. BARR. Under the independent counsel statute, Attorney General, you could seek application, or seek the appointment, rather, of an independent counsel tomorrow, could you not, if you believed that the criteria had been met?
Ms. RENO. Yes.
Mr. BARR. You don't have to wait the entire 60 or 90 days, whichever is applicable.
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Ms. RENO. That is correct.
Mr. BARR. I think that we mentioned a number of things today, 18 USC 641, which speaks of conversion to personal use, and I think that a judge or a jury would include in that using it for campaign purposes to further one's campaign goals or campaign fund-raising.
I believe that what we have is a violation of 641, if you put together and piece together this pattern of activity of selling off the White House and all of its attributes, which do not belong to the President. The White House does not belong to him. He stays there, and there are parts of it considered his personal residence, but they do not belong to him, yet they have been converted to personal, i.e., campaign use.
And your letter, which is in effect a brief, of October 3rd, to the chairman, is a very good one, if the value of it is gauged by comprehensively setting forth a large number of reasons why an independent counsel should not be appointed, why the provisions in that law do not apply, and why things that the White House is doing are not illegal. Yet I think in your zeal to use it for such purposes and to set forward such things in the letter, you really ought to be a little more careful about cases that you cite.
Two of the cases that are cited, Madam Attorney General, U.S. v. Carpenter and U.S. v. Sawyer, both of which are cited by you to suggest that simply trading access for campaign contributions is not, in and of itself, illegal. That is not really the point. And those cases do go on to state, I think, very, very clearly that it can be, with other things, evidence of illegality, whether it is the Hobbs Act, whether it is extortion, whether it is allowing a jury to use such evidence of buying access to show that lobbyists make those contributions, provide those gifts, and as an effort or part of a scheme to induce officeholders to perform official acts.
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That is what we are talking about here, and I think that picking and choosing case law in an effort to simply defend the President is wrong.
Mr. Chairman, I think to some extent what we are witnessing here today and the problems surrounding application of the independent counsel statute is, perhaps we are barking up the wrong tree, and maybe the independent counsel statute is not the vehicle that the people of this country should look to or that this Congress should look to in order to correct abuses of office. The answer may indeed lie elsewhere.
Mr. Chairman, thank you, and I yield back.
Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentleman.
Ms. RENO. Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HYDE. Yes, ma'am.
Ms. RENO. Again, you can do all sorts of things, but what we had done is review the evidence, review the law. If the distinguished Congressman has additional matters that he wants to raise beyond the letter that you wrote, we are happy to review that.
Mr. BARR. I have provided some today.
Ms. RENO. But we will continually review the matter in every way possible, and if there is specific evidence, credible and specific evidence, that a covered person may have extorted money, if there is specific and credible evidence that there was a quid pro quo, we will always pursue that.
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Mr. HYDE. I thank the gentlelady.
And now the Chair recognizes for 5 minutes Ms. Jackson Lee.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I wanted to clean-up some matters, if I could, Madam Attorney General. One, in particular, I wanted to make sure that when I noted Watergate affairs synonymous with the worst political scandal in the United States history, it was not my own personal recount, it is taken from the 1995 encyclopedia Americana, volume 28, 467 to 469.
In addition, they note here, the misuse of large campaign donations suggested the need for further reform legislation, and that was sort of in response to or what they thought the Watergate affair suggested.
So to my friends who think campaign finance reform is not an issue here, it is, and that should be really the response to all of what we are dealing with, aside from your responsibility as the Attorney General.
We do need to refine and reform what the rules are, and, in particular, I think we are still confused as to the rights and responsibilities of a President who lives in the White House. We have no opinion, to my knowledge, of how that is being designated and to how it can be utilized.
Page 325 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But let me move very quickly to say several things. One, I am glad we raised the question of the independent counsel.
It is interesting that Robert Bork himself opposed the independent counsel concept and indicated in an article in the Commentary that the conventional wisdom echoed on almost all editorial pages holds that an independent counsel is essential because the Department of Justice cannot be trusted, and as he goes on in its opposition, that the result of prosecutorial incentives it created produced savage injustices to individuals, all of this to cure a problem that does not exist.
Now these are the words of former Deputy Attorney General Bork. It is interesting, because here we are in a set of circumstances where it seems that we are now, in essence, saying that the Department of Justice cannot do its job under the independent counsel, that has triggered itself. It has triggered itself by the very fact you are in the midst of investigation. I have some quick questions just to be sure.
You have access to videotapes, some of which were viewed today; is that my understanding, Madam Attorney General?
Ms. RENO. That is correct.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. And in the investigatory process that is ongoing, all of those will be reviewed by the investigatory group that you have assigned.
Ms. RENO. That is correct.
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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Does that mean then that Mr. Huang, if he is in any of these, will also be part of the investigation?
Ms. RENO. That is a continuing investigation.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Is the task force separate and apart from the investigation that is triggered under the independent counsel?
Ms. RENO. No; it is one.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you.
So, therefore, if any findings occurred and they happened to occur and necessitated separate from the Vice President and the President individual criminal prosecution, that determination could be made.
Ms. RENO. If I understand your question, what you are saying is, if it is not a covered person and the independent counsel statute is not involved, we will still proceed. If we develop evidence sufficient to prosecute an individual, we will pursue it.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. That is my inquiry.
Ms. RENO. That is correct.
Page 327 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. JACKSON LEE. Is that correct?
So if we are going in the direction of hiding the ball, is it my understanding that that is not your intent and every stone will not remain uncovered, it will be uncovered?
Ms. RENO. I am going in the direction of finding out what happened.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me cite the great works of Mr. Ken Starr. I understand, and I am not sure what his schedule is at this point, but as of September of 1997, Mr. Starr was going to be dean of one of the law schools in California. I think it was out of the embarrassment of his Republican associates that caused him to renege on that appointment, shows maybe his commitment to his task.
It indicates in the Boston Globe that there were 114 pages for him to determine that Vince Foster committed suicide and he has already spent $30 million. So I think we can raise a question as to the validity of that.
Let me simply quickly try to run to another final issue, and this is my issue, only because, as I watched tapes this morning and I saw this video, there was a comment by the President to a Mr. Huang, and the audience or the group was a group of individuals who were of Asian descent.
I hope that the overplaying of that particular tape is not any sort of nexus creation, if you will, of a situation of one ethnic group over another that can be challenged for its contributions to a President of the United States.
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Let me conclude by saying, if I can ask you to help me with this. I have tried for a long period of time to get a bill to the Hillory J. Fariasa bill before this committee which deals with the date rape drug. The DEA has refused or has not responded in naming that drug as a Schedule 1. I would appreciate your assistance. Additionally, I would like to
Mr. HYDE. The gentlelady's time has expired.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. The red light is still on,
Mr. HYDE. That is right, it is on.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. And I would appreciate it if you allow me to finish this last point, as it has not gone off.
I would appreciate an explanation of the Taxpayer Secrecy Act, and also I would appreciate assistance in investigating the attack on people in Houston who have been recipients of an MWBE contract, and opponents of affirmative action have taken their houses, pictures of their houses, to the media and placed them before the public eye. They are not public servants. I think this is a violation of their civil rights, and I would appreciate the Justice Department's response on those issues.
Page 329 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, thank you for your indulgence.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you.
Next is the gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Hutchinson.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madam Attorney General, I ended my last round with an inquiry into circumstantial evidence and your evaluation of that and your decision whether or not to seek appointment of an independent counsel.
You indicated that it was appropriate to consider circumstantial evidence, and I reflected upon your answer. And I also heard your response to Mr. Goodlatte's questions, and he was raising the argument that there were credible allegations of a quid pro quo with regard to the immigration policy and the money that flowed, perhaps in response to that change of decision. You indicated that you had no specific and credible information that would support that.
Am I fairly characterizing your response?
Ms. RENO. Yes, I think Mr. Goodlatte and I disagree on whether there is specific and credible evidence.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. To me, there is specific and credible evidence of a circumstantial nature. All circumstantial evidence should not trigger an independent counsel appointment, and you should be careful of circumstantial evidence. But you could make the argument, I think, as you did to Mr. Hyde's letter.
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You responded in a very dismissive tone to our letter, that outlined a series of specific allegations that were specific and credible, that amounted to circumstantial evidence.
Now, to me, what you are doing is rejecting circumstantial evidence, both in your response to Mr. Goodlatte and in your response to the majority of this committee in their letter to you.
Would you care to respond?
Ms. RENO. We disagree.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. So you agree that the statute allows that there could be specific and credible evidence of a circumstantial nature that would trigger the appointment of independent counsel.
Ms. RENO. I believe so.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Now, you are right, we still disagree on that.
Ms. RENO. And I certainly did not intend to be dismissive. I apologize to you if it seems so.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you.
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With regard to the areas of the White House that may be considered areas in which official duties are discharged, there have been questions concerning the Map Room and, of course, the Oval Office. Would you agree that these two rooms, the Map Room and the Oval Office, are areas where official duties are discharged?
Ms. RENO. I would certainly concur with respect to the Oval Office, and at this point I think we are still reviewing the issues with respect to the Map Room. I have not been finally advised.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. What would be the factors in determining whether the Map Room was an area where official duties are discharged?
Ms. RENO. That is what we are reviewing now, and it would be premature for me to comment.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. If there was a solicitation of a contribution in the Oval Office by an officer of the United States, then that would constitute a violation of 18 USC, section 607.
Ms. RENO. Again, I have just found it very unuseful to review hypotheticals. I would much prefer to review it on the facts that I have.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Let me go back to the Map Room. The Map Room, to me, is an area where official duties are discharged. Of course, you are dealing with a certain set of facts: Are official responsibilities conducted there? What work is accomplished there? Is it used for personal meetings? Those issues. Is that not a factual determination that ultimately has to be made?
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Ms. RENO. I think it is a factual determination that has to be made based on the law.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. There have been a number of stories and letters sent to you with regard to the raising of soft money by the White House that was used for the campaign, outside the spending limits set for Presidential campaigns. Dick Morris, in his book, made it very clear that the President was working day in and day out on those ads.
Is there not a concern on your part or perhaps the part of the investigators as to whether the spending of these in soft money dollars outside the Presidential limits, would constitute a violation of the Federal election laws?
Ms. RENO. As you know, Common Cause wrote to us early on about the situation with respect to both parties. The issue is, what is an expenditure? Is it an expenditure under the Federal Elections Campaign Act? And to determine that, we have got to determine whether it meets the test, whether it crosses the line to issueis it issue advertising, or it is express advocacy, or does the electioneering message apply?
The area is at this point so muddied and confused that it is very difficult to determine what the standard is, and we have concluded that there is not specific and credible evidence that there has been a violation.
We don't foreclose it because Congress has set up, within the Federal Elections Campaign Act, the structure of the Federal Elections Commission that is to announce policy, to do reviews, to advise, and to provide advices, if you will; also, to pursue civil penalties where appropriate. And pursuant to the system set up between the Department of Justice and the FEC over history, the process would be to refer it to the Elections Commission, and if there was evidence that there was a willful, knowing violation, it could be referred back.
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At this point
Mr. HUTCHINSON. To the Department of Justice.
Ms. RENO. That is correct, and that is the way we have determined to handle it.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman's time has expired.
The gentlelady from Los Angeles, Ms. Waters.
Ms. WATERS. Thank you.
Ms. Reno, I am going to read some things quickly. A tape in the Reagan library shows then President Reagan calling a fund-raising event from the White House and asking the assembled donors for support.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that Senator Phil Gramm made fund-raising calls from his Senate office, February 22, 1995.
Newsweek has reported that Senator Alfonse D'Amato, while acting as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, brought some two dozen lobbyists to a phone bank in a Senate room and had them call contributors to raise money for the NRSCC, October 2nd, 1995.
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In a separate incident, Senator D'Amato made fund-raising calls from the Senate office in the middle of an interview with a New York Times reporter. That was reported in the New York Times, November 20, 1989.
Washington Times has reported that Senator Bob Smith made fund-raising calls to donors and asked them to call him back at his Senate office, October 25, 1995.
And the reason I read this is this. If for some reason everybody has been in violation of the law, and the practice has been such that it was ignored, that it was never prosecuted, et cetera, and it is determined that the law should be followed, and perhaps independent counsel is needed to pursue what has been identified as improper telephone calling by whomeverVice President, Presidentare you under then any obligation to say, do an investigation of Congress, so that you wouldn't be in a selective prosecution position where you were just targeting this to one or two persons, or do you wait for complaints and allegations to come in and simply follow them up, but if there is some indication that this is widespread, in the Congress of the United States, do you have an obligation to pursue it?
Ms. RENO. The guidelines of the FBI provide a certain threshold for pursuing an investigation. We would review that and make an appropriate determination.
Ms. WATERS. One last thing just out of curiosity. Jay Kim. I read an extensive article in the Los Angeles Times about Jay Kim. Jay Kim was under investigation for 3 years or more. He went to trial, Justice Department, and, I mean, really, some of us think he got off pretty easy, and it seems there was some discussion inside the Justice Department. Your Los Angeles or regional people down there thought that he really did get off too easy, and they kind of said something about somebody in the Justice Department here in Washington pressuring them not to convict.
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I mean, what happened in that case? Is it something still going on that maybeI mean, if you can't talk about it, you can't, but I am real interested in thisall of the violations that Jay Kim appeared to have been involved in and ending up with misdemeanors and no felony convictions. Is there something ongoing on this?
Ms. RENO. I think the conclusion of the Justice Department career lawyers, as I was advised, was that the evidence and the charges and the disposition met the standards of justice and were appropriate based on the evidence in the law.
Ms. WATERS. Thank you.
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman from Indiana, Mr. Pease.
Mr. PEASE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Madam Attorney General, referring to some questions earlier today, you first indicated that campaign records were the evidence you looked to to decide whether the Vice President's calls were soft or hard money solicitations, and Representative Gekas inquired what it was about the Washington Post article that changed your mind, and you went on to say that you went back to look at campaign records to determine whether the Washington Post article had any credence.
What was apparent the second time your staff looked at those records that wasn't apparent the first time that caused you to change your mind?
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Ms. RENO. I think the confusion lies in the fact that they looked at a series ofthere was the indication of some calls. They looked at the persons and matched the names and determined that it wasthe moneys had gone into the soft money account.
With the calls reported through the Washington Post, they had the calls, and they simply had not checked the calls because of all the material coming in. They had thought it was closed out. They did not put a priority on it compared to the strategy of their investigation, and so it was not checked until it was called to our attention in the Washington Post.
Mr. PEASE. Madam Attorney General, what would you say constitutes a political conflict of interest for the Department of Justice?
Ms. RENO. There are at least two or three instances in which we have sought the appointment of an independent counsel because of a political conflict of interest. One was as a follow up to the Fiske appointment, when we soughtafter the statute had been reenacted. The second is in the Marceca matter, and the third is in the Nussbaum matter, and those notifications to the Court spell it out.
Mr. PEASE. Do you see that there are other situations that could constitute political conflict of interest?
Ms. RENO. I am sure there are.
Page 337 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PEASE. Would you care to describe some of those for us for a better understanding of the law?
Ms. RENO. I think the best is to look at what we have done on actual facts.
Mr. PEASE. If the Attorney General's relationship with the President, the person who appoints the Attorney General, when the President's actions are called into question doesn't create a political conflict of interest, what would?
Ms. RENO. If the President's actions are called into action by specific and credible evidence that he may have violated a Federal criminal law, the Independent Counsel Act provides that I have to trigger the appointment of the 90 days, and then if the 90 days shows further investigation necessary, I have to trigger the appointment.
Congress has concluded that there is a political conflict if there is specific and credible information that a covered person may have violated the law.
Mr. PEASE. And only the Attorney General can make that determination; is that correct?
Ms. RENO. That is correct.
Mr. PEASE. Earlier we talked about the President's statement that he was hesitant; in fact, I think he said he avoided speaking with you at all. Are there national security implications in the President's unwillingness to speak to the Attorney General when the Attorney General may have information that could be of import in decisions involving national security?
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Ms. RENO. As I indicated with respect to my communications with the White House, I don't have any concern whatsoever about my ability to access the President with respect to national security or other policy issues when it is appropriate.
Mr. PEASE. I understand that, but the question is, the President apparently feels that he can't contact you, not vice versa.
Ms. RENO. I can't speak for the President.
Mr. PEASE. I will yield the rest of my time to Mr. Barr.
Mr. BARR. Thank you.
Madam Attorney General, prior to your reappointment in the second term, did you have any conversations with the President or anyone acting or speaking on his behalf concerning the appointment of independent counsels?
Ms. RENO. No, I didn't.
Mr. BARR. The tape earlier, I made reference to the fact that it very clearly appears to have been edited, at least in part, right after Congressman Matsui got up and then before the President spoke. Congressman Matsui spoke also at the Buddhist temple, and that tape has disappeared. Is this of concern to you, possible tampering with evidence, and will you look into that?
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Ms. RENO. We are reviewing all matters similar to that, and I can't begin to discuss the specifics of what we are doing.
Mr. BARR. But that would be of concern if there was evidence that it had been tampered and stuff taken off of the tape?
Ms. RENO. Yes, sir.
Mr. BARR. Thank you.
I appreciate the gentleman yielding.
Mr. HYDE. Thank you. The gentleman's time is up.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Yes, last but not least.
Madam Attorney General, it is a fair statement to say that newspaper reports, newspaper stories, newspaper commentaries, whether they are done by columnists like Mr. Krauthammer or whoever, are not in and of themselves specific and credible evidence. Is that a fair statement?
Ms. RENO. It is a fair statement, but it is also a fair statement that a newspaper article can lead you to specific and credible information.
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Mr. DELAHUNT. Correct, and I think that was the point that Mr. Gekas was making, that the story in the Washington Post, in and of itself, was not specific and credible evidence but prompted an action by the Department.
Ms. RENO. That is correct.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Now, we have heard much today from members referring to various stories, various commentaries that have appeared in the media, but we don't know, and neither can you reveal, and you have repeated it again and again and againyou cannot reveal what you are doing and the investigation that you are conducting in response to those stories. Am I correct?
Ms. RENO. That is correct, except to say, in response to the Majority's letter, what we have done with respect to their conclusions, that the newspaper articles provide specific and credible information and we have responded to that as required by the Independent Counsel Act.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Right. And they, in and of themselves, are not specific and credible evidence, the newspaper reports or the media reports; that is correct.
Ms. RENO. That is correct.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Now, some, for example, may reveal, as in thesome of the follow-up, may actually reveal some specific and credible evidence, such as a story in the Washington Post.
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Ms. RENO. That is correct.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Others, for exampleI think it was earlier today, Mr. Bryant, and he is a distinguished member of this panelexpressed concern about a headline or a story that either appeared today or yesterday that the White House was gearing up to lobby you relative to the appointment or the request to seek an independent counsel. And I just want to be very clear. Your response was, you have seen no evidence whatsoever, you personally, of any lobbying effort on the part of the White House to deter you from your statutory responsibilities. Is that a fair statement?
Ms. RENO. That is a fair statement and very accurate.
Mr. DELAHUNT. So that was a story that had no credibility. Now I don't know where it came from, whether it was the Cincinnati Enquirer or the National Enquirer or the Star, or who knows where it could have come from.
Let me go back for a minute in terms of, much has been talked about in terms ofand I think it was my friend from Arkansas, Mr. Hutchinson, that indicated he was concerned about employees of the Department being deferential. Can you just briefly summarize for us these 120 members, in terms of their backgrounds? Are they all appointees of your administration? Are they carryover? Are they Republican? Are they Democrats? Just give us an idea.
Ms. RENO. I haven't asked their politics. These are FBI agents, these are FBI analysts, these are FBI supervisors, these are FBI
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Mr. DELAHUNT. And assistant United States attorneys.
Ms. RENO. They are assistant United States attorneys, they are
Mr. DELAHUNT. They are professionals.
Ms. RENO. They are professionals; they have served under Republicans and Democrats; they have called it like they have seen it from one administration to another.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Let me interrupt you because my time is running out. I thought it was interesting to note that when Mr. Starr was on his way to Pepperdine, and I guess he had a change of heart about taking on that assignment, and I understand too that he drew in terms of personnel from the Department of Justice, called them impartial, professional, and very competent. I think that is a good way to end this hearing.
Mr. HYDE. And I suggest that the gentleman's time is up. Everybody's time is up. And, Ms. Reno, I want to thank you for submitting so gracefully and graciously to what must have been an ordeal. It was for us, and we could get up and walk around. So you have done very well, and thank you for your stamina and for your answers, although we didn't learn a great deal, but then we didn't expect to.
Ms. RENO. Mr. Chairman, thank you, as always, for your thoughtfulness. I appreciate it very much, and I appreciate all of the committee. I know some came back from a long way, and I appreciate it very, very much.
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Mr. HYDE. And I want to express my appreciation to the committee for giving up their holiday, although when you are home it is hard to get a holiday, it is a work period. But thank you for your dedication.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman?
Mr. HYDE. The gentleman from Michigan.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I join all the committee in commending the Attorney General, particularly for her stamina, as you did. But I must say, I did learn something, perhaps even a considerable amount, and I ask unanimous consent that the gentleman from New York, Mr. Nadler, be allowed to include articles and materials mentioned about immigration in his previous questions.
Mr. HYDE. Without objection, so ordered.
[The articles are reprinted above.]
Mr. HYDE. The gentlelady from Los Angeles.
Ms. WATERS. I have a unanimous consent request to place my opening statement into the record, that would allow me to put that in the record.
Mr. HYDE. We didn't allow anybody
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Ms. WATERS. I know, but I just want to remind you.
Mr. HYDE. It is now quarter to 5:00. We would be here until 9:00 o'clock eating pizzas, so I think that we did the gentlelady a favor.
Ms. WATERS. Well, thank you very much, and let me just say to the Attorney General, she has been the best presenter, witness, member of the administration, that has ever appeared before this committee, and you are usually very effusive in your comments about very competent witnesses before this committee, and if you feel like you want to say something else nice about her, go right ahead, I will give you permission.
Mr. HYDE. Well, I certainly thank you, and I won't embarrass the Attorney General any further. Thank you.
The meeting is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 4:47 p.m., the committee adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing
"The Official Committee record contains additional material here."
Strip offset folio 71 here
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INSERT OFFSET RING FOLIOS 72 TO 295 HERE
[The Appendix material is being held in the Committee's file.]
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Page 346 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCOCTOBER 15, 1997
Serial No. 61
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20402
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois, Chairman
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin
BILL McCOLLUM, Florida
GEORGE W. GEKAS, Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR SMITH, Texas
STEVEN SCHIFF, New Mexico
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEPHEN E. BUYER, Indiana
SONNY BONO, California
ED BRYANT, Tennessee
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
Page 347 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBOB BARR, Georgia
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
ASA HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
EDWARD A. PEASE, Indiana
CHRISTOPHER B. CANNON, Utah
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
BARNEY FRANK, Massachusetts
CHARLES E. SCHUMER, New York
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
STEVEN R. ROTHMAN, New Jersey
THOMAS E. MOONEY, Chief of Staff-General Counsel
JULIAN EPSTEIN, Minority Staff Director
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November 5, 1997
Hyde, Hon. Henry J., a Representative in Congress From the State of Illinois, and Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary
Reno, Janet, Attorney General of the United States
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Hyde, Hon. Henry J., a Representative in Congress From the State of Illinois, and Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary: Prepared statement
Jackson Lee, Sheila, a Representative in Congress From the State of Texas:
Letter dated September 3, 1997 to Janet Reno
Letter dated October 3, 1997 to Henry J. Hyde
Letter dated December 2, 1997 to Henry J. Hyde
Nadler, Jerrold, a Representative in Congress From the State of New York:
Page 349 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCLetter dated July 7, 1997 to Doris M. Meissner
Letter dated July 20, 1997 to Jerrold Nadler
Letter dated July 22, 1997 to Doris Meissner
Letters dated July 21 and August 6, 1997 to Edwin J. McElroy
Letter dated October 15, 1997 to Janet Reno
Reno, Janet, Attorney General of the United States:
Testimony in favor of reauthorization of the independent counsel statute before the Senate Governmental Affaris Committee on May 14, 1993
Waters, Maxine, a Representative in Congress From the State of California:
Examples of specific and credible evidence that the President and Vice President may have committed crimes
Information regarding disclosure of information to Congress
Material submitted for the hearing
(Footnote 1 return)
See also United States c. Rabbitt, 583 F.2d 1014, 1028 (8th Cir. 1978) (official who would make introductions and ''gain a friendly ear'' for contributors does not commit extortion); United States v. Loftus, 992 F.2d 793, 796 (8th Cir. 1993) (while merely providing introductions and access insufficient to support extortion charges, intending to influence the decisions of those officials on behalf of payors makes out an offense). These two cases stand for the proposition that it is not an extortion when a government official accepts payments in exchange for using his influence to obtain access or meetings with other government officials.