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AG (202) 616-2777 TDD (202) 514-1888
STATEMENT OF ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO More than a year ago, the Justice Department assembled a task force of experienced attorneys and FBI agents to investigate allegations of criminal wrongdoing surrounding the 1996 elections. No criminal case in this Department has more resources. The Task Force now numbers more than 120. 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. Numerous allegations have been made against high government officials. We have reviewed every one of them to see if there is specific and credible information that a crime may have been committed by a covered person, or someone for whom it would be a conflict of interest for the Justice Department to investigate. When these allegations have been specific and credible, we have commenced a preliminary investigation. That is what the law demands, and we have implemented it faithfully. Since I have been Attorney General, I have referred matters to independent counsels no fewer than six times. Today, following the law's letter, I have decided that the allegations against President Clinton, Vice President Gore and former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary do not at this time warrant the appointment of an independent counsel. This decision was mine, and it was based on the facts and the law, not pressure, politics, or any other factor. Before I discuss these decisions, I want to make one point clear. Any decision not to ask for an independent counsel does not mean that a person has been exonerated, or that the work of the Campaign Finance Task Force has ended. These decisions do not end our work. We will continue to vigorously investigate all allegations of illegal activity. President Clinton On October 14 of this year, we began a preliminary investigation into allegations that President Clinton may have violated federal
law by making fund-raising calls from his office. Documents obtained by investigators identified 68 potential donors who might have been solicited by the President. Sixty-four of them were interviewed, and the other four gave statements through their attorneys. Investigators also interviewed White House and DNC personnel who might reasonably have been aware of any fund-raising calls made by the President. President Clinton was interviewed. Investigators also thoroughly reviewed other records, including telephone toll records, White House operator diaries, scheduling requests and the President's schedule. We have taken every reasonable step to investigate these allegations. The investigation uncovered three occasions when the President made telephone calls from the White House relating to fundraising. In two of these instances, the President was calling to thank a contributor or fund-raisers, and did not solicit contributions. On the third occasion, on October 18, 1994, the President placed a number of fund-raising calls to potential contributors. Telephone records, investigative interviews, and the President's schedule all establish that these calls were made from the White House residence--not from the Oval Office or any other official White House space. The criminal law prohibiting solicitation on federal property does not encompass fund-raising in residential areas of the White House--a position on record at the Justice Department since 1979. Moreover, all donations were deposited into DNC soft money accounts, which means that they do not fall under the scope of the law, which plainly prohibits only the solicitation of hard money. Vice President Gore On September 3 of this year, we began a preliminary investigation into allegations that Vice President Gore may have violated federal law by making fundraising telephone calls from his office in the White House. Investigators interviewed or obtained affidavits from approximately 250 witnesses, including the Vice President and members of his staff; White House, DNC and campaign officials; and more than 200 individuals whom the DNC proposed the Vice President call to solicit donations. Investigators also obtained numerous documents from many employees of the White House, the DNC and the Clinton/Gore reelection campaign, as well as persons whom the Vice President called. The evidence gathered by the task force suggests that the Vice President made calls from his office to approximately 45 people between the fall of 1995 and the spring of 1996 to raise money for the Democratic National Committee. However, evidence found by the investigators shows that the Vice President solicited only soft money in these calls, not hard money. For example, no donor said the Vice President solicited hard money, donors were given follow-up instructions on donating to DNC soft money
accounts, and the amounts solicited exceeded hard money limits. Sometime after the 1994 elections, the DNC began to split large checks into soft and hard money accounts without the donor's intent, including several of the donations solicited by the Vice President. However, investigators uncovered no evidence that the Vice President was aware of the DNC's practice, or in any way knew that donations he solicited would make their way into hard money accounts. We are, however, continuing to investigate whether the DNC's practices violate any criminal laws. Finally, even if we were to assume that the Vice President had violated 18 U.S.C. Section 607, the Independent Counsel statute prohibits me from asking for an Independent Counsel to investigate allegations that the Justice Department would not prosecute under its existing standards. Congress inserted this provision into the law so that government officials would not be subject to a different application of the law than other citizens. In this case, the Department's clear, longstanding policy is not to prosecute under 18 U.S.C. Section 607 unless certain aggravating factors are present, such as coercion, knowing disregard of the law, a substantial number of violations, or a significant disruption of government functions. The investigation uncovered no evidence of any of these aggravating factors. Secretary O'Leary With respect to Secretary O'Leary, on September 19 of this year, we began a preliminary investigation into former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary. Allegations had been made that she may have violated federal laws by soliciting a $25,000 contribution for a charitable organization, in return for an official meeting with a visiting delegation of Chinese petrochemical officials. After an extensive review of the documents and more than forty interviews--including an interview of Johnnie Chung-investigators developed no evidence that she had anything to do with the solicitation of the charitable donation. However, the Justice Department will continue to review whether anyone else may have broken the law in connection with the solicitation and payment of the $25,000 Africare donation. Conclusion These decisions were arrived at after thousands of hours of investigation and discussion with investigators, attorneys and senior officials at the Justice Department and the FBI. I am proud of their work. That includes Director Freeh, whose counsel I have regularly sought, and whose advice I value highly. We may not always agree, but I believe that he and the FBI have done an outstanding investigative job. However, the decision to ask for an
independent counsel is mine, and I alone am responsible for it under the law. I also want to make clear to everyone that I am not imposing any constraints on the Task Force's ability to pursue the matters they are investigating. I have repeatedly told them to pursue every lead, explore every avenue, interview witnesses, and ask any question that is relevant to the matters they are investigating. If and when there is sufficient grounds to investigate whether a covered person may have committed a crime--that is, specific and credible information--we will again commence a preliminary investigation under the Act, as I am required to do. I urge everyone to study the documents that we have filed with the court. They show how searching our inquiry is, how complex these matters can be, and how hard we have worked to do the right thing. A year is a long time, but it is not long enough to judge the progress of the Justice Department's largest criminal investigation. Many independent counsels and other Justice Department investigations have taken far longer to pursue far fewer and far simpler allegations. Today's decisions represent, if you will, a snapshot, not an ending. Our investigation continues, and no allegation will go unexamined. I have referred matters to independent counsels no fewer than six times, and I will not hesitate to do so again if the facts and the law justify it. In almost two decades as a prosecutor, I have learned that you cannot judge an investigation by what you read in the newspapers. In the end, a prosecutor's work, a prosecutor's success, is not measured by headlines or by soundbites, but by diligence, thoroughness and a constant eye on the final result-even when it takes time to do it right. They should know that we have worked as hard as we can to do the right thing. ### 97-507
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