- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Attorney General Janet Reno's resolute stonewalling shows no sign of crumbling. Miss Reno, in rambling testimony during a Senate subcommittee hearing yesterday, gave no indication that she would favorably respond to another recommendation that a special counsel be appointed to investigate the abuses.

Last Thursday Sen. Arlen Specter, whose Judiciary subcommittee has been conducting an invaluable investigation of the Justice Department probe of campaign-finance abuses, publicly revealed that yet another task force chief has recommended to Miss Reno that a special counsel be appointed to investigate Vice President Al Gore for perjury and other crimes. Mr. Gore's staff responded the next day by releasing the 123-page transcript of a four-hour interview that task force chief Robert J. Conrad Jr. and two FBI agents conducted with Mr. Gore on April 18. Despite numerous previous interviews, it was the first time Miss Reno's task force actually queried the vice president about the Buddhist temple fund-raiser more than four years ago.

Ostensibly released to show that Mr. Gore had nothing to fear from the answers he had given, the transcript in fact reveals that the vice president was full of contempt. It's worth recalling that Mr. Gore previously had the audacity to tell the FBI that too much iced tea had forced him to leave one meeting to go to the men's room the very moment discussion took place of an illegal fund-raising strategy. Thus, Mr. Gore was later able to plead ignorance and to deny he had lied in his earlier depositions. In fact, four witnesses have testified that the vice president was present when the strategy was discussed.

During the latest interview, Mr. Gore contemptuously denied that the 103 White House "coffees" held in 1995 and 1996 with major campaign donors were "fund-raising tools" used to raise millions of dollars in soft money for the Democratic Party. Asked directly if the coffees were "a fund-raising tool," Mr. Gore again replied, "I don't know. They were on his side of the house." That would be President Clinton. Mr. Gore also claimed he had briefly attended only one coffee. In fact, he hosted at least 23 coffees and attended eight others hosted by President Clinton.

Altogether, as Sen. Arlen Specter noted at the subcommittee hearing yesterday, those attending the coffees contributed $26 million to the Democratic National Committee, including nearly $8 million within one month of attending a coffee. Consider a briefing memo written for Mr. Gore before he attended a fund-raising strategy session in the White House Map Room in February 1996. One of the talking points prepared by the vice president's chief of staff encouraged him to tell the president and other participants: "[W]e can raise the money BUT ONLY IF the president and I actually do the events, the calls, the coffees, etc." In other words, the coffees really were de facto, premeditated fund-raisers, and Mr. Gore played an integral role.

Regarding the Buddhist temple event in April 1996, the vice president would have Mr. Conrad believe that he was the only party functionary in attendance at the temple luncheon who did not know that well over $50,000 had been raised. But the deceit was so obvious that even Mr. Gore could not keep his story straight during the interview. At one point he inadvertently acknowledged that the temple event was in fact "a fund-raiser," requiring his attorney, James Neal, to correct him. "[Y]ou said previously you didn't, you still don't know whether it was a fund-raiser," Mr. Neal reminded the vice president. "Well, that's right," Mr. Gore replied. "Let me, let me amend that."

Regrettably, Miss Reno gave no indication yesterday that she will amend what even the New York Times has described as "her brazen dereliction of duty as attorney general."

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