- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2000

High-ranking Justice Department and FBI officials said Vice President Al Gore may have lied to campaign-finance task force investigators when he denied knowing that 1996 donations he solicited from his White House office were illegally diverted to the Democratic National Committee.
According to newly obtained Justice and FBI memos, there is "specific information from a credible source" that Mr. Gore "may have lied to us" in claiming no knowledge that "soft" money donations he sought may have been routed to "hard" money DNC accounts.
"The statement of a person without apparent reason to lie, corroborated by notes taken by an aide to the vice president, form a basis for concluding that the vice president did know what he claimed not to know or certainly for investigating whether he may have," wrote Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Robert S. Litt in a September 1998 memo.
Mr. Litt said notes of a November 1995 White House meeting attended by Mr. Gore show the soft-and-hard-money DNC split was discussed, despite the vice president's denials, adding it was "not uncommon" to bring perjury charges "where the defendant's statements are contradicted by documents."
An August 1998 memo by an unnamed Justice Department attorney involved in the task force probe said former White House Chief of Staff Leon J. Panetta told the FBI Mr. Gore was "attentively listening" during the 1995 meeting.
That memo also said Brad Marshall, a DNC official, had recounted to the FBI that "his recollection is the same as Leon Panetta" regarding Mr. Gore's attentiveness at the meeting. The memo also challenged claims by the vice president he was drinking a lot of iced tea during the meeting and missed the soft-and-hard-money discussions because he was in the bathroom.
"Not only is there no evidence that this occurred no witness recalls him leaving but the agents' notes reflect that [former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold] Ickes told them that when he conducted meetings and he conducted the meeting on Nov. 21 he would halt the proceedings if the president or vice president stepped out of the room," the memo said.
"Rather than presume the vice president was not present, the presumption must be that he was," the memo said.
The Justice Department attorney, in a memo to his boss, Assistant Attorney General James K. Robinson, who heads the Justice Department's criminal division, described Mr. Gore's denials as not credible. He then suggested the matter be turned over to a grand jury.
"A grand jury appearance under oath may well jog one's vague recollection as recounted in a voluntary interview," the attorney said. "Grand jury is not an option during this stage of the investigation, but would be if this were turned over to an independent counsel."
Mr. Gore has denied any wrongdoing in fund-raising calls he made from his office, citing "no controlling legal authority" showing any violation of the law. Campaign task-force investigators said at least five of the persons solicited by Mr. Gore gave money that was deposited, in part, into DNC hard-money accounts.
Miss Reno declined to seek the appointment of an independent counsel in the case, saying there was no credible evidence to show Mr. Gore knowingly violated the law.
The memos were released by the House Government Reform Committee as part of a probe into 1996 campaign-finance abuses.
Also recommending an independent counsel investigation was former task force chief Charles G. LaBella; FBI Director Louis J. Freeh; James DeSarno, FBI assistant director; and FBI General Counsel Larry Parkinson.
They called President Clinton and Mr. Gore key players in a scheme designed to "raise money by whatever means and from whomever would give it, without meaningful attention to the lawfulness of the contributions," adding that the "campaign was so corrupted by bloated fund raising and questionable contributions that the system became a caricature of itself."
In August 1998, FBI agents began to focus on Mr. Gore's public denials concerning his fund-raising efforts after discovering notes by David Strauss, Mr. Gore's former deputy chief of staff. The notes described discussions at the meeting involving a 65 percent-35 percent split of soft and hard money for the DNC.
Soft money is unlimited and goes toward issues rather than candidates, who receive more-regulated hard-money donations. Using soft money for direct campaign activities is against the law.


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