- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2000

A New York doctor who advised the Justice Department that Elian Gonzalez was in "imminent danger" at the home of his Miami relatives is a longtime associate of President Clinton who served on first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's secret health care task force.

Dr. Irwin Redlener, president of community pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York, also headed a group of prominent physicians who endorsed Mr. Clinton's 1992 campaign.

Dr. Redlener, president of the Children's Health Fund, is the second longtime Clinton supporter and adviser to surface as a key player in the Elian Gonzalez saga. Gregory Craig, one of Washington's highest-paid lawyers and a prime defender of Mr. Clinton's in the impeachment trial, represents Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

On Monday, Dr. Redlener said in a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno that Elian was in a "state of imminent danger to his physical and emotional well-being" in a home he considered to be "psychologically abusive."

He said there was "no justification" for leaving the boy at the Miami home, saying he continued "to be horrendously exploited in this bizarre and destructive ambiance. It has gone on far too long."

"It appears the government could have done a better job at picking a consultant for this case based on Dr. Redlener's political connections," said former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova. "I believe he is a poor choice and I question the government's judgment in naming him."

Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson called on Vice President Al Gore to repudiate Dr. Redlener, who he said was "neither a psychiatrist nor a psychologist and who has never examined the young Cuban refugee."

"Al Gore says he understands that Bill Clinton and Janet Reno are wrong on this issue," Mr. Nicholson said. "He says he understands that a family court … should decide what is best for Elian."

Dr. Redlener was not at his office yesterday and was unavailable for comment.

As a member of the first lady's health care task force, the doctor served as the vice chairman of the Health Professionals Review Group. Two years later, after the proposal failed, he was among several health care and White House officials who met to discuss why the program was rejected and how a pared-back proposal might be promoted the following year.

The president's Health Security Act failed to win congressional approval in part because of concerns over the secrecy the White House used in developing the 1,400-page package.

In 1997, a federal judge said the White House and lawyers defending the first lady had lied in an effort to keep the task force and its papers secret. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth also accused administration officials at "the highest levels of government" of engaging in a "cover-up" and pressuring the Justice Department to defend its "dishonest" actions.

In recent months, Dr. Redlener has met with the first lady concerning her run for the U.S. Senate in New York. He also has been publicly critical of New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, chastising him for withdrawing the city's money from a multimillion-dollar asthma education and treatment initiative in the Bronx a $2.3 million program endorsed by the first lady.

Dr. Redlener's ties to the Clintons go back several years.

In 1992, he organized a group of prominent medical professionals who endorsed Mr. Clinton's presidential campaign and promoted his health care package. At the time, he said the group, known as the National Health Care Leadership Council/Clinton-Gore '92, sought to change the way health care was financed and delivered.

The group of 40 physicians spoke publicly in support of the package in an effort to show it had credibility in the medical community and to raise money for Mr. Clinton from among their colleagues.

In his report this week to Miss Reno and U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Doris M. Meissner, Dr. Redlener said the government should return Elian to his father "as quickly as possible" and then ask the Miami relatives to meet to discuss a peaceful reunification.

He was hired by the Justice Department to provide "strategic guidance" regarding the Gonzalez case, including the selection of the mental health professional team that evaluated the situation.

The team met with the father and the Miami relatives, but not with Elian since its assignment was to evaluate not whether the transfer was going to occur, but how it could take place in the least traumatic manner.

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