- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2000

The Justice Department has begun an investigation into accusations that career department lawyer Lee J. Radek misled Congress on whether he was "under a lot of pressure" to derail the department's campaign finance investigation.
The inquiry, which also is expected to review Attorney General Janet Reno's role in the campaign finance probe, was confirmed yesterday in a letter from the Office of Professional Responsibility to the Landmark Legal Foundation, a public-interest law firm that sought the investigation in May.
Judith B. Wish, OPR's acting counsel, wrote that the inquiry would center on Mr. Radek's statements to top FBI officials that his office was "under pressure in its investigation into corrupt campaign fund-raising practices during the 1996 election cycle because the attorney general's job hung in the balance."
He later denied under oath ever making that statement.
In May, Mr. Radek testified before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on crime and the House Judiciary Committee that he had "no recollection of ever saying" to FBI executives he was under pressure in the campaign finance probe because Miss Reno's job "hung in the balance."
He described the FBI statements as having "no basis in fact," adding that while the campaign finance probe was in a "pressure cooker," the pressure he was referring to was to "do a good job, to do it vigorously and do it well" because the department was being scrutinized by Congress, the media and the attorney general.
But former FBI Deputy Director William J. Esposito and FBI Assistant Director Neil J. Gallagher testified that during a 1996 meeting they had heard Mr. Radek say Miss Reno could lose her job if the investigation went forward.
Both said they were certain Mr. Radek was tying pressure he felt concerning the probe to concerns that Miss Reno could lose her job.
FBI Director Louis J. Freeh met with Miss Reno based on Mr. Radek's comments, which had been relayed to him by Mr. Esposito.
According to a Dec. 9, 1996, memo, Mr. Freeh said he "advised the attorney general of Lee Radek's comment to you that there was a lot of pressure" on him and suggested "on that basis" she and Mr. Radek step aside from the investigation.
Mr. Freeh also said the department's public integrity section, headed by Mr. Radek, could not conduct a thorough probe and suggested the matter be handled by the FBI.
Mark R. Levin, Landmark's president, said he asked for the probe because "serious and substantial questions" were raised by the Freeh memo and by FBI statements concerning Miss Reno and Mr. Radek.
He said he questioned whether the Justice Department was seeking to "circumvent the FBI's traditional role in investigating allegations of federal campaign violations."
"I presume the department is looking at Miss Reno and Mr. Radek, both of whom strongly objected to the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate campaign finance abuses," said Mr. Levin, former chief of staff to Attorney General Edwin Meese. "We'll see what happens."
Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin did not return calls yesterday to his office for comment. But Miss Reno has said she did not recall meeting with Mr. Freeh over concerns that pressure was being put on the Justice Department with respect to the campaign finance probe. Mr. Radek has said he did not remember meeting with Mr. Esposito and Mr. Gallagher.
The Office of Professional Responsibility oversees inquiries into accusations of criminal or ethical misconduct involving Justice Department employees.

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