- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2001

The Justice Department's review of accusations of voter fraud involving Florida blacks and other minorities is continuing, although Attorney General Janet Reno yesterday declined to say what, if anything, the probe had found.

"I think it's important I not comment on how matters are proceeding, other than to say we're pursuing everything we can, doing it the right way," Miss Reno said at her weekly press briefing. "I think some people characterize it as an investigation and some people don't yet. All I'm saying is that we're reviewing everything that we can."

Last month, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume bitterly criticized Miss Reno for a failure to investigate accusations of voter irregularities. He said he was "baffled and befuddled" over why she mobilized the department to protect the civil rights of Elian Gonzalez but took no similar action to determine if the rights of minorities had been violated.

"Elian became a priority. The attorney general was there. Justice was there. Decisions were made," he said. "When the same questions arose for African-Americans, there was a slow response. I am baffled and befuddled why this Justice Department believed Elian deserved its full attention but did not have the same willingness in place concerning the rights of minorities."

The NAACP has charged that Florida polling places were relocated without notice, voters were denied access to voting booths, polling places refused to provide bilingual ballots and police officers intimidated voters.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will begin hearings Jan. 11 in Tallahassee, seeking information from subpoenaed records and the sworn testimony of public officials, experts and voters. One of the subpoenaed witnesses is Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has been ordered to bring copies of records showing what the state did to prepare for the Nov. 7 election, along with post-election documents that might refer to any suspected irregularities.

Also yesterday, Miss Reno said she had talked with Attorney General-nominee John Ashcroft and assured him she would do whatever is necessary for a smooth transition.

"What I want to try to do is make sure that in whatever transition takes place, we are as supportive of a proper transition, a professional transition, one done to encourage professionalism at every step of the way. And I'm dedicated to trying to do that," she said.

Miss Reno said she spoke with Mr. Ashcroft on Saturday to congratulate him on his nomination and described his response as "very gracious." She refused to criticize her expected successor a conservative Missouri Republican over differences they have on several issues.

"I think it's obvious we disagree on a number of issues," she said without elaboration. "I told him that I wanted to make sure that the transition … was done as smoothly as possible."


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