The Mysterious Louis Freeh

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WASHINGTON: Dan Burton wanted a cage match on Capitol Hill: Janet Reno versus Louis Freeh. Instead he got musical chairs.

The Republican-led House Oversight committee had scheduled the pair to testify separately, hoping to draw out Freeh's support of an independent counsel. But Freeh was determined to present a united front; he wanted to sit at Reno's side. So, Democrats introduced a resolution to that effect; it was defeated. Freeh settled for a seat behind Reno, at her elbow (at least they'd be pictured together.) And loyally waited for six-and-a-half hours while his counterpart testified. Observed TIME Washington correspondent Elaine Shannon: "Aides were dropping like flies."

When Reno finally left the stand, Freeh artfully deflected pointed questions about his reported unhappiness with Reno and her Justice-led probe. Of course, had the FBI chief wanted a united front, he might have started earlier. Shannon points out that the Reno-Freeh split went public on reports from Freeh's own aides. "And he's very much in control not the type to have genuine leaks."