Reno Hits Pause

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WASHINGTON: Say what you want about Janet Reno (and you won't come up with any fresh insults), she probably just hasn't decided yet. After getting a 60-day extension of her latest deadline for appointing an independent counsel -- this time for a perjury investigation into former top White House aide Harold Ickes -- the interpretation game is on. The most likely reason is simple indecision, but TIME Justice Department correspondent Elaine Shannon says if politics did come into Reno's calculation, the specter of creating another Ken Starr might be enough to keep this investigation out of the IC's office.

The Ickes decision is Reno's murkiest -- and therefore biggest -- in a while. Any investigator she appoints will quickly head, with cameras rolling and Republicans crowing, to Clinton and Gore. By delaying, Reno may be hoping the Starr-tainted independent counsel statute will be quietly discarded when it comes up for renewal this winter. In that case, Reno could pick Al Gore's poison instead of leaving the three-judge panel that chose Starr to work its magic again. With even Reno's own staff pulling her in different directions these days, fear of a sequel -- and consequently, the need for stalling -- could be the only thing everybody can agree on anymore.