Reno's Poker Face

  • Share
  • Read Later
WASHINGTON: The deadline is Tuesday, and absolutely no one expects Janet Reno to send an independent counsel to look into White House dollar-dialing. Not that you would hear that from the Attorney General herself. "Reno really enjoys torturing the press," says TIME Washington correspondent Elaine Shannon. "She loves to be perverse and spring things on us. But as far I know, she's still determined to keep the investigation at Justice."

Before calling for an appointment, Reno needs more than what she calls "the great blob": the cloud of apparent improprieties over the '96 Clinton Gore re-election drive which, though bearing the odor of scandal, lacks solid evidence of any one criminal act.

Even most Republicans seem to agree with that. But they see in the dollar-dialing issue what FBI Chief Louis Freeh sees: a legal excuse to keep digging. Freeh's first love is the trail; Reno's is the Constitution and its promise of the protection of individual rights.

"These are two highly principled public servants butting halos," Shannon says. "She calls it prudence; he calls it hand-wringing.

"There needs to be a compromise on the management side, so that all the other campaign finance investigations (still the work of 120 government lawyers and agents) can continue. If there's a new land mine, there'll be a new probe and a new 90 days." And a new set of the same old conflicts.