Burton: Justice Should Probe Clinton

Monday, June 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chief Republican congressional investigator of political fund raising in 1996 said he is likely to refer President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and Attorney General Janet Reno for prosecution after a new president takes office next year.

Rep. Dan Burton said Sunday it appears Reno obstructed justice by refusing several times to request special prosecutors to investigate Clinton and Gore for money-raising irregularities during their campaign four years ago.

Clinton and Gore knew they were breaking the law, Burton said, but ``I can't give you the specifics of it right now.''

``But I can tell you, I am confident and certain that they knew, especially the president, that illegal campaign contributions were coming in from foreign sources,'' the Indiana Republican said on NBC's ``Meet the Press.'' ``And all that needs to be looked at thoroughly by the Justice Department.''

But not Reno's Justice Department, he said: ``I think Janet Reno has blocked for the president, as have her top officials over at the Justice Department. I think they've made a mockery of justice.''

Clinton's chief of staff, John Podesta, said Burton's comments were not surprising.

``He's been at this for a long time,'' Podesta said on CNN's ``Late Edition.'' ``These partisan investigations that go on and on and on.

``It's reminding me a little bit of reruns of `Star Trek.' You know, ... there's a certain group of devotees that like to put the long ears on and go to the convention. But I think it's becoming a smaller and smaller group of Americans who actually pay attention to people like chairman Burton.''

Podesta contended that Burton's main intent is to inflict political damage on Gore in his run for the presidency.

Burton hopes for a Republican administration, with Texas Gov. George W. Bush as president.

``After this election, assuming we get a new attorney general, I think I will be sending criminal referrals,'' Burton said. ``And the reason I'm waiting is that I don't think this Justice Department is going to do anything.''

``You will in all likelihood send in criminal referrals urging the indictment of Bill Clinton and Al Gore?'' ``Meet the Press'' host Tim Russert asked later.

``And I'll go a little bit further than that,'' Burton said.

``I believe that Janet Reno ... and her chief lieutenants knew that the independent counsel statute mandated that they appoint an independent counsel, and they didn't do it. ... If she did not appoint an independent counsel because she thought her job was in jeopardy, even though the law required it, she broke the law and obstructed justice.''

Appearing after Burton was Lee Radek, a career prosecutor who heads the Justice Department's public integrity section and is a top adviser to Reno on independent counsel matters.

He said Justice investigators who looked into the campaign fund-raising charges did not find evidence of wrongdoing that met the legal requirements for appointment of special investigators. FBI Director Louis Freeh and the chief of Justice's campaign fund-raising task force disagreed and recommended independent counsels.

Radek also denied claims by two FBI agents before Burton's Government Reform Committee that Radek told them he was under pressure not to recommend investigators because Reno's job was on the line.

``The fact is the public integrity section was under a lot of pressure at the time,'' Radek said. ``We were under pressure from the Congress, from the press and particularly from the attorney general, who's a tough taskmaster, to do a good job.''