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December 15, 1997

Opinion

Time for Reno to go and credibility returned to the Justice Department

  Within hours of her confirmation, Janet Reno showed her "independence" by firing all 93 United States attorneys so Clinton could appoint friendly replacements and shut down several investigations underway. After initial denials, she later admitted that she did this on Clinton's orders. For 3 and a half years, Reno directed her Justice Department lawyers to file one brief after another in federal court and eventually the United States Supreme Court--supporting Clinton's immunity claims in Paula Jones' sexual harassment suit. The Supreme Court rejected her arguments unanimously 9-to-0.
  
   She filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Clintons' outrageous "attorney-client privilege" claim, in which the Clintons claimed that notes taken by government lawyers involving Mrs. Clinton's private legal affairs could not be subpoenaed by Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. The U.S. Supreme Court shot her down again, forcing the Clintons to disclose the notes to Starr. She even stopped Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz, who's prosecuting former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, from investigating Arkansas' Tyson Foods' possible role in the scandal. The Tysons are longtime Clinton supporters. Smaltz finally went over Reno's head and a federal court overruled her.
  
   Her Justice Department even wrongfully prosecuted former Travel Office chief Billy Dale on phony embezzlement charges. A jury acquitted him in just 90 minutes. Dale had the misfortune of holding a job that Clinton tried to give to a relative by ruining the careers of seven civil servants. Now we have seen the latest in Reno's "independence" with her ruling on the evidence against Clinton, Gore and Hazel O'Leary. Her mandate under the Independent Counsel Law was simply to determine whether the evidence was credible, and if it was, appoint an independent prosecutor to avoid any conflicts of interest, because after all, her boss is the President.
  
   Instead, she has become the judge of the evidence, and ruled in favor of her bosses in a direct conflict of interest. She did this against the recommendations of Clinton's own FBI Director, and Republicans who hold the majority in Congress. Just as incredible is the media's willingness to accept these judgments as independent. It's time for Janet Reno to go, and if calls for her resignation are ignored, Congress should act within the Constitution and impeach her. The Justice Department cannot work as the defense counsel for the president, and the Attorney General should not be on Clinton's or any president's leash!
   Michael Costello
   Redmond