Time: Sun Dec 14 17:20:52 1997
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: Opening Statement By Chairman Dan Burton] (fwd)
Bcc: sls

>     Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Dec. 9, 1997
>Good morning. I have called this hearing  today  because  of  the
>unique and unfortunate situation in which we find ourselves. This
>is the first time in my memory that the Attorney General  of  the
>United  States  and  the  Director  of  the FBI have disagreed so
>publicly about such  an  important  case.  The  campaign  finance
>investigation  involves  the  President and the Vice President of
>the United States. It involves their top aides. It involves their
>major fundraisers.
>When our nation's two top law enforcement officers  have  such  a
>serious disagreement about a case involving our country's highest
>elected officials, Congress is compelled to step in  and  examine
>the facts.
>Last week, Attorney General Reno  said  that  there  will  be  no
>independent counsel for this investigation. We are led to believe
>through press accounts that Director Freeh  objected  vigorously.
>The  Director  wrote  a  detailed  memo  to  the Attorney General
>explaining why an independent counsel  is  necessary.  Despite  a
>subpoena  from  this Committee, we still have not seen this memo.
>However, the Wall Street Journal reports  that  Director  Freeh's
>memo lays out the case that the diversion of soft money into hard
>money  by  the  DNC  and  other  related  campaign  finance   law
>violations  may  have  constituted a conspiracy that reaches into
>the White House.
>According to the New York Times, Mr. Freeh's memo argues that the
>conflicts  of  interest  for  the Justice Department are so great
>that the Department  cannot  credibly  investigate  the  campaign
>finance issue.
>I must ask, how are Members of Congress and the  public  supposed
>to  react  when  they pick up the newspaper and this is what they
>Several articles in the Washington Post in October, for instance,
>spelled  out  some  of  the  deep  divisions  between the FBI and
>Justice Department lawyers on the task force. FBI officials  said
>that  they were being restrained from investigating key people --
>especially high-level Clinton Administration officials.
>If that is the way the investigation has been operating, the need
>for  an  independent  counsel couldn't be more clear. The Justice
>Department investigation has been underway for more than a  year.
>We  have  heard  reports  that,  in that time, they have not even
>attempted to contact John Huang or get his testimony. He  is  one
>of  the  central figures in this case. Why? We have heard reports
>that the task force develops new leads mainly when it reads about
>them  in  the  newspaper. It was widely reported that the Justice
>Department had documents in its possession that showed  that  the
>DNC  was  converting soft money to hard money. Unfortunately, the
>prosecutors learned about it by reading the Washington Post. Why?
>They had the documents and didn't look at them.
>One  of  the  Attorney  General's  primary   advisors   on   this
>investigation  has  been the head of the Public Integrity Section
>-- Lee Radek  (Ray-Dick).  Mr.  Radek  has  publicly  called  the
>Independent  Counsel  Act  "an  insult."  Is this the person that
>should be advising the Attorney General on  whether  to  seek  an
>independent counsel?
>In July, Senator Thompson said  in  his  opening  statement  that
>there  was  a Communist Chinese government plot to infiltrate our
>political system. He then received a public  letter  from  Andrew
>Fois at the Justice Department contradicting his statement.
>Now, within the last month, Bob  Woodward  has  reported  in  the
>Washington Post that the Justice Department had other information
>in its files that supported  Senator  Thompson's  statement.  The
>files,  which were only revealed to us in November, were reported
>to  shed  more  light  on  the  Chinese  government  plan.   This
>information has apparently been in Justice Department files going
>back to 1991, and yet  the  Justice  Department  was  writing  to
>Senator Thompson saying that he was misstating the facts. I think
>that is terrible.
>What is worse, the  Attorney  General  was  informed  about  this
>information  on  November  5.  We were not given this information
>until  November  14  --  ten  days  later.  This  is   absolutely
>unacceptable conduct.
>The Attorney General has stated  that  her  refusal  to  seek  an
>independent  counsel  is  based  on the law and the facts. She is
>wrong on both counts. Section 592 of the Independent Counsel  Act
>clearly authorizes the Attorney General to request an independent
>counsel whenever the  Department  of  Justice  has  a  "personal,
>financial   or  political  conflict  of  interest."  Section  592
>recognizes that sometimes the  Attorney  General  simply  has  an
>unavoidable   conflict   of   interest   in  investigating  other
>government officials.
>The President is the Attorney General's boss. She serves  at  his
>pleasure.  She  cannot  conduct an impartial investigation of the
>President and  his  political  allies.  Listen  to  the  Attorney
>General's own words when she testified in 1993:
>(Play video) "The  reason  that  I  support  the  concept  of  an
>independent  counsel with statutory independence is that there is
>an inherent conflict whenever senior Executive  Branch  officials
>are  to be investigated by the Department and its appointed head,
>the Attorney General."
>How have investigations  of  the  White  House  been  handled  by
>Attorneys General in the past? Just look at Iran/Contra. Within a
>month of the Iran/Contra story breaking in 1986, Attorney General
>Ed  Meese  requested  an  independent  counsel.  President Reagan
>publicly called on him to do so. Mr. Meese said  it  was  in  the
>public  interest.  Oliver  North  was not a "covered person." Mr.
>Meese used the same "conflict of interest" section  of  the  bill
>that we are today asking Attorney General Reno to use.
>What a marked contrast with the Clinton  Administration.  It  has
>been  fourteen  months  since  this  foreign  fundraising scandal
>became  public.  The  Attorney  General  is  still  resisting  an
>independent  counsel.  Unlike President Reagan, President Clinton
>has not called  for  an  independent  counsel.  He  has  remained
>silent.  This  has  all  the  appearances  of an Attorney General
>protecting the President.
>By focusing on the narrow issue of phone  calls  from  the  White
>House, Ms. Reno guaranteed the result of her preliminary inquiry.
>By apparently avoiding key witnesses and stifling attempts by FBI
>agents to interview key people, the Attorney General continues to
>allow her investigation to drag on with few results.
>Ever since the Independent Counsel law was enacted in 1979, every
>other President and Attorney General, when faced with such large,
>politically  sensitive  cases,  has  turned  them  over   to   an
>Independent  Counsel.  (I  would  refer  you  to the chart on the
>screen which identified 19 Independent Counsels which  have  been
>appointed over the years).
>While the Attorney General has cited her previous appointments of
>Independent  Counsels  as evidence of her impartiality, she omits
>that in the one case which touched  upon  the  President  --  the
>Whitewater  investigation  -- she initially opposed appointing an
>outside counsel and only did so after months of opposing  it  and
>at the direction of the President.
>Many of my Democrat colleagues here today will say that this is a
>partisan  Republican attack against the Attorney General. We will
>hear this repeated throughout  the  day.  Fortunately,  it  isn't
>The need for an Independent  Counsel  to  investigate  the  White
>House has been obvious to many objective Democrats:
>Former President Jimmy  Carter  has  called  for  an  independent
>counsel.  So have Senator Moynihan, Senator Feingold, and Senator
>Wellstone. Even Henry Waxman called for  an  independent  counsel
>last February.
>It doesn't stop there. Groups like Common Cause  have  been  very
>critical  of  Attorney  General  Reno. If that's not enough, just
>pick up the New York Times. The Times is hardly an organ  of  the
>Republican  Party.  Yet  15 times in the last year, the Times has
>called for an independent counsel.
>Former Justice Department officials also see  the  need.  Phillip
>Heymann (Hi - mon), Ms. Reno's former Deputy Attorney General who
>also served in the same position in  the  Carter  Administration,
>supports  the appointment of an Independent Counsel. He has said:
>"I served in  seven  administrations  and  I've  never  seen  the
>[Justice]  department  so  dominated  in  the policy realm by the
>White House."
>Mr. Heymann has also stated: "I think the  law  requires  her  to
>appoint  an  independent counsel....I think the career people are
>telling her the law  hasn't  been  broken  and  I  think  they're
>Ms. Reno would have  us  believe  that  she  can  thoroughly  and
>impartially investigate people such as:
>* Webster Hubbell -- her former Associate  Attorney  General.  He
>was  convicted  and sent to jail. In the summer of 1994, while he
>was under investigation, Webster Hubbell was paid $100,000 by the
>Riady family's Lippo Group. Ms. Reno defended Webster Hubbell and
>called him her friend. Can she conduct an impartial investigation
>and question Mr. Hubbell about his dealings with the Riadys? This
>would certainly appear to pose a conflict.
>* JOHN HUANG the President's "longtime  friend"  --  to  use  the
>President's  own  words -- has anyone at the task force asked him
>for a full accounting?  We  were  surprised  to  learn  from  his
>attorney  last Spring that he had not been contacted. Indeed, Mr.
>Huang's attorney was surprised he had not been contacted. And  we
>continue to hear there has been almost no contact.
>* CHARLIE TRIE, another longtime friend  of  the  President's  --
>have  there  been  any  attempts to bring him to Justice? Charlie
>Trie's sister testified before this Committee that when  she  met
>the  President  at  a fundraiser, President Clinton told her that
>her brother had been his close friend for two decades.
>Trie is someone who  knew  the  President  for  years,  and  gave
>hundreds  of  thousands  of  dollars  to  the  campaign  and  the
>President's Legal Defense Fund. At virtually the  same  time,  he
>was  awarded  a  coveted  Trade  Commission  slot.  Before he was
>appointed, the First Lady and Harold Ickes were warned of  Trie's
>suspicious  contributions  to  the Legal Defense Fund, which were
>all returned.
>Conveniently, Charlie Trie has fled the country  and  bragged  to
>NBC's  Tom  Brokaw  that  he can stay lost in China for 10 years.
>When China's President Jiang Zemin visited Washington in October,
>I  asked  the  President  to  seek the return of Charlie Trie for
>questioning. The President has promised to  cooperate  with  this
>investigation.  However,  he  apparently  made no effort to raise
>this subject with President Jiang.
>* BRUCE BABBITT presents a  remarkable  situation.  We  have  the
>Attorney  General withholding documents under Executive Privilege
>claims in this matter in a civil lawsuit. At the same  time,  the
>Attorney  General  is  supposed  to  "thoroughly and impartially"
>investigate allegations of wrongdoing by  her  Cabinet  colleague
>and  his  aides  as  well  as  senior  White House officials in a
>criminal investigation. The non-partisan  Congressional  Research
>Service Legal Division has found no basis for the White House and
>DOJ's privilege claims in these documents. (I  will  submit  that
>CRS  opinion  and  correspondence to the Attorney General on this
>matter for the record).
>The Attorney General clearly has inherent  conflicts  with  these
>close  friends of the President and many other key people in this
>investigation. But the problems don't  stop  there.  The  Justice
>Department  has  sided  with  the  White  House  in  almost every
>politically sensitive matter of recent note:
>* They sided with the White House and opposed Independent Counsel
>Kenneth Starr when he sought Whitewater related notes. They lost.
>* The Attorney General and the Justice Department also sided with
>the  President  and  argued  before the Supreme Court that he was
>immune from a civil suit arising  out  of  events  that  occurred
>before the President took office. They lost.
>* Justice Department lawyers  also  opposed  Independent  Counsel
>Donald Smaltz's attempt to prosecute a top Agriculture Department
>official. Again, they lost.
>Mr.  Smaltz  has  been  leading  the  investigation  into  former
>Agriculture  Secretary Mike Espy. He has obtained 10 indictments,
>5 convictions and 6 guilty pleas. He will testify later today  or
>tomorrow about the roadblocks thrown up by the Justice Department
>that have hampered his important work.
>The Attorney General's decision not  to  appoint  an  independent
>counsel  is  one  of  the  most  important decisions she has made
>during her tenure. It is, to say the least, a controversial  one.
>The  American  people  and Congress have a right to know both how
>and why she arrived at her decision. Clearly there was a  serious
>disagreement between the Attorney General and the FBI Director.
>We have gone out of our way to address the concerns  about  grand
>jury  material  in  the  memo.  We have indicated that grand jury
>material could be redacted. However, there was no attempt on  the
>Attorney  General's  part  to  meet us half-way. Ms. Reno said on
>television on Sunday that there  have  been  ongoing  discussions
>between  her staff and our Committee. Unfortunately, this has not
>been the case. We have had almost no  contact  from  the  Justice
>Department since last Friday.
>There is clear precedent for Congress receiving  such  documents.
>(I  am  submitting  for the record the correspondence we have had
>back and forth with the Justice Department  on  Director  Freeh's
>memo  as  well  as a review of the Congressional Research Service
>regarding precedents for turning over such material).
>Congress  has  an  obligation  to  make  sure  that  the  Justice
>Department is enforcing the law in a fair and even-handed manner.
>If half of the news reports we  are  reading  about  the  Justice
>Department are true, we have cause for concern.
>Those concerns are compounded when we learn that our two top  law
>enforcement  officers  have  such a fundamental disagreement over
>the need  for  an  independent  counsel.  With  a  case  of  this
>magnitude,  Congress cannot sit idly by. We have an obligation to
>pursue Director Freeh's memo and hope the Justice Department will
>commit to working with us.
>The Director of the FBI serves a 10-year term. Congress  provided
>the  FBI  Director  with  this 10-year term after Watergate so he
>would have the independence that is necessary to enforce the  law
>free from political pressure. This is particularly important when
>investigations involve the White House and high  level  political
>officials.  The Attorney General does not have the same security.
>She is a Member of the President's cabinet. The Attorney  General
>comes and goes with the President who appoints her.
>Director Freeh has served this country as a federal prosecutor, a
>Federal  judge,  and  now  as  the  nation's top investigator. He
>arrived at the independent judgment that the credibility of  this
>investigation  would  best be served by appointing an independent
>In response, the Director has been the target of a steady  stream
>of attacks from the White House.
>This constant sniping at the Director of the FBI from  the  White
>House is the clearest sign we have of where the President stands.
>The Clinton White House has an  instinct  to  attack  anytime  it
>feels  threatened. Mr. McCurry's comments about the Director were
>disgraceful. I think the President should issue a public  apology
>to Mr. Freeh.
>As the chief law enforcement  officer  in  the  nation,  Director
>Freeh's   duty  is  to  the  law  --  that  duty  should  not  be
>subordinated  to  anybody  --  including  the  President.  It  is
>interesting  that  the President's people think the FBI should be
>LOYAL subordinates.
>Before I finish, I would  like  to  address  one  last  topic.  I
>understand  that  my  friends on the Democratic side are going to
>make an issue of my involvement in  this  hearing.  According  to
>Roll  Call,  they are going to ask for an independent counsel for
>these bogus charges that have been raised against me.
>Let me say this to my good friends. I have no problem with  that.
>I believe that we need an independent counsel for the entire task
>force investigation. If the Attorney General wants to include  my
>case under an independent counsel -- I say fine. You know as well
>as I do that these are politically timed,  politically  motivated
>charges  made  by  a former White House staffer and leader of the
>Democratic National Committee. They are nothing more than part of
>a smear campaign.
>I have nothing  to  fear  from  an  independent  counsel.  It  is
>apparent  that  the  President does not feel the same way. If the
>Attorney General is willing to request an independent counsel for
>this  entire campaign finance investigation, I have absolutely no
>problem with having my case being included with the others.
>The  American  people  must  have  confidence  in   our   Justice
>Department.  Many have noted that both Republican allegations and
>Democrat allegations must be pursued.  I  agree.  An  Independent
>Counsel  is  the  best  way for the Justice Department to proceed
>with its responsibilities. In  Congress,  we  will  continue  our
>public  review  of  these  important matters so that the American
>people are not kept in the dark.
>  Published in the Dec. 15, 1997 issue of The Washington Weekly
>  Copyright 1997 The Washington Weekly (http://www.federal.com)
>          Reposting permitted with this message intact

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