Reaction Mixed To Reno's Decision Not to Investigate Gore

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - Attorney General Janet Reno's decision not to name a special counsel to investigate statements Vice President Al Gore made about his 1996 campaign fundraising tactics drew mixed reaction Wednesday. But a House Committee Chairman vowed to continue a committee investigation of the Gore case.

House Government Reform and Operations Committee Chairman Dan Burton (R-IN) was disappointed at Reno's decision and said he will subpoena documents in connection with the Gore investigation.

"What disturbs me most of all about today's decision is that it appears that the Attorney General has not even tried to get all of the evidence before she reached her decision," Burton said in a statement.

Published reports said Robert Conrad, the head of the Justice Department's Campaign Task Force had urged Reno to name a special prosecutor to determine whether the Vice President lied about whether he knew a Buddhist temple event in California in 1996 was a fundraiser. Reno Wednesday denied those reports.

According to Burton's statement, "I will be issuing a subpoena for the [Robert] Conrad memo, as well as any other recommendations regarding the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the Vice President. I fully expect that the Attorney General will comply with the subpoena.

Republican Presidential candidate George W Bush said in a statement, "while it's clear that Al Gore engaged in a number of questionable fund raising activities and gave the FBI statements that continue to raise the issue of credibility, the American people are sick and tired of all these scandals and investigations. The best way to put all these scandals and investigations behind us is to elect someone new. I'm running to uphold the honor and dignity of the White House."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and FBI Director Louis Freeh had also called on Reno to appoint a special counsel to investigate Gore. Neither had any comment on Reno's action when contacted Wednesday.

However, Representative Asa Hutchinson (R-AR), a member of the House Judiciary Committee and one of the 13 House managers during President Clinton's Senate impeachment trial in 1999 said the time has already passed for Reno to appoint a special counsel.

"It is too late for Attorney General Reno to appoint a special prosecutor to continue the investigation of Vice President Al Gore's 1996 fundraising activities. This action should have been taken two years ago," Hutchinson said in a statement.

"I have always believed," Hutchinson continued, "the appointment of an independent counsel was appropriate in 1997 and 1998, when recommended by FBI Director Louis Freeh and other senior Justice Department officials. But with the expiration of the independent counsel law, the Attorney General has been given broader discretion as to when and if a special counsel should be appointed."

Despite the lack of a special prosecutor in the case, Hutchinson said, "it is imperative for the Attorney General to clarify that this criminal investigation must continue."

Neither House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde nor committee ranking Democrat John Conyers (D-MI) could be reached for comment Wednesday.