Republicans Want Task Force to Investigate Reno

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:24 PM EDT

( - A week after Attorney General Janet Reno appointed an independent investigator to look into the Waco debacle, Senate Republicans are proposing a special task force to investigate Janet Reno - and the way her Justice Department has handled its probes into Waco, campaign finance abuses, and alleged Chinese spying.

There are reports that former Justice Department investigator Charles LaBella may be named to head that probe. LaBella resigned from the Justice Department after Reno failed to seek an independent counsel to look into a variety of Democratic Party campaign finance irregularities in the 1996 presidential campaign.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said this "certainly would be an investigation into whether or not the Justice Department is serving the American people as it should. The attorney general seems to be asleep at the switch while the White House runs the Justice Department," Hatch said.

Hatch pitched his task-force proposal to Senate leaders Tuesday, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said he'll discuss the idea with Democrats on Wednesday. Some Democrats think the task force's mandate is too broad - they would prefer that it focus only on Waco -- and they fear the panel would be used to attack Reno

Hatch says Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) would head the bipartisan task force, which would include two other Republicans and two Democrats. They would look into the deadly assault on the Branch Davidian complex, the decision to offer plea bargains to several key figures in the 1996 Democratic fund-raising scandal, and the way the Justice Department handled allegations of spying at the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory.

If Democrats don't agree to create the task force, Hatch said the Judiciary Committee will conduct the probe itself.

Hatch says the congressional task force's job would be different from that of former Missouri Sen. John Danforth, who's trying to answer the questions, "Was there a cover-up? Did federal officials kill people?"