Janet Reno on Principles & Values

Former Attorney General; Democratic Challenger FL Governor


Authorized expansion of Ken Starr's Whitewater investigation

On January 21, 1998, there were news reports that Bill had an affair with a former White House intern and that he had asked her to lie about it to Paula Jones's lawyers. Starr had requested and obtained permission from Attorney General Janet Reno to expand his investigation to look into possible criminal charges against the President.

On January 16, Attorney General Reno wrote a letter to the three-judge oversight panel recommending that Starr be allowed to expand his investigations to the Lewinsky matter and possible obstruction of justice. We later learned that Reno's recommendation was based on incomplete and false information provided to her by the OIC.

Source: Living History, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, p. 440 & 442 , Nov 1, 2003

Justice supports democracy & economic opportunity

The last eight years have been an opportunity to use law to make America safer, freer, and to give people more equal opportunity. Our democracy is a fragile institution. Unless all the people are involved, the law is weakened. If people are left out, if they can’t get jobs, if they can’t get their civil rights restored, they become angry and alienated, and we are weaker and lower for it.
Source: Graduation speech at George Washington Law School, D.C. , May 27, 2001

No evidence to investigate Clinton fundraising

Reno declined to seek the appointment of an independent counsel to look into Clinton’s role in the Democratic Party’s advertising campaign in the 1996 election. Reno is right. Reno’s job was to determine whether there were grounds for a criminal prosecution. She needed evidence that Clinton deliberately broke the law. It wasn’t there.
Source: San Jose Mercury News, Op-Ed on Clinton Cabinet , Dec 9, 1998

In contempt of Congress over Clinton-Gore fund-raising

A House committee voted [along party lines] yesterday to hold Janet Reno in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over Justice Department memos subpoenaed in a dispute over her failure to appoint an independent counsel to investigate 1996 campaign fund-raising abuses. It was the first time a full House committee had ever voted to hold an attorney general in contempt.

Reno stood firm at a hurriedly called news conference after the vote. She said she was still reviewing the memos, both concluding that the law requires her to seek the appointment of a special prosecutor. She had refused in the past to take such a step, but she said she is considering it again with “an open mind.” Reno said last week that she wanted three more weeks to study the matter, but there were reports last night that she is working on a 30-day deadline, set by law. Whatever the decision, Reno said, “I stand for a very important principle: Prosecutions in America must be free of political influence.”

Source: George Lardner, Washington Post, p. A1 , Aug 7, 1998

Dislikes publicity; devoid of affect

What you see when you see Janet Reno is the girl in high school who sits in the front row. “The responsible one,” as her sister says; the one who sat on her siblings when they misbehaved. The chemistry major, who, despite her mother’s distaste for lawyers, applied to Harvard Law. The politician who says she dislikes publicity because “I feel like I’m intruding on people.. I’ve just not cared for it.”

Really, there’s no easy way to describe a woman who is devoid of affect, who throws out a negative force field as she sits. It’s brilliant. You can see how she rope-a-dopes Congress. She is not glib. She doesn’t feel the need to help, conversationally. She deflates her own accomplishments at the same time as she’s deflating conversation. She reveals that she buys her blue dresses from a catalogue - the attorney general, a catalogue shopper-but won’t say which one. Wouldn’t want publicity. As for the rustic, up-from-the-Everglades myth, she thought it was a “hoot,” she says.

Source: Liza Mundy, Washington Post, p. W6 on Clinton Cabinet , Jan 25, 1998

Has never met the right man, yet

I met Janet Reno to interview the latest candidate for attorney general. She was well schooled on the issues. Now we just had to hear from the battery of lawyers who had been given the job of picking apart her personal life.

They had read all her clippings, reviewed her tax returns, and questioned he extensively about the fact that she was still single at age 50. She smiled and said, "No one ever passed my mother's potato test."

"Can you explain?" they asked.

"My mother said, 'Janet, you'll know you're in love when your heart goes potato, potato, potato.' I just haven't found a man who makes my heart feel that way yet."

The vetting committee's worry was that she was "too clean." She had no debt, bought cars at sticker price so the dealer wouldn't be doing her a favor, and still lived in her family home. Her conviction rate as a prosecutor was normal, she had run for office several times and been elected by the multiethnic Miami citizenry.

Source: Friends in High Places, by Webb Hubbell, p.188-189 , Nov 1, 1997

Justice stressing housing, employment, education & policing

I would like to highlight four areas which reflect our commitment to combating discrimination. First is fair housing and fair lending. Second is employment and affirmative action. Third is education. And fourth is the building of trust between law enforcement and the minority community. The Department of Justice is committed to our mission which is, simply stated, to enforce the civil rights laws of this nation as vigorously and as faithfully as possible without fear or favor.
Source: Speech to Baptist Church, Birmingham AL , Jan 15, 1997

Embarrassed by Travelgate & Vince Foster suicide

On May 19, 1993, Clinton aides fired all seven staff members of the White House travel office. The aides said an audit had uncovered evidence of mismanagement and possibly theft. The career staffers vehemently and publicly denied the charges.

Reno entered the fray when a White House lawyer seemed to sidestep Reno by going directly to the FBI to request an investigation of the travel office. Congressional Republicans accused the White House of a blatant attempt to politicize the FBI. This was hardly another Watergate, although improper use of the FBI was a serious matter.

Reno repeatedly denied a feud with the White House. After the initial brouhaha, both the White House and Reno were forced to admit to overreaction. Reno was embarrassed, too, when it turned out that she had, in fact, been informed by the FBI that it was responding to a White House call.

The mea culpas came too late for deputy White House counsel Vince Foster. On July 20, Foster committed suicide.

Source: Doing the Right Thing, by Paul Anderson, p.236-239 , Jul 20, 1993

Post-Waco popularity soared when Reno took responsibility

[After three attacks with CS2 gas by the FBI on the Branch Davidian compound which had been besieged for 50 days, the compound burst into flame]. Authorities eventually found 75 bodies, including 25 children. “I think the FBI acted professionally and with remarkable restraint,” Reno said. “I made the decisions; I’m accountable. The buck stops with me.”

[After the Waco attack], Reno’s popularity skyrocketed. Reno hit a peak after her interview with Tabitha Soren on MTV. When Soren asked Reno about her post-Waco surge in the polls, Reno replied somberly, “The tragedy of Waco will live with me for the rest of my life. And it hurts me that people should judge popularity on that.”

Soren asked, “Do you understand why you were a hero on that awful day?” Reno answered, “I think people desperately want people to take responsibility, and I don’t think any of us understood how much the American people want that to happen.”

Source: Doing the Right Thing, by Paul Anderson, p.195 & 210 , May 13, 1993

Justice Dept. philosophy: “What’s the right thing to do?”

[In her introductory speech to Justice Dept. staff, Reno said], “While I’m Attorney General, we will address each issue with one question: What’s the right thing to do? Let us leave here today resolved to ask that of ourselves as we seek justice, remembering that sometimes doing the right thing is very politically unpopular. Sometimes it will be painful, for it will, of necessity, hurt someone. But with strength and courage, let us face that question unafraid and together seek justice for all.”
Source: Doing the Right Thing, by Paul Anderson, p. 1-2 , Apr 6, 1993

Prosecutor credo: Protect the innocent & convict the guilty

For the first 9 years of my legal career, I swore I would never be a prosecutor because I thought they were more interested in securing convictions than seeking justice. [A district attorney] persuaded me to go to work for him by saying I could change that perception. The first objective of a prosecutor should be to make sure innocent people do not get charged. The second objective is to convict the guilty according to due process and fair play.
Source: Doing the Right Thing, by Paul Anderson, p. 64 , Dec 1, 1972

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