DOJ Seal



UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

Press Conference

THE HONORABLE JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL




Wednesday, June 24, 1998

11:30 a.m.


P R O C E E D I N G S

(11:30 a.m.)

VOICES: Good morning.

VOICE: We have been sitting here for 2 hours.

(Laughter.)

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I did it because I thought you wanted it this way.

QUESTION: Ms. Reno, can you tell us your reaction to the Court of Appeal's decision yesterday in the Microsoft case, and how that affects the Department's efforts against Microsoft?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: We still think we can proceed, and will do so.

QUESTION: Ms. Reno, when last we talked about it, the Department was still trying to decide how to proceed in the OPR review of complaints against Judge Starr. And there seemed to be an indication that you may or may not wait for a judgment from Judge Johnson. Can you tell us whether, number one, whether Judge Johnson has ruled on 6(e) and the other motions and, number two, whether the Department and OPR are going to wait on those decisions before beginning the review?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: With respect to the second question, we have not made a decision as yet. And I want to caution that at some point I think it is important that we go to the usual "This is a pending court matter and no comment." Our position is not in the court yet, so I want to be as forthcoming as I can, but I want to put that caution on the table.

With respect to -- what was your first point?

QUESTION: Whether the Judge's rule on 6(e) and the other motions before her have been --

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: That clearly -- the court clearly has to comment there.

QUESTION: Ms. Reno, may I ask you a question about that?

Given that the court has its own responsibilities, and I guess its ultimate sanction could be contempt, the Department has a very different responsibility because of the independent counsel statute and the Attorney General's power to remove for cause, why would the Department, given its different responsibilities, defer to the court?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: In order not to interrupt the judicial proceeding, I think it is important that we provide due deference to the court. Because the court may or may not make findings with respect to a matter that would be relevant.

QUESTION: But why would the -- I guess I wonder why the court's findings, which would be presumably -- would have some bearing on whether the Judge takes action in the contempt matter, why would that have anything to do with the Department's separate responsibility to look at the removal for cause? Is it because you would be looking at the same questions; you do not want to get in each other's way?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: It may be that there is the possibility. But what we want to try to do is to make sure that everything is done consistent with the exercise of my responsibility, while not interfering with the court or the interview of witnesses or anything such as that, if that were appropriate.

QUESTION: Ms. Reno, when you were asked questions about allegations that had arisen about one of Starr's witnesses, Mr. Hale, you said right away that you thought it was something that needed to be looked into. And within a couple of months, indeed an investigation began. Are these allegations about leaks something that you view with concern, something that you think needs to be looked into?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Again, I do not think it would be appropriate for me to comment.

QUESTION: But you did comment about allegations about Mr. Hale.

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I do not think it would be appropriate for me to comment in this context with the matter pending before the court.

QUESTION: Ms. Reno, the families of the victims of the Khobar Towers bombing believe that this government has failed them in bringing the bombers to justice. A U.S. general lost his job, but the real bombers have not been brought to justice. What do you tell them?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I think one of the most difficult roles a prosecutor has is, after having pursued every lead and still not having evidence or having an ability to prosecute people, to talk with families and tell them, look, we are not going to give up. We are going to pursue every lead. We are going to commit every resource we can to this issue. But we may not have answers immediately. But we do not give up.

And we have a track record, where we will make sure that we pursue people around the world, that we will pursue people for as long as is necessary, to see that they are brought to justice. This is very, very difficult for loved ones, who want justice to be done, who want to feel that justice has spoken. And so I understand how they feel.

But I want to street to them again and again that we have not forgotten. We are going to pursue those people responsible, till they are brought to justice.

QUESTION: Ms. Reno, what is the Department's reaction to the proposed merger between AT&T and TCI?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: We will be reviewing that. But there is no final decision that has been made with respect to whether the FTC would handle it or we would handle it.

QUESTION: What are some of the issues that come to mind when you have two very large companies like that, separate companies, of a different ilk, but extremely important to the economy?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Again, I do not think it is appropriate for us to comment until it is decided who will handle it. And I do not want to do anything that would interfere with it if the FTC handled it.

QUESTION: Ms. Reno, if I could, back on the Starr matter just for a second. As a matter of public education, what alternatives, what options are open to you other than an OPR investigation in a matter involving the Independent Counsel?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: You get into "what ifs," depending on options. And so I do not think it would be useful to comment in terms of "what ifs."

QUESTION: Ms. Reno, there appears to be some movement in the Senate on the juvenile justice bill, it has been getting bipartisan support, and there have been some proposed modifications. What Senator Hatch says he needs now is White House and Justice Department support. Frankly, he says it is time for you to get off the dime and support the bill. Will you?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: We have just heard about the bill, and we are reviewing it. I think it is important for any juvenile justice bill to have a guaranteed substantial stream of funding for delinquency prevention and intervention. I was with the United States Conference of Mayors yesterday, Republicans and Democrats, and the theme was, in my meetings, prevention is an absolutely essential part of our efforts to reduce juvenile crime.

I think it is important that any legislation have substantial and guaranteed funding for State and local prosecutors and courts who want to focus on the issue of youth violence and develop innovative and effective programs aimed at youth violence. I think it is important that we provide for the protection of existing rules separating juveniles from adults in State custody. And I think it is important that we develop measures to stop children from illegally possessing guns.

We look forward to working with Senator Hatch in every way possible, and I am gratified by this movement. I agree with him: it is time for us all to come together and address one of the most important issues we have. And that is school violence, youth violence, and what we can do to stop it.

QUESTION: You are saying that the bill should include some new gun control measures?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I think it is important that we work together to develop measures to get guns out of the hands of kids.

QUESTION: Back on the antitrust issue, how do you decide whether the Justice Department or the FTC will take on the lead role in a major investigation?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I think it is done on a case-by-case basis. I think, again, you have to look at the facts and whether one institution or the other has more information or expertise or has some sort of historical background that would dictate that they would be more appropriate.

I am impressed at the collegial way in which these decisions have been made.

QUESTION: Going back for a second to that same question. Is it your sense, though, that either the Justice Department or the FTC will look at a merger of this size?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I think we are reviewing it, and that determination will be made as the review continues.

QUESTION: Ms. Reno, there is considerable pessimism in your comments when you talk about pursuing people around the world. Does that mean that you know -- you believe you know the identities of the people who were responsible for the bombing and you just cannot get your hands on them?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I would not comment. But I would point out that we will pursue whoever is responsible for as long as it takes, wherever we go, to make sure that they are brought to justice.

QUESTION: Ms. Reno, the President is headed for China. Over the last couple of months there have been a lot of allegations flying around about the transfer of missile technology to China. The Justice Department has started several investigations. Have you seen any evidence so far that anyone has deliberately broken the law in the transfer of technology -- missile technology -- to China in exchange for a campaign contribution or for any other reason?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: There is a pending investigation. I do not think that I should comment one way or the other. And the fact that I do not comment does not indicate any judgment one way or the other.

I think that it is very important when you have a pending investigation that you not comment, so that the investigation can take its course without interference.

QUESTION: Is there a preliminary report on the Independent Counsel statute underway on the transfer issue?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: On the transfer of?

QUESTION: That we were just --

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: We are constantly on the lookout, whether it be in that situation or any other, in terms of the campaign financing investigation, for any evidence that would trigger the Independent Counsel Act. We have not found any to date.

QUESTION: But there is no preliminary inquiry underway in terms of the transfer of -- this alleged transfer of missile technology information to China?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: That is correct.

QUESTION: Ms. Reno, one of the main parts of the juvenile justice bill deals with changing prosecutorial choices over to the prosecutors rather than judges. Do you see that as a key component in the juvenile justice bill?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Are you referring to Senator Hatch's?

QUESTION: Yes, ma'am.

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I have not seen Senator Hatch's language, and so I cannot comment with respect to that. But let me just give you, generally, why I think it is important in certain situations. In one situation, for example, it is important to have the power to direct file or to have a child treated as an adult because the experts may all agree that it is necessary to keep jurisdiction over that child for longer than the juvenile justice statutes permit.

Another instance is when the child has committed an act that is just totally contemptuous of human life or in situations where the child has had opportunities in the juvenile justice and has really kind of thumbed his nose at those opportunities and has, I think, forfeited the benefits and the privileges of the juvenile justice system.

I think that gives the general parameters of how I think direct file or treating a child as an adult should be used.

QUESTION: You never actually closed off a decision on the Jonesboro situation. Have you ever reached a conclusion as to whether you can try those people as adults?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Again, what we are doing is working with the local prosecutor. You are correct that that matter has not been finalized. We are working with them, and we will see how all the processes take their course.

QUESTION: Any decisions on Federal involvement in the Jasper County prosecution?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: No final decisions, but we continue to work with them in every way we can.

QUESTION: Regarding that matter, this weekend a clan and members representing the other side of the issue plan to march. It seems as though there will be a fairly divisive, contentious rally and march. How closely is the Department monitoring that situation in case there is any violence?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: The Community Relations Service has been on the scene, in Jasper. The reports I get back are that the people of Jasper are doing a wonderful job of dealing with this terrible tragedy that has come to the community. I think they are doing everything they can to build harmony and unit and to reject the divisiveness. And we will do everything we can, through the Community Relations Services and otherwise, to support that effort.

QUESTION: When will the Justice Department formally respond to Mrs. King on her request for a new commission to review her husband's death?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: We want to make sure that we have considered all aspects of it, that we do not jump to conclusions and that we do it in an informed way. And I hope that we will be able to do it very shortly.

Thank you, all.

VOICE: Thank you.

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Now, next time, if you an objection over the time, tell Bert, and we will toss coins.

QUESTION: We were just laughing because we were so confused.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Are you going to see The X Files, the movie?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: I have not seen a movie in a long time.

QUESTION: Did you work this weekend?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: No. This weekend I went kayaking. I had a wonderful time.

QUESTION: On the Potomac?

ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Yes. Whitewater. I only fell over once.

(Whereupon, at 11:46 a.m., the press conference concluded.)