Press Conference


Thursday, March 11, 1999

9:38 a.m.


(9:38 a.m.)

VOICE: Good morning.

MR. HOLDER: Hello.

VOICE: Good morning.

MR. HOLDER: I have Bill Ritter with me today, who is the D.A. in Denver, Colorado. And I am sure that you all will treat him with the kid gloves that you always treat me with and the Attorney General.

This is a very fine group of reporters. You're going to love this experience.


MR. HOLDER: We are here to talk about community prosecutors, and describe some steps that we will be taking to advancing this promising new approach to law enforcement. As I said, I am joined by Bill Ritter, who is the District Attorney in Denver, Colorado. And we asked Bill to join us because he runs one of the best and most innovative community prosecution programs in this Nation.

We are also joined by Laurie Robinson, the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, which administers our grants to communities in this regard. And Lori is standing over there, very prominently.

We all know that crime is one of the most destabilizing forces in our communities. For years, gangs, drug trafficking and violent crime ravaged our neighborhoods. Attorney General Reno knew that our Federal law enforcement team could make a dent in the crime rate and make a real difference in our communities if we joined the front lines. And we think that we have done that.

We have done that by uniting Federal and local crime control efforts, directing new resources for crime-fighting and prevention into local efforts, and working hand in hand with local law enforcement and local communities. Six years into this strategy, crime has dropped to its lowest level in a quarter of a century.

But there are still steps that we need to take. As we meet President Clinton's commitment to put 100,000 new police officers on our streets, we need to expand prosecution resources to handle the additional cases that these officers will bring.

As United States Attorney here in Washington, I saw this problem firsthand. And Bill Ritter certainly sees it every day in Denver.

Some of you might not be familiar with the concept of community prosecutions. Simply put, a community prosecution program means that prosecutors are stationed in, and work within, the neighborhoods that they serve. And in some cities, this might mean placing prosecutors in police stations, which is what we did here in Washington, D.C. Still other cities will find different ways to more closely involve their prosecutors in the crime problems faced in that community.

You have received -- I hope you have received -- a new Department report on community prosecution, a copy of which I have right here. Required reading. There will be a test on this early next week.


MR. HOLDER: It outlines the philosophy behind this trend, describes some cities' programs which are working, and explain how community prosecutors fit into the administration's overall crime prevention and reduction program. Today I am pleased to announce new steps we are taking to provide communities with more prosecutors and the assistance that they need to combat crime.

First, we have selected five local prosecutors offices to receive immediate grants of $85,000 to enhance prosecution services. Denver; Honolulu; Marion County, Indiana; the Bronx in New York City; and Spokane County in Washington will each receive this seed money to help them target local crime problems, in partnership with their own communities.

Second, we will begin taking applications later this month for an additional $5 million in grants for other community prosecution pilot programs. These grants will allow prosecutors to start or to enhance their community prosecution programs by hiring more prosecutors, focusing those prosecutors on hot spots in their community, and backing up those prosecutors with the resources that they need to get the job done.

These grants are just a down payment on a much larger program. President Clinton has called on Congress, and I call on Congress, to provide $200 million to State and local prosecutors in the coming fiscal year. That would be enough to fund at least 1,000 new local programs, or neighborhood D.A.'s next year. And we have committed to that same level of funding in each of the four years thereafter.

Tomorrow, I will be travelling to Charleston, South Carolina, to meet with the Nation's programs. I will spend time with the Board of Directors of the National District Attorneys' association. That Board includes a member from each State. And I will spend my time listening, as I want to design a program which represents what communities need and not what Washington dictates.

Make no mistake about it, crime is certainly down. But so long as there is any crime, there is too much. We need to do more to fight crime. We must take back our neighborhoods, one block at a time. And community prosecution is, I believe, one major step forward.

I would now ask Bill Ritter to say a few words, and then we will be more than glad to take any questions that you have about this, I think, exciting new concept.


MR. RITTER: Thank you, Eric.

It is really my pleasure to be here. And my thanks to the Department of Justice, to your commitment to us, the Attorney General's commitment to community prosecution. I have been a part of a couple of different forums here in Washington, D.C., both with the Department of Justice and also with the American Programs' Research Institute, to discuss what different jurisdictions are doing about community prosecution.

And I guess there are two things that I want to leave you with when we talk about this. For different prosecutors, the approach may look different in terms of how assignments are made, how communities are decided upon, or community prosecution programs, but the two things that are the same throughout is prosecutors interested really in the quality of life for communities and how that quality of life can be impacted by a problem-solving group of people from the community, working with police and prosecutors to assess the quality-of-life issues that are criminal, and then to make some changes with respect to both how those cases are prosecuted and how, ultimately, consequences are handed down.

So, quality of life is one thing. And the other thing is really a public trust issue. My impetus for doing community prosecution has very much to do with the citizens in Denver feeling a bit distant from the justice system, and feeling like it is a big building that is very centralized, that operates in the downtown area, but is removed from the community, and they therefore are not as invested in the justice system as they should be. The justice system, after all, is a system that holds the public trust with citizens across the country.

And in order to reestablish what I think is a public trust that has waned in the years, we prosecutors are trying to do what we can to get back into the communities. Let me just give you a couple of examples, in closing.

For Denver, we have different communities that we selected, and here are some of the things we are doing. We have prosecutors assigned to those communities. But those prosecutors are not in there telling the community how we are going to handle thing. We are listening to the community. And what we have done is build these community justice councils in different neighborhoods. And we are trying to expand upon that. And that is what certainly this grant will help us do that.

We sit there with members of the community, citizens, we sit with other stakeholders, business people, governmental stakeholders, nonprofit stakeholders, police, even probation officers, and we talk about what they perceive to be the needs. We have done community surveys. And then we go back and say, Okay, now what do we do to build assets in this community to address that? That is part one.

Part two is we have community accountability boards, where we actually have judges in Denver, in juvenile cases, sentencing juveniles to community accountability boards. So, they must sit there with members of the community, and the community accountability board arrives at a sentence.

And of course it has to be within legal parameters, but, for instance, a person who commits a graffiti offense and is sentenced by the judge back to this community accountability board will be told by the citizens of that community that they are to perform a certain sentence. It may be something like keeping a billboard clean, making sure it is not graffiti-ed, or if it is, painting over it -- doing a certain amount of public service that really tries to make that community whole.

And it is the community telling them that's what will make us whole. The victim is present, as well, probation officers, police officers. That's all part of our community prosecution program that really goes back and says, how do we establish public trust and maintain public trust within the community?

So, thank you, again, Eric, for all that you do.

Laurie, thank you for all that you do.

And thanks to the Attorney General for her commitment.

QUESTION: How long has your program been in effect? And, secondly, do you see any change in people being willing to come forward and cooperate in investigations and prosecutions of dangerous offenders?

MR. RITTER: Our program has been in effect since 1996. In terms of the willingness to prosecute dangerous offenders, I think you have to look at things in stages. In one of our communities, the very first meeting we had after we had announced that we were going to have this program had three citizens at it. The last meeting, right before the new year, we had 70-some citizens who were present for the community justice meeting part of it. Now, not all of them are members of the community justice council.

There is a spirit of cooperation among police and prosecutors. But that particular community has not had a big case come out of it where we can see that. Certainly when I became the D.A. in 1993, one of the issues for us was the fear of retaliation if people came forward to report. That is in our Park Hill neighborhood in Denver. And we have had a community justice -- or community prosecution program in that neighborhood.

And we hear less and less and less about witness intimidation issues because our prosecutors are there and are present. And one of our prosecutors there happens to be very involved in gang prosecutions in Denver. And so we see less of it. But I do not have specific examples. It's just that feeling, that chemistry that you get when you're in a community and you can sense there is greater public trust. Part of that just has to do with them having a contact, somebody to come to.

QUESTION: Mr. Ritter, what is the advantage of being in the neighborhood? Do you work with the police in terms of what crimes to investigate, or is it more along the lines of kind of alternative and creative sentencing methods?

MR. RITTER: It is a dual advantage. Most of our business is reactive. So, we will still be investigating the cases that come to us. But by being in a neighborhood, you get a different sense for what that neighborhood's issues are than you do being downtown, reacting to a case, you know, case by case by case. And you become proactive as a result of it.

You work with police officers in a reactive context that may be different than you would if you were assigned full-time downtown. But you are also more proactive because you say, okay, the problem out here is not a single case, it is a whole series of juveniles who are committing graffiti offenses. It really is truancy that you learn is an issue. And that may not be on your radar screen at all if you are just reacting case by case. You get a sense for the community's problems both through the surveying, through the talking with police officers, and just your present there, you develop a sense for it.

Again, in Denver, we came to an understanding that public nuisance was one of the things that we were not doing enough of several years ago. And we only learned that by being in the community and having community members say to us, It's fine when you arrest these people, but not doing anything about the location has made an impact on our quality of life.

QUESTION: May I follow up? In terms of these alternative sentences, like forcing somebody to police an area, to keep it clean, do you have any data yet on what this does to recidivism?

MR. RITTER: No, we don't. It's too early to tell. It's a fascinating thing to be a part of. And you get a sense that it really is going to make a difference. But there is no data to say this is making a big difference for these neighborhoods. The public trust is really a hard thing to quantify. It's really something that you get a feeling for, and you have to be in the community and in a dialogue with the community to understand when you are recapturing trust that has waned.

MR. HOLDER: I will say that in Washington, the crime rate is down to a greater degree in the place where we have our CP project working, that is, in the Fifth District of Washington. That was certainly the case last year. I think that is also true of the most recent statistics that we have gotten. And we can get you some more information on that. And I hope that at least a part of that has to do with the fact that we have that CP program in 5D. It's the only place we have it in Washington.

QUESTION: Mr. Ritter, can I ask more specifically about illegal drugs in Denver? Specifically, what is the trend as far as the amount of drugs that are moving in your community? And what about the Mexican cartel connections in organizing to distribute profit there?

And another question for Mr. Holder. Mr. Constantine says he has not seen it so bad for American communities, a threat so large, as this current drug threat. He says it is increasing geometrically. Could you comment on that?

MR. HOLDER: All right, I will take a shot. There is still clearly a drug problem that we need to address in this Nation. I think we have made substantial amounts of progress, but there is still a lot of work to do. We have to educate people, especially our young people, about the dangers of drugs. We have drugs. We have to enhance our enforcement efforts. We have to work, quite frankly, with our neighbors in Mexico, through which many of the drugs that have a negative impact on so many of our communities come.

I think we made a lot of progress in the last year -- over the last few years -- in our efforts with Mexico, which does not mean that there is still, again, not work to be done. But I think there is a commitment on the part of the leadership of the Mexican Government to do things, creative things, innovative things, so that they are more effective in their drug fight. They recently announced, I think it is, a $400 million effort that will be spearheaded by Mr. Labacita. I think that holds a lot of promise for improved performance by our Mexican partners.

But there is so much that we have to do, as well. You know, we focus an awful lot on Mexico, and we justifiably should. There is a huge demand problem in the United States. It is not as if drugs are coming into this country for no reason. And unless we reduce demand on our side of the border, there is always going to be an incentive for people south of the border, Mexico and other nations, to grow the things, to produce the things that we consume. So we have to always focus on both sides of the problem.

QUESTION: Do you share the alarm of Mr. Constantine, that there is just this overwhelming -- not overwhelming, but inordinate threat to U.S. communities from both the demand and the supply connection?

MR. HOLDER: I share the concern that he has, generally, about the fact that there are too many illicit drugs that are coming into this country. And statistics tell us that a greater proportion of cocaine that comes into this country comes through Mexico. And that is certainly something that we have to work with.

QUESTION: And what about in Denver?

MR. RITTER: I will tell you about our Denver experience. We have, in Denver, we are on the I-70 corridor, which is a bit of a drug trafficking corridor, and the I-25 corridor, it intersects right in the heart of Denver. And so, yes, there is a drug trafficking problem in the Denver and in the Colorado area, related somewhat to cocaine, related as well to methamphetamine. We share the experience of other communities across the country, but particularly in the Western United States, where we have seen an increase in methamphetamine trafficking.

We, in Denver, established, about five years ago -- July of 1994 -- a somewhat unique drug court, in that we take all of our cases through drug court except for Mexican illegals and people with two prior felonies. Everybody else goes through our drug court. And we have a prison track out of it. So, if you're trafficking, you go to prison. And then, the other people who would otherwise get probation are individuals who are put on treatment programs. We had about 1,000 cases a year when we began this program. We filed 2,300 cases last year.

Now, a big part of that is that we decided drugs and small possession cases are quality-of-life issues, and so we filed them -- and I think filed them in situations where we might not have filed them. What we have seen as a result of that is an enormous drop in other kinds of crime that we think is related to the fact that we are so closely monitoring such a huge number of drug offenders.

Our experience in Denver is mirrored in other places, where there has been drops in violent crime, but our property crime has dropped, as well. And we have seen a 35-percent decrease in part 1 crimes in a five-year span that we have had this drug court. And we think a lot of it has to do with the monitoring we are doing of drug offenders. Again, I will put a plug in for drug courts and the place that they play in this scheme.

I think when Mr. Holder speaks about demand reduction, we are talking about looking at how the criminal justice can leverage the power it has to reduce demand, and reduce demand because you are treating drug offenders and getting them to a place of sobriety and clean living. It is a difficult task to undertake, but it has made a huge difference in a lot of neighborhoods, again, in the Denver area.

QUESTION: So you're winning?

MR. RITTER: Well, I think we are certainly, as people who have ever been involved in a difficult football game would say, we're keeping score now. We see a lot of very positive results. And I think it's way too early to say that we are winning. And I think that people from the Office of National Drug Policy are right to say it's bad to call it a war, because it's so difficult to say a clearly objective in a point in time. We are certainly doing what we need to do, I think, as a justice system to address using our part of the justice system to get people into treatment and a place of sobriety.

About 75 percent of all drug addicts in this country do not go through the justice system. So, it's not just a justice system issue. This is something that we in Denver are looking at ways to get private employers to a place where they understand the power they have with a drug addict.

QUESTION: Mr. Ritter, going back to the community prosecutions, do you give citizens input into charging decisions or sentencing recommendations on felonies? And does the Justice Department have any positions in these grants as to where you draw the line as to community input on those kind of charging decisions?

MR. RITTER: The answer is no, we don't give citizens input as to charging decisions on felonies, nor are they a part of the sentencing scheme with respect to felonies.

There are what are called restorative justice initiatives around the country, where they are looking at how the community can be involved in sentencing, or at least being a part of sentencing decisions with respect to felony offenders. But we have not done that in Denver, nor in Colorado.

MR. HOLDER: One of the things we did here in Washington is to certainly make a community aware of cases that were of concern to them, the disposition of those cases in court, so that they would have an opportunity to attend a sentencing hearing, and perhaps put together a letter that the sentencing judge would have before him or her, to get a sense of exactly the impact that this person had on the community.

And that I think is a very valuable thing. Judges, oftentimes, are sentencing people in a vacuum, without having a sense of how this person fits into the larger community from which he came or from which she came. And we think that that is an important part of CP, community prosecution, as well.

QUESTION: Mr. Holder, a former Deputy Independent Counsel in Ken Starr's office this week said that he believes that the Justice Department has a conflict of interest in investigating Starr's office and that the Department may be incapable of doing the job. Any response to that criticism?

MR. HOLDER: I do not want to make a comment that would in any way, as we always say, that would somehow affect the independence of the Independent Counsel's Office or interfere with any ongoing investigations that they have.

It seems to me, on the other hand, that we have a duty that is laid out pretty clearly in the statute to investigate matters, or at least to consider whether or not to investigate matters, that have been raised with regard to the conduct of independent counsels. And I will stand on the record of this Department as to whether or not we have the ability to do those kinds of things.

That should not be read as meaning that we are conducting an investigation, but we certainly take the allegations that we have received seriously.

QUESTION: Mr. Holder, Mr. Bitman said that Janet Reno has it in for Kenneth Starr, and that the closer his investigation got to the President, the more you decided to conduct this very intrusive investigation.

MR. HOLDER: That's a bunch of crap.

QUESTION: Mr. Holder, if we can talk a little bit about --

MR. HOLDER: That's c-r-a-p.

QUESTION: If we can talk a little bit more about another minor political firestorm on Capitol Hill. Some Republicans are accusing the administration of responding too slow to Chinese acquisition -- of Chinese spying in the nuclear weapons industry. How do you respond to that -- basically, that the investigation has been going on, and now there is some action or --

MR. HOLDER: Well, we don't like to, as a general matter, talk about whether or not we are investigating things. And we are particularly careful in responding to those kinds of questions when you're dealing with intelligence matters. And I am not real comfortable in responding to that.

QUESTION: Can you say generically if the administration has not been slow to respond to any espionage threat from any foreign operatives?

MR. HOLDER: We have FBI units that look at these matters aggressively. These are matters that are brought to the attention of the Attorney General, brought to my attention, in the course of regular briefings. I meet with Bob Bryant, the number two man at the FBI, every other week. We have FBI biweeklies that involve the FBI Director, myself, as well as the Attorney General.

And any matter -- all espionage matters -- are matters that are given the highest priority and are discussed -- sometimes not even in the presence of all the people who attend the FBI biweekly. There are very frequently times when we retire to the Attorney General's office, and just the four of us will discuss it.

QUESTION: But you can say categorically that no political consideration ever delayed any important investigation?

MR. HOLDER: That's true. Any investigation, any intelligence investigation that we have ever done, any espionage investigation we have ever done, politics or political pressures have just not played a part in any of those.

QUESTION: Is this two-year-old investigation at Los Alamos still going on?

MR. HOLDER: I do not think I said an investigation was going on.

QUESTION: That's why I'm asking.


MR. HOLDER: Good try.


MR. HOLDER: That Pete Williams, he's a crafty one.


QUESTION: Well, you can't say whether it's still going on? Is it over? There is no secret there's an investigation. Bill Richardson, the Energy Secretary, has been saying so publicly. So, we are past that point. I am just asking, is it still going on?

MR. HOLDER: Let me just say this. The Justice Department and the CIA are conducting investigations into events that allegedly took place at nuclear weapons facilities during the eighties. We have fully and regularly informed the appropriate parts of Congress about the conduct of these matters. And I do not really want to say much more than that.

QUESTION: Mr. Holder, if I could follow up on this. Is there any indication that the PRC activities in this country to steal strategic secrets has been on the increase? And is it warranted, do you believe, to increase the counterintelligence to the Chinese intelligence? Is that warranted, or is that going to be done, or can you say?

MR. HOLDER: No, I wouldn't want to comment any further than I have.

QUESTION: Well, this case has unusually produced a response from the scientific community, who say that there are other equities to be considered here, because there is normally an exchange of scientific information worldwide. Does that complicate the case?

MR. HOLDER: I do not think so. I think there is something to be said for the notion of having scientists from around the world get together and share information. But our national security is paramount. And in determining how we proceed and how we interact with our nations or the scientists from other nations, that has to be the primary concern.

QUESTION: Mr. Holder, let me make sure of something that you said -- did you say the "labs," plural, in terms of the CIA/Justice Department --

QUESTION: You did say labs plural.


QUESTION: Why don't we let him respond.

MR. HOLDER: Yes, I guess I did say "labs," plural.

QUESTION: Did you mean to say "labs," plural?


QUESTION: In the last couple of weeks there has been renewed dialogue about mandatory minimum sentences. Some conservative groups and some traditionally thought of as liberal groups are both saying that the mandatory minimums are not working, they are filling jails unnecessarily. Is the administration fairly well satisfied that mandatory minimums are good idea? Or will you try -- will this administration try again in the coming Congress to take another look at mandatory minimums?

MR. HOLDER: Well, I do not think that we should ever foreclose the possibility that we take a look at how the laws that we have passed are working. I tend to think that mandatory minimum sentences that deal with people who commit violent crimes are almost always good things. I think the concerns are generally raised about mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. And I think there are some questions that we ought to ask.

I do not go into it with a presumption that they're necessarily bad, but we ought to look at the statistics and see, are we putting in prison, are we using our limited prison space for the kind of people that we want to have there? Are the sentences commensurate with the kind of conduct that puts people in jail for these mandatory minimum sentences?

Those are the kinds of questions I think that we ought to ask. And as thinking legislators on both sides, Republicans and Democrats, liberal and conservative, I would hope that we would ask those questions and then go into it with an open mind.

QUESTION: The other day, the internal disciplinary officer, or the internal judge, of the laborers' union ruled that the president of the union improperly took $200,000 worth of benefits from a car dealer that was a contractor for the union's leases. This contract was, I think, for the record, worth more than a million dollars.

Now, the judge ruled that the president of the union, Mr. Corder should, nevertheless, continue on in that job, which lets him preside over the internal cleanup. One of his findings, in effect, in the ruling is that Mr. Corder avoided $42,000 worth of Federal taxes. But he goes on to say that that's not a felony that's within his province to investigate. But it has been presented to your people in the Justice Department. And reportedly, it has been presented to a grand jury in Boston. What can you tell us about that case? Are you going to indict Mr. Corder?

MR. HOLDER: I wouldn't want to comment on, again, ongoing investigations. I can say that we were disappointed with the decision. And while we believe that the case was thoroughly investigated by the union's I.G. and vigorously prosecuted, we believe that the opinion contains some factual and legal errors. And we are discussing the opinion with attorneys for the union. And we will urge the general executive board attorney to appeal the decision to the appellate officer.

QUESTION: Let me follow up on that point. I gathered from your spokesman in Chicago that one of your problems was the factual and legal findings of the in-house judge -- that's Mr. Vira -- is that you think he ignored a whole body of precedence that the appeals officer has set in previous cases, where he overturned this guy's decision.

Now, this is an in-house officer who has billed the union for over a million dollars, who reports, in essence, to the union executive board. Some of these charges that were dismissed by this officer include ties to the Mafia. There was one alleged associate of the Chicago Mafia that Mr. Corder admittedly appointed to an internal judicial position in the union. And yet the internal judge has ruled that that was not against the rules.

Dissidents inside the union, the opposition, have looked at this, have looked at the fact that Mr. Corder had well-documented political ties to the White House and the Democratic Party, and conclude again that your agreement with the union is fatally flawed; that, in effect, the fox is guarding the chicken house. What do you say to that? How do you reassure these people that the job has been done properly under your aegis?

MR. HOLDER: Well, I think we have obviously taken our responsibility in this very seriously. And I think we have done a pretty good job.

I do not usually read responses to questions. And I am sure you all notice I kind of flipped furiously to that response I gave. And I want to be careful here as to what exactly we say. And I am not sure I would want to go much further than what I've said to you.

QUESTION: Well, are you going to consider exercising your power to seize the union?

MR. HOLDER: I will rest on that prior statement.

QUESTION: Ray Kelly, Customs Director, said that he would like his own overseas intelligence-gathering unit, because what he's getting from the DEA isn't timely enough, or from the CIA. And I understand there are discussions at the Department level between Treasury and Justice about whether or not this might happen.

What can you tell us about it? And do you think it's a good idea?

MR. HOLDER: I'm not aware of the dissatisfaction that Commissioner Kelly has expressed. And I am not also aware of any ongoing conversations between our Departments. And maybe Myron could fill you in on that.

QUESTION: Do you know the status on the tobacco investigation?

MR. HOLDER: It's a matter that's ongoing. We are still looking at it and still trying to determine what action, if any, is appropriate. But it's a matter that's still proceeding.

QUESTION: Mr. Holder, do you expect that Bill Lann Lee will get a hearing before the Judiciary Committee? Or have you gotten any kind of promise that he will?

MR. HOLDER: No, we certainly haven't gotten any promises, but I hope that he will. I think that he has demonstrated, in the time that he has been our Acting Assistant Attorney General, that he is a capable person, he is in the mainstream of civil rights thought. And I think some of the concerns that might have been expressed about him before have been disproven by what he has done since he has been here at the Justice Department. He is a person who I think has great respect within the administration, generally, and within the Civil Rights Division specifically. And he has done a good job. He is worthy of confirmation.

QUESTION: Do you think you can overcome the chairman's objection to even having a hearing?

MR. HOLDER: Senator Hatch is a very reasonable guy, and I'm hopeful that we will be able to sit down and talk to him and convince him that this is a process that needs to and should go forward.

QUESTION: Judging from the demonstration project that are listed the community prosecution covers a real wide variety of bridges. Indianapolis had prosecutors to do increased caseload. The Bronx is going to buy TVs to make the court system more accessible and understandable Hawaii is going to do something in the schools. Is there a succinct definition of all these community prosecution programs?

MR. HOLDER: It is a hard thing to define, but you know it when you see it. It is a philosophy as much as anything. But you should understand that in that $200 million proposal that we have made, $150 million of that is designated primarily for the hiring of new prosecutors; $50 million of that is for innovative programs; and a small portion of that 150 -- probably 10 percent or so -- would go to, again, innovative programs. So, we are looking at, in that $200 million proposal, of coming up with giving people like Bill Ritter more prosecutors, more troops, in this fight.

But we do not want to hamstring people, either. We want to let them look at their communities and decide exactly what it is they can do most effectively with the new resources that we will give them, and involve communities in the fight for making their own neighborhoods safe. It is, I think, something that although relatively new has a pretty good track record, and I think points the way to the way we ought to be doing prosecution around this country.

QUESTION: What do you think of the Archibald Cox/Phil Heymann plan to endow the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division with special powers to investigate high-ranking officials? In other words, to insulate that AAG from you and from the Attorney General.

MR. HOLDER: Why would Jim Robinson want to be insulated from me, you know?


QUESTION: Any options that there may be another deputy A.G. some day?

MR. HOLDER: You mean I do not have this job for life?


MR. HOLDER: I respect those folks immensely. Phil Heymann was my boss when he was at the Criminal Division, my boss when he was Deputy Attorney General. The concerns that I have with the proposal is that we have one person in the executive branch who is elected nationwide, and that is the President. He appoints a person to run this Department, the Attorney General. And as we start to come up with people within that structure who, in essence, act independently, I think you lose a certain amount of accountability.

I think, ultimately, it comes down to a question of faith. And I think the American people and those who represent the American people have to have a greater degree of faith in the people who make these decisions. And I think, based on our track record, and starting from the bottom to the top, from the line prosecutors in the Public Integrity Section to, historically, Attorneys General, there is a basis for concluding that the Justice Department can handle these things, given the way we are structured right now.

Now, there have been, you know, Attorneys General who have not acted in a way that we would have liked. They have acted inconsistently with the law. And even in those instances, the system has somehow found ways to work.

QUESTION: Could you just elaborate on the tobacco task force. Is it down to a skeleton force. Would you just elaborate on what problems you've faced?

MR. HOLDER: I would not say it is down to a skeleton force, but we are getting close to, I think, a time when we're going to have to make some final decisions. But the investigation at this point, as I said, is still one that's ongoing.

QUESTION: Could you clarify for us the state of play between the Department, the Special Division at OIC? Having said that the Special Division does not have jurisdiction over this matter, does the Department now consider itself free to proceed without waiting for the pendency of the petitions before the Special Division?

And also, the OIC filing left open the possibility of reappearing in some way before the Special Division should the circumstances change. Does your filing on jurisdiction preclude you from further entertaining the Special Division in this regard?

MR. HOLDER: We obviously have to wait for the Special Division to rule on that which we have filed and which the Independent Counsel has filed. Certainly we would accord them that respect before we would proceed, if we are going to proceed. So, we would have to await the decision that they will render.

I do not remember what the second part of the question was.

QUESTION: Is there, the OIC, in their filing, suggested that if there was a change in the factual record -- I mean the filing said literally that the Landmark petition was factually thin, being based on a New York Times article. And that was literally what they said, and they left open the possibility of reopening the factual record to bring this matter before the Special Division in other factual contexts.

Does your filing on the jurisdiction of the Special Division preclude that possibility or your accepting that possibility?

MR. HOLDER: I think our filing is pretty clear. We do not think that the Special Division has jurisdiction to entertain these kinds of questions. And so an expansion of the factual record would not change our ultimate view on this, that it's just not jurisdictionally something that special court, that special panel, can handle.

Thank you.

VOICE: Thank you.


VOICE: Thank you, Mr. Ritter.

MR. HOLDER: Thank you, Bill.

(Whereupon, at 10:18 a.m., the press conference concluded.)