Analysis: Janet Reno -- the Cornerstone of the Clinton Cover-ups

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Analysis: Janet Reno -- the Cornerstone of the Clinton Cover-ups
Christopher Ruddy
June 14, 1999

Miami -- In the middle of the Chinagate scandal maelstrom sits U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. Already several top lawmakers have called for her to resign.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Reno has managed "probably the most disgraceful Justice Department since the Teapot Dome scandal of 1923 when the attorney general had to resign because of corruption."

Reno's efforts to cover-up for Chinagate, the Clinton's scandal du jour, are legion. But one fact stands out above all others: Reno refused to authorize a wiretap request in 1997, when the FBI wanted to monitor Los Alamos espionage suspect Wen Ho Lee. According to Investor's Business Daily, this was the only wiretap request she denied out of almost 2,700.

Even before the Chinese nuclear espionage allegations shook the political landscape, Reno had been covering for the Clintons' special dealings with China. Despite the FBI director's recommendation and the request of a Justice Department official she appointed, Reno has steadfastly refused to appoint an independent counsel to investigate whether Clinton sold America's most sensitive nuclear and military secrets for campaign cash.

Actually, Janet Reno has been in the middle of every maelstrom involving the Clintons since her appointment as Attorney General. From Waco to Travelgate to Vince Foster's death to Whitewater obstruction to China-Lippogate, Reno has done exactly what she was appointed to do. She has held the floodwaters of justice from ever reaching the Clinton White House.

The truth is that Janet Reno was the most important appointment made to the Clinton cabinet. Bill and Hillary Clinton, professional white-collar criminals, knew that their attorney general would be critical to their hold on the presidency. They also knew their choice for the Cabinet post would come under close scrutiny by Senate Republicans.

Eventually they settled on Reno, a Harvard Law School graduate, who had returned to her Miami, Florida home and become a local prosecutor before being named by Governor Reubin Askew as Dade County State Attorney.

The Clintons' First Choice

The way history records it, Janet Reno was the accidental Attorney General, a third choice who luckily got picked because of the unexpected failure of the first two candidates. That history, as it turns out to be falsified one. Janet Reno was no accident.

The real details about Reno's ascendancy were sketched out to me one afternoon by a friend and one-time associate of Janet Reno. We met at a restaurant in the bohemian enclave of Cocoanut Grove here in Miami -- once a stomping ground for Reno.

Reno, her associate told me, was actually the first choice of the Clintons because of her notable track record in Miami: during Reno's legal stewardship of Miami it became a mecca for drug dealers, money launderers, corrupt politicians and other hoodlums. It was during Reno's tenure here that the city earned its well deserved nickname from a highly-rated television show "Miami Vice."

Last year, Miami became the center of controversy when a state court removed the sitting mayor because of voter fraud. But, according to Reno's former associate, voter fraud flourished while Reno served as Miami's chief law enforcement officer.

Investigative reporters James Collier and Ken Collier detailed in the 1992 book Votescam how they uncovered pre-printed voter ballots in a warehouse rented by a Miami political candidate. Following the advice of their editor, they seized the evidence and took the illegal ballots to the State's Attorney, Janet Reno. Incredibly, Reno had the journalists arrested, rather than investigate how a candidate had pre-printed ballots in his possession.

As Reno's former associate noted, she was a perfect match for the Clintons because she had a near-perfect record of not prosecuting white-collar criminals or politicians. No one ever accused her of taking bribes or conspiring with criminals, but she was frequently criticized by her political opponents for her naiveté. It was alleged, too, that she was susceptible to blackmail for personal indiscretions.

It was clear from Reno's tenure as Miami's figurative top cop that she liked holding public office. She focused on safe issues that she cared about, such as preventing child abuse, while drug dealing, money laundering, and political corruption were rampant.

It is generally acknowledged that Hillary Clinton by covering for her husband during the Gennifer Flowers flap had earned the right to name nominees to a number of cabinet posts, including the Attorney General. Hillary Clinton, whose brother had served as a legal aid attorney representing indigent defendants, prosecuted by Reno's office, had firsthand information that Reno was a patsy for the criminal element.

The Dade County state attorney shaped up as the ideal Clintonian candidate for the post. She was a woman. She was ineffectual in dealing with organized crime and white-collar criminals. She was a yes woman who would not expose political corruption. She did not have the credentials associated with the post of Attorney General and would owe the Clintons for the appointment.

Senate Confirmation

According to Reno's former associate, the big problem with Reno was she probably wouldn't pass the FBI background check and the almost certain Senate confirmation process. So, the Clintons devised a brilliant plan to get their nominee approved without an FBI inquiry and with no real Senate review.

First, Bill Clinton nominated Zoe Baird, a well-regarded attorney, for the post. She seemed to be sailing through the process, when damaging information from her FBI file was leaked that disclosed Baird had hired a housekeeper and had not paid social security taxes.

Baird withdrew, and Clinton nominated New Your Judge Kimba Wood. Again FBI file details were leaked to the press, and Wood too had not paid social security taxes for her domestic help. She also withdrew.

The Clinton administration, renown for putting positive spin on damaging information, made no effort to condemn the inappropriate leaks from Baird's and Wood's FBI files. "Baird and Wood were pawns to be sacrificed," my confidential source said.

However, with these nominees thrown overboard, the famed Clinton spin team went into overdrive with the nomination of Janet Reno. It was suggested that she was a tough, Eliot Ness-like prosecutor. After two failed nominations and with the standoff with the David Koresh cult in Waco, Texas escalating into a hot crisis, the White House press machine urged an immediate confirmation for the vacant Attorney General post.

Incredibly, the Clintons pulled it off, getting Janet Reno to head the Justice Department of the United States with virtually no vetting by the FBI, Congress, or the press.

Their control of Justice became complete when Web Hubbell, described as the president's best friend and an intimate of Hillary's from the Rose Law Firm, was named as Associate Attorney General.

As such, Hubbell became the Clintons' point man and safety check at the Justice Department. Hubbell, a white-collar criminal in the same mold as the Clintons, would later plead guilty to tax and mail fraud charges.

Any pretense of an independent Justice Department disappeared when Reno's top deputy, Philip Heymann resigned in 1994. He described her performance as Attorney General as "amateur hour."

As they were with the Clintons, the press was too willing to overlook horrendous mistakes, such as her decision to have the FBI storm the Koresh compound in Waco, resulting in the deaths of everyone inside, including children. Reno claimed she took the action because of solid evidence that Koresh was abusing children. But, in fact, no written report provided to her during the crisis indicated any children were being abused.

Frequently, the Clintons have pretended they really dislike Janet Reno, depicting her as a mean, uncompromising, "bad cop." Yet she has served continuously throughout both of Clinton's presidential terms, backing him at every critical juncture.

Stopped Schmalz

Perhaps most telling was the experience of Independent Counsel Donald Schmalz. He was appointed to investigate charges that Clinton-backer Don Tyson had made illegal gifts to Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy.

In the course of his investigation, Schmalz uncovered evidence Bill Clinton, when governor of Arkansas had received cash bribes from Tyson. One of Tyson's airline pilots testified under oath that he had ferried bundles of cash for Governor Clinton to Little Rock Airport, where Clinton's state trooper bodyguards made the pickup.

Schmalz's evidence was strong and included testimony from one or more troopers supporting the pilot's allegations. But Reno opposed his every move to expand his jurisdiction. In 1997, Schmalz described to Peter Boyer of PBS a remarkable showdown he had with Reno and six Justice officials over the Tyson allegations.

Schmalz told Boyer that until that point he had dismissed his wife's fears his life was in jeopardy while investigating the Clintons. But when he saw the control Clinton had over the Justice Department of the United States he said he was truly shaken. His greatest fears, he said, were for the country.

Meanwhile, as she has her entire career, Janet Reno sits in an office where she has sworn to see justice done and criminal activity prosecuted while steadfastly violating that oath to protect Bill and Hillary Clinton.

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