Everybody’s lead is Janet Reno’s decision not to appoint an independent counsel to investigate campaign fund-raising calls allegedly made by President Clinton and Vice-President Gore. (Reno also decided there was no reason to have an outside counsel see if ex-Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary solicited a charitable contribution in return for meeting with a Chinese trade delegation.) Everybody has the news that Reno concluded that the only fund-raising calls Clinton made were from the residential quarters of the White House, which is okay legally, and concluded that Gore did not know that some of the money he was soliciting would end being improperly placed in a DNC “hard money” account. Everybody also reports that Reno stated that this doesn’t mean that Justice is through with the issue, saying that her decision “does not mean that a person has been exonerated.” Indeed, the Los Angeles Times accompanies its Reno story with an off-lead piece reporting that the DOJ continues to investigate the major fund-raisers on the other end of the phone.
The development is widely reported as good news for Clinton and great news for Gore, who now has renewed hopes of heading into campaign 2000 sans scandal. USA Today and the others emphasize the hot, hot Republican reaction. Both the New York Times and Washington Post quote Rep. Dan Burton’s comment that “The question is: Will the American people have confidence that no cover-up is going on?..As a result of today’s announcement, the answer remains, ‘no.’”
Everybody makes a big deal about FBI Director Freeh’s eleventh-hour memo to Reno urging her to seek an outside counsel, citing inherent conflicts of interest in her investigation. The NYT makes the biggest, using its lead editorial to laud him, saying, “It was a momentous act of duty to lob this hand grenade of truth into Ms. Reno’s legal fantasy land.” William Safire uses his space to retail an Arlen Specter quip about the tension between the FBI director and his boss: “The Department of Justice cannot survive half slave and half Freeh.”
The NYT observes that Reno’s decision probably saved both Clinton and Gore hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
The Wall Street Journal’s “Tax Report” contains at least a partial explanation for why individual taxpayers feel more beleaguered than ever. They’re paying a lot more of the country’s total tax bill than they used to: total corporate taxes now represent only 12.5 percent of total federal tax revenues, down from more than 20 percent in the 60s.
The metro edition of the NYT reports on Tawana Brawley’s speech at a Bed-Stuy church, her first public appearance since she made her never-substantiated claims ten years ago that four white men, including at least one law enforcement official, abducted and raped her and left her smeared with excrement. According to the story, Brawley’s still in the never-substantiated business. In her twenty-minute speech, with few details, she said that the CIA had followed her and that she had once been stopped at gunpoint by law enforcement officers at Newark airport.
Although Brawley’s charges drew plenty of national attention when she originally made them, the national edition of the Times doesn’t cover her speech. The metro edition does, though, complete with front-page color picture.
Political Pizza Watch. The NYT reports that Al Gore’s response to the good news included going out for pizza (wonder if he called his order in). And the paper also reports that last Thursday, in Moscow, Mikhail Gorbachev filmed a Pizza Hut commercial. Gorbachev defended the move thus: “I thought it is a people’s matter–food.” The people may get the food, but Gorby got nearly $1 million.