Attorney General Janet Reno reversed course Thursday and asked that Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr be allowed to investigate the Clinton administration’s improper acquisition of FBI security files.
Meanwhile, a Secret Service official contradicted White House accounts, telling a Senate committee he had “no idea” where Clinton aides obtained a list of people whose files were pulled.
Reno’s request to a three-judge panel that supervises independent counsels came two days after she asked the FBI to conduct “a complete and thorough investigation.” At that time, Starr said the files matter was beyond his jurisdiction.
FBI and Justice Department officials had second thoughts, aides said, while Republicans questioned whether the administration could investigate itself.
“I have concluded that it would constitute a conflict of interest,” Reno said in a statement.
Starr’s office indicated it would not object to her request.
The panel is expected to grant the request, which came even as the Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings on the controversy.
Richard Miller, assistant director for protective operations at the Secret Service, testified Thursday that the White House could not have used old records when it put together its list in 1993 and 1994 because the Secret Service updates its database monthly.
“I have no idea where that list came from,” he told the panel.
White House officials said they have no idea who put together the list and did not dispute Miller’s testimony.
Administrations traditionally use FBI files in researching the backgrounds of people being considered for presidential appointments. These files can contain precise financial data, medical records, and employment histories. Agents also ask nominees if they know of anything that might embarrass them or the president.