Attorney General Janet Reno declined Monday to include President Clinton in an ongoing probe of allegations that the administration tilted a controversial decision on an Indian casino in favor of tribes that contributed heavily to the Democratic Party in 1996.
Responding to a letter from House Republicans requesting the appointment of an independent counsel, Reno said that there was no evidence from any source that Clinton’s role in the affair “reflected any participation in a crime.”
Clinton, according to Reno, met with lobbyists for the tribes making the contributions on two occasions and “was aware of and inquired of his staff about the casino matter.” In addition, Reno said, Clinton was “aware of evidence” that White House aides were “monitoring the matter and inquiring of the Department of the Interior concerning it.” But this, Reno said, does not “in and of itself indicate criminal wrong-doing by the president.”
The Republicans based their request on allegations that Clinton and top White House aides illegally pressured the Interior Department to reject a casino license application from three Chippewa tribes in Wisconsin in exchange for campaign contributions from rival tribes.
In a statement responding to Reno’s letter, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, R-Ill., said: “In slamming the door on a preliminary investigation of the President in the Chippewa case, the Attorney General continues down a perilous path. How much longer the letter and the spirit of the independent counsel law can be ignored by the nation’s chief law enforcement officer is an increasingly critical question.”