House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Attorney General Janet Reno “looks like a fool” for rejecting an independent counsel probe of White House coffees for Democratic donors.
“I am very disappointed in Attorney General Reno’s failure to appoint an independent counsel,” Gingrich said Saturday at a Republican Party breakfast in his district north of Atlanta.
“She looks like a fool. I mean let’s be honest. This is a nice lady. I’ve given her the benefit of 700 doubts.”
In Washington, the Justice Department rebuffed Gingrich’s complaints as “political chest-thumping and name-calling.”
Reno herself has expressed anger about the Clinton administration’s delay in producing the videotapes, which show the president chatting with donors during the White House coffees.
The Justice Department has long sought the tapes during its investigation into alleged Democratic fund-raising improprieties, but the White House said it did not discover them until earlier this month.
Reno has said the episode strained her relationship with the White House and has suggested she could reverse her decision and seek an independent prosecutor to scrutinize Clinton’s role in the coffees.
“This is one attorney general who calls them as she sees them,” said Justice spokesman Bert Brandenburg, responding to Gingrich’s comments.
“This is why the law has to be interpreted by professionals instead of politicians,” he added. “Political chest-thumping and name-calling are never a substitute for the facts of the law. Unfortunately, some people don’t seem to know the difference.”
Gingrich said if Reno is going to let her loyalty to Clinton take precedence over enforcing the law, she should resign.
“There’s a point where she ought to say enough already,” he said. “The attorney general’s not the political patronage appointee of the president. The attorney general’s the top law enforcement officer of the U.S.”