Exhibit K: Weekly Press Conference With Attorney General Janet Reno
Copyright 1993 Federal Information Systems Corporation - Federal News Service
NOVEMBER 18, 1993, THURSDAY
SECTION: MAJOR LEADER SPECIAL TRANSCRIPT
LENGTH: 4861 words
HEADLINE: WEEKLY PRESS CONFERENCE WITH ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO
THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON DC
ATTY GEN. RENO: Good morning. I'd first like to ask you, and what you might want to do is just talk with Carl in the course of the next several days, to find out what format you best prefer. Do you prefer something once a week, knowing that I might not be able to do it each week? Would it you prefer it once every two every weeks? What is best for you, because the whole purpose of this is for me to be as accessible as you want me to be without your getting tired of me. (Laughter.) (Off mike remark and laughter.)
Q: It depends on what you're going to say. (Laughter.)
ATTY GEN. RENO: Well, I realize that, and it's difficult to forecast those things for you, so what I'd like you to do is to work with Carl, because we really do want to try to do something that is useful to you. And that's the whole purpose of these briefings, and I want them to be as useful as possible. If you had something where I didn't have an earth-shaking announcements, I'd say -- I don't know. I just want to try to work with you. So if you'll let Carl know, we will try to adapt.
Q: Rightly or wrongly, the department took a political black eye over the past couple of weeks over the issue of child pornography. I'd like to ask you two questions. Was the solicitor general trying to save his case when he asked that the appellate court rehear the Knox versus the United States case on narrower grounds, and number two, was the president informed beforehand of the shift in strategy?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I don't worry about the politics of legal decisions in the Department of Justice. So whether it's a political black eye or not, it just has to be irrelevant to deciding based on the evidence in the law what the proper standards are. I don't think it's appropriate because the case is continuing, and we're going to continue to pursue it, as we have said, as vigorously as possible based on the standards that we think should be applied. In terms of whether the president himself was advised, I don't know.
Q: What is your personal reaction to the various positions that emerged from this, the crime bill: the mandatory minimum sentences, the extended death penalty, the mandatory life imprisonment for three-time offenders -- specifically those provisions? Your personal reaction?
ATTY GEN. RENO: My personal reaction is I'm very gratified by the approach that the Senate is taking in the general approach of focussing on minimum mandatories where they have a real impact on dangerous criminals and repeat offenders. At the same time, there are provisions that recognize that we have to address the issue of those who have been sentenced to minimum mandatory sentences who are low- level offenders who were not involved in setting up the trafficking deal who were unarmed and non-violent. They are, in many instances, serving longer sentences than more dangerous offenders, and we've got to make sure that we can adjust for that, and I think there are appropriate provisions there. I think it's a very balanced approach generally that focusses on the people I call the truly dangerous offenders -- the major traffickers, the career criminals -- and make sure that we have sentences that fit the crime while at the same time recognizing that there should be some equity and that we've got to focus our attention on the dangerous offenders. I have not reviewed all of the amendments that have passed in these last two or three days, and so we're going to be reviewing them to see just where they stand in terms of that general approach.
Q: Where is the Ron Brown case at this point? As you can imagine, there's a lot of complaining from his -- various political types that this investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department is taking quite some long time. Is it still underway, is it close to some resolution?
ATTY GEN. RENO: It is a pending investigation, and we're going to do it as thoroughly as possible consistent with the evidence and the law.
Q: (Janet, I heard you spent ?) an afternoon at the sentencing commission hearing on the crack cocaine laws, which punish crack 100 times more severely than powder cocaine, which some people think is discriminatory. Do you have any comments on the hearings and on that particular issue?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I was amazed that more of you didn't cover those hearings, because I found it very, very interesting. The witnesses' testimony was superb. Those included witnesses that had appeared before the Senate. I have asked for transcripts. I want to review it, go back through it, work with the sentencing commission to make sure that there is no discrimination in the law that has no appropriate basis in evidence and in scientific or other information that would justify any such disparity.
Q: Ms. Reno, the president said about a week ago that the Justice Department is reviewing the status of Jonathan Pollard. Can you tell us where that review is? Is it only within the office of the pardon attorney, or are you actively involved in looking into the Pollard matter?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I asked the deputy attorney general to talk with the pardon office and to make a recommendation to me.
Q: I understand that you yourself, though, met with someone from Israel earlier this week.
ATTY GEN. RENO: Yes. And I explained to him that I had asked the deputy attorney general to review the matter. He said that he had met with the deputy attorney general. I said, "Did you tell him all that you needed to know?" and he said yes.
Q: Who was it from Israel?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I don't remember his name. Carl can furnish it to you afterwards.
Q: Why would there be a need to review it at all?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I don't know whether there is a need to review it. I will make that determination when I see what is presented by the deputy attorney general.
Q: Let me ask you another question on the child pornography issue. Senator Grassley was on the floor of the Senate yesterday to talk about political trickery with respect to this issue, and he's saying the new legislation the administration is calling for really isn't needed, the law is tough enough, and what is needed is for the Department of Justice to go out and enforce the laws that currently exist. What's your reaction to that?
ATTY GEN. RENO: As we have said, we're going to continue to enforce the law based on the standards that we think should apply as vigorously as we possibly can, and we would look forward to working with Senator Grassley to make sure that there is no question in the law, and I think we can do it in a non-political, bipartisan way because I don't know of anybody in Congress or the administration that wants to do anything except vigorously enforce the laws against child pornography.
Q: What's wrong with the laws right now? What ambiguity is there that needs to be fixed?
ATTY GEN. RENO: We have presented legislation to Congress to make clear what our position is, but in the meantime, we think that the standards set forth in our brief for applying the statute will produce vigorous enforcement, there will be no investigation that will be deterred, no prosecution that will be deterred.
Q: In the Knox case, for the example, the tapes that he ordered had -- (inaudible word) -- zooming in on young girls who were wearing clothing. Should that be a crime, to purchase videotapes like that?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I can't comment on the Knox case at this point because it is pending in the 3rd Circuit, and we will make our position very clear. But we think that we can proceed based on the standards that we've set forth.
Q: Has your view on the pornography law and what needs to be done on that changed at all as a result of the letter sent to you by President Clinton last week?
ATTY GEN. RENO: No.
Q: Is the Justice Department still --
ATTY GEN. RENO: You've had a chance; Michael hasn't.
Q: The U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati yesterday said that Justice Department lawyers committed fraud on the court in the Demjanjuk case. Can you tell -- this is the latest in a string of judicial rulings that have criticized the conduct of the Department of Justice prosecutors around the country. Can you tell us if you're taking any actions to review how the department polices the conduct of its own prosecutors and what those actions might be?
ATTY GEN. RENO: As many noted when I took office, there was grave concern expressed in some prior cases. These cases arose in previous years in some time past. What I want to do is to recognize that the lawyers that I have watched in action who are here in the Department of Justice are excellent, dedicated, and very professional lawyers, and I'm proud to be working with them. At the same time, I want to do everything I can to set the highest ethical standard possible that can make everybody proud and all the American people and the legal profession can understand these are our standards, these are the steps we're taking to comply with these standards. To do that, I think it is important to try to open the process as much as possible so people can understand the ethnical considerations. In this instance, we will clearly review this matter, review the opinion, and make the best judgment possible after we've had a proper review of the opinion.
Q: Has the OPR investigation in the Demjanjuk case been completed?
ATTY GEN. RENO: Obviously, it has not been completed because we now have the decision of the Court of Appeals and we want to review that and make sure that we carefully consider all aspects of the matter.
Q: (Off mike.)
ATTY GEN. RENO: Not to my knowledge.
Q: (Off mike.)
ATTY GEN. RENO: Excuse me?
Q: (Off mike.)
ATTY GEN. RENO: No. As I indicated to you, we just received the opinion yesterday. We're in the process of reviewing it, considering all statements made by the court, and we will make the best and most informed judgment possible after a thorough review.
Q: (Inaudible) -- the (Madison ?) Guaranty S&L investigation begins to focus more directly on Mrs. Clinton and/or the president in some way, will you feel required to recuse yourself in any way or look for some sort of special prosecutor arrangement?
ATTY GEN. RENO: As you know, I have vigorously supported the independent counsel statute because I think it's important that in those instances where there may be such an appearance of conflict that there be a mechanism for an independent counsel. There is no such mechanism now. And I will make sure that any investigation conducted by this department is done in the most vigorous, professional and appropriate way possible.
Q: But the question was about you yourself. If it does increasingly focus on the president and/or Mrs. Clinton, what steps will you take about yourself?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I don't think I can do anything about myself. I'm the attorney general, and the buck's going to stop with me. And until I can have an independent counsel statute, which I hope will be authorized soon, I'm going to try to make sure that it's done the best way possible.
Q: The sentencing commission changed the way LSD sentences were done. That took effect November 1, and a lot of these LSD offenders, mostly Deadheads, are coming back into the courts now to see whether the sentencing commission's new formula applies to mandatory minimums. Do you know, has the Justice Department decided what its position is going to be on that?
ATTY GEN. RENO: No, it's not, and I've not been advised of that yet.
Q: I hope everyone here will forgive me for changing the subject so drastically, but the 30th anniversary of the death of President Kennedy is coming up, and we're curious to know where you were and what your recollections were on that day?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I was in the small law office that I had in Miami at 846 Brickel (sp) Avenue, and I had just come back from a court case and the investigator came in and told me, and we stood there and listened on the radio and finally heard it confirmed. And I went home about two hours later and just watched with my mother and my grandmother.
Q: Was it a very traumatic scene for you?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I'll never forget it.
Q: What is your reaction to the cuts in the benefits that were going to be provided initially by the Clinton health plan for substance abuse treatment?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I want to work with all concerned to make sure that we address this issue. I have watched in public hospitals across the country what drug abuse can do to health care institutions generally. Drug abuse too often can lead to other medical problems. And I want to work with everybody concerned to see that we do everything possible to provide sensible, realistic, affordable treatment to those who are suffering from drug abuse. I am and have been concerned for a very long time that drug abuse treatment as we know it today is oftentimes too expensive. Many people think that you have to put somebody in a hospital for five weeks in a fancy hospital in order for them to be properly treated. I think that we can do a lot in terms of developing case management processes that are independent of the institution or the facility where the treatment is being provided. But, as in all the issues of health care reform, I think if we work together, if we focus on what can be done to prevent and what can be done to intervene at an early stage before the problem becomes a crisis problem, we're going to save lives and dollars and a workforce.
Q: May I ask a question about John Demjanjuk? Yesterday, the department released a statement saying that you're still going to pursue extradition procedures against Demjanjuk when his legal status is resolved. Does that mean you're going to go back to square one and seek an extradition proceeding that's based on something other than his alleged or now proven false identity as Ivan the Terrible?
ATTY GEN. RENO: What we're doing is reviewing our appellate options right now. The opinion is a long opinion. We want to consider where we stand. And we intend, as previously stated, to effect Demjanjuk's prompt removal from the United States as soon as we determine his legal status.
Q: But there are no new grounds about that?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I won't comment other than that.
Q: Do you anticipate appointments of any additional Justice Department people this year?
ATTY GEN. RENO: Yes.
Q: When? Who?
Q: What position? (Laughter.)
ATTY GEN. RENO: There will probably be some nominees for U.S. district judges, for U.S. attorney. Other than that, I can't comment.
Q: Assistant attorneys general?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I don't know.
Q: Can you tell us about the Crown Heights case and also what role, if any, your office is playing in the investigation -- the election investigations in New Jersey and New York?
ATTY GEN. RENO: The Crown Heights investigation is pending. With respect to New Jersey, Michael Chertoff, the United States attorney for New Jersey and an appointee from the prior administration, is the lead on that investigation. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is working with him. Did I --
Q: And in New York?
ATTY GEN. RENO: And in the New York case, again, we are working with all concerned to make sure that there is a follow-up on that as well.
Q: Does your office and the U.S. attorney's office in New York --
ATTY GEN. RENO: I don't think that that has been resolved. I will ask Carl, if it has been resolved, to let you know later.
Q: Ms. Reno, would you comment on certain specific amendments in the crime bill, such as the Moseley-Braun amendment, which directs U.S. attorneys to try 13-year-olds as adults in certain circumstances; the D'Amato drug kingpin amendment; and the range of mandatory minimum amendments that are in the --
ATTY GEN. RENO: As I indicated earlier, some of these amendments that have been passed in the last several days I've not had a chance to review. And we're in the process of doing that now. Generally, the thrust of the crime bill, I think, is exactly what the president wanted in terms of efforts that focus on the truly dangerous while at the same time recognizing that there are some people who have been subject to minimum mandatories who are receiving stiffer sentences than more dangerous offenders. I think this does what the American people want, which is to focus on the major traffickers, the career criminals, the violent offenders. I think the community policing initiative is just superb. I have become even more convinced of useful and effective community policing can be after traveling through the country and seeing community policing initiatives that have been successful, both in focusing on the dangerous person in that neighborhood and getting them apprehended and convicted, while at the same time developing prevention programs with the neighborhood.
Q: Ms. Reno, in light of the finding of the three-judge panel yesterday, do you plan any review of the way OSI is operating in the internal review or a probe of any sort of OSI's policies?
ATTY GEN. RENO: As I indicated earlier, what we are doing in the process of reviewing all the efforts of the entire department is how can we function most effectively? If there are any concerns expressed, we will certainly review those, but we want to try to do everything possible to establish the highest ethical standards and to make sure that everyone understands what we're doing to comply with those standards.
Q: Ms. Reno, in the case of Ed Rollins and the New Jersey election, in what sense is what happened there a federal matter? What is the potential federal cause of action?
ATTY GEN. RENO: That is a pending matter and I would not comment, other than to describe it as a pending matter.
Q: (Off mike) -- the department released earlier this week indicating that voters in Mississippi, black voters, continue to be intimidated at the polls. And considering this is 1993, you don't really expect that sort of news anymore. What can the department do about that or is that an isolated case or do you see that as a symptom of a broader problem?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I want to make sure that the Department of Justice does everything it can to make sure that there is no intimidation in any form that is based on race or ethic background. I think it's terribly important for America to come together, to appreciate its differences while at the same time working together to resolve problems of mutual concern. It is a time of tension. There are many different groups. But I think the best way we can address these problems is by working together to resolve those tensions. Where there is intimidation, I want to make sure that people understand I'm not going to tolerate it. It's just plain wrong.
Q: Is it a violation of the Voting Rights Act to pay somebody money to suppress voter turnout?
ATTY GEN. RENO: We will review all the evidence in the New Jersey context and the U.S. attorney will make the appropriate decision.
Q: I'm not talking about in the New Jersey context. I'm just questioning -- I'm not familiar with all the provisions of the act and just want to know if under the act, if you pay somebody money to suppress voter turnout whether that's a violation of that bill.
ATTY GEN. RENO: We'll make the judgment based on the evidence in the law. To try to do it in terms of a hypothetical avoids too many of the fine points that go into making an appropriate decision.
Q: You've spoken in favor of the Brady Bill and the assault weapons legislation that's part of the crime bill right now. Even supporters of those measures think that their real impact on violence on the streets might be modest. Can you tell us what else you think might come next in the gun control arena that you think might have more impact?
ATTY GEN. RENO: Well, as I say, you all give me such wonderful openings, because I've always said that Brady and a ban on assault weapons and their future sale is a critical and important first step. But like the issue of violence on TV, all of these are parts of a total effort that's needed to do something about violence in America. Parental responsibility, more community police involved in the community -- there are so many things that we can do. One of the most important things that we can do is when we recognize the career criminal who has given (a community fits ?), make sure that he serves the full length of his sentence. When we see people who have committed gun violations, we take vigorous action against those people. We need to make sure that we get guns out of the hands of teenagers, but we've got to recognize that there are millions of guns on the streets, so we've got to teach people how to resolve their conflicts without resorting to violence and to knives and to guns. There is no one single magic key that will unlock this problem of violence and permit us to solve it. It will require all America coming together to make sure the bad guys get punished and punished severely and that others have an opportunity to return to their community after appropriate punishment with the chance of getting off on the right foot. At the same time, wherever I go in America, people are recognizing that we can do far more than we have to prevent violence -- Brady, the ban on assault weapons, provisions for getting guns out of the hands of teenagers are all important, critical, critical steps and I think reflect that the American people are sick and fed up with guns.
Q: What about bans on certain kinds of ammunition, you know -- Black Talon (bore ?) -- being proposed by Senator Moynihan?
ATTY GEN. RENO: We want to do everything we can to make sure that there are no weapons or ammunitions on the streets that have any purpose except just plain to kill people.
Q: Do you support that -- the ban on the Black Talon (bore ?)?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I haven't looked at that particular provision, and I need to follow up on that.
Q: (Off mike) -- crime prevention package in addition to what is in the crime bill?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the first part of your --
Q: I'm asking if the administration plans to submit legislation that perhaps could be called a crime prevention package that would be along the lines of the things you talk about and would be in addition to the crime prevention measures in the current bill.
ATTY GEN. RENO: One of the things that has most heartened me is if you look at the whole approach of the administration and then look at the pieces that are falling together, it's really developing into a package that I think that can address this problem. I've said from the beginning that one of the most important steps long range is developing stronger, better families, and one of the first things he did was to get the family leave bill passed and approved. Health care reform is absolutely essential. Preventive medical care, whether it be in terms of drug treatment, appropriate counseling, and early childhood medical care is again and again, by so many experts, one of the keys to developing strong and healthy children who grow with the chance of success. What Governor Riley is doing in the Department of Education is just excellent in terms of improving our educational system and providing for the safe school and drug-free schools program that I think can be so important. The National Service Corps is one of the first and most important steps in this direction. Yesterday I was at Eastern High School speaking to, it looked like, about a thousand students. One of the first questions asked me was, in terms of crime prevention, what are you doing about jobs for students. The National Service program gives us a wonderful opportunity and what the president has done in this effort I think is splendid because it gives youngsters and opportunity for education and for service, too, and for a feeling that they can contribute to their community
There are so many initiatives underway. If we get this community policing initiative passed -- we've already started in terms of implementing the $150 million supplemental package that Congress approved this summer. We'll have the first awards announced very shortly. That will put community police officers on the streets in a fashion that can enable communities to develop prevention programs as well. There are so many good things happening and it's beginning to come together. But in the end, we look towards what the vice president is doing with the empowerment and enterprise zones. We have been -- I recently met with the vice president and mayors from around the country. Others are becoming involved in determining how the federal agencies can work together to come together and provide real support in a comprehensive way for communities in ways that communities can use them. Five agencies now -- the Department of Labor, Education, HHS, HUD and Justice -- have already started a Youth Violence Initiative that will feed into this in Omaha, Denver, Washington, DC and other areas. So there is so much underway. It's not going to happen overnight, because I have said for a long time now that so many of the problems that we see, including youth violence, are a symptom of a long-term neglect of children's issues in America.
Q: Ms. Reno, what's the status of the proposal to merge OPR and the IG's office?
ATTY GEN. RENO: We're reviewing that. We still haven't made any decision on that. One of the things that I'm trying to do -- and I've worked with the deputy attorney general -- is to make sure, though, that as we consider this issue, that OPR is properly staffed to eliminate any backlog and to provide for the most thorough investigation possible, consistent with deliberate speed. At the same time, we are reviewing processes and what we are permitted to do under the law to open OPR investigations where there has been discipline imposed so that the American people can hold us accountable. At the same time, I would say from my review of -- I'm just extraordinarily proud of the lawyers in the Department of Justice. They do an incredible job day in and day out on difficult and complex issues, and I'd like the American people to have a better chance to see them in action and to understand what extraordinary people they have working for them in Washington.
Q: Ms. Reno, this is a kind of a technical question, but there were a thousand applications-plus for community policing grants under -- (inaudible) -- which is a pretty good story in itself. So I go down to the Justice Department to take a look at the applications. I'm told I can't. I want to see what -- the rationale of the application. They have to state what they're going to do with the money and how they're going to sustain the program. So those are substance kind of questions. I'm denied access to it. File an FOI. I file an FOI request and they say, "We're pretty, busy, you know, it will take awhile." Now it seems like maybe they're waiting for an announcement on the first grant. But I mean, that seems substantial, it's a good story and I'm blocked from getting access to it.
ATTY GEN. RENO: Let me check into it because, again, I'm used to a process in Florida where we had a public records law that made everything public except those that related to pending investigations or pending prosecutions. And so I was used to saying, yes, you can have it. I, again, have come to Washington with all sorts of new laws in effect, and I need to look at it. And I will ask Carl to address it with you as soon as possible, because this is the type of process, even if it wasn't a good story, even if it were a bad story -- (laughter) --
Q: It may be a bad story! (Laughter.) No, actually Carl and I have talked about it, but he said, "Look, here's the procedure, you have to file an FOI." So I did. But -- then they say, "Hey, we're pretty busy, we can't deal with it."
ATTY GEN. RENO: Okay. But this is one of the problems that I face, and I need to understand, because in some instances where legitimate privacy issues are involved, FOIA requests are extraordinarily burdensome. I want to be able to honor those requests while at the same time complying with the privacy act, so it is more difficult than it were Florida. What I want to understand is why it would be burdensome in this instance. They are under terrible pressures and a deadline, but this is the type -- to put it as candidly as possible, this is where I think government should be open so that people can review the process.
Q: Mr. Reno, does the administration have the votes to break a Senate filibuster of the Brady Bill?
ATTY GEN. RENO: Yes.
Q: Do you know the status of the Justice Department's review of Inspector General Funk's recommendations on the State Department file case?
ATTY GEN. RENO: I'm not prepared to comment on that at this point. We're still reviewing it.
Q: Is anything happening on that case that is -- do you know the status of --
ATTY GEN. RENO: It's pending. It's pending.
Q: Thank you.
ATTY GEN. RENO: Thank you.
LOAD-DATE: November 18, 1993