House committee votes to cite attorney general for contempt

WASHINGTON (AP) — A House committee voted today to cite Attorney General Janet Reno for contempt of Congress for failing to turn over reports recommending that she seek an independent counsel to probe campaign fund-raising abuses.
The panel moved to the extraordinary confrontation on a 24-19 vote. All Republicans supported the motion. Eighteen Democrats joined by Independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont opposed it.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., denounced the action as “political theater.” He said “this odious threat of contempt is beneath contempt.”
Rep.Burton, R-Ind., said action on the House floor would not come before Congress’ August recess and he held out hope that Reno would turn over the reports.
The full House would have to endorse any contempt citation in a vote that would not occur before September when the lawmakers return from their August recess, leaving time for a resolution of the confrontation.
If the House approved the contempt citation the matter would got the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to determine if a contempt order should be issued. If the court issued a contempt order, Reno could be subject to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Burton has been demanding Reno turn over the report from the former head of a Justice task force that is probing alleged fund-raising illegalities by the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign and the Democratic National Committee. He also wants a similar report made by the FBI director.
Reno resisted the committee’s subpoena, saying that releasing such sensitive information would damage the investigation and discourage line prosecutors everywhere from candidly assessing cases in memoranda to their superiors.