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Hatch says he's troubled by Reno's probe

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee told Attorney General Janet Reno on Friday he doesn't like her answers to his questions on how the Justice Department is handling campaign fund-raising allegations.

"I must say I am deeply troubled by your continued refusal to provide meaningful, responsive answers," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a letter faxed to the Justice Department. "I am truly disappointed in your failure to appreciate the damage you are permitting to the department's credibility and the public's confidence in our system of justice."Republicans have pressured Reno for months to seek the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate if President Clinton or Vice President Gore broke the law in raising campaign money last year.

Reno has said her investigators' review of the facts and the law so far has uncovered nothing to warrant a special prosecutor.

Hatch said that response has confirmed his suspicions that "political considerations have interfered with a genuine commitment to uncovering the truth and bringing this entire matter to a timely conclusion."

Justice Department spokesman Bert Brandenburg said that Reno "has warned everyone not to rest on legal assertions (based) on unverified innuendo."

"We are going to follow the facts and the law, not press clippings and exciting rumors," Brandenburg said Friday.

Hatch asked Reno to respond to more questions by Oct. 14 and expressed frustration that written responses to questions submitted to her shortly after an April 30 hearing by his committee were not returned until this week.

He asked her to tell the committee whether the standard and process used to determine whether to investigate high-ranking Clinton administration officials is different from the ones used to start an ordinary criminal investigation.

He also asked whether the department was focussing too narrowly on the question of whether fund-raising phone calls made from federal property violate the law.