WASHINGTON -- Independent Counsel Robert Ray said Sunday he is adding investigators to help him determine whether to file criminal charges against President Clinton.
It marked the first time that Ray, who took over for Kenneth Starr in October, has publicly discussed the possibility that Clinton might be prosecuted for his statements and actions in the Monica Lewinsky matter.A federal judge in Little Rock, Ark., has held the president in civil contempt for 10 alleged lies in a deposition that "no reasonable person would seriously dispute."
Ray announced last week that he found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by White House officials or the first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the 1996 "Filegate" episode.
He said Sunday that he found "no dissemination for partisan political purposes" of hundreds of files of Republican former White House employees that the FBI was ordered to deliver to Clinton staff members.
But he said on ABC's "This Week" that the five-year, $50 million investigation that began with Starr's look at the Clintons' Whitewater real estate dealings is far from over.
He has sworn in two new attorneys, will be hiring others and is bringing in investigators from the FBI and other agencies.
"I am anticipating making judgments about whether or not it is appropriate to bring prosecutions," he said. "I intend to have the assistance of experienced people, experienced prosecutors, to help me make those judgments."
"There is -- as the public is well aware -- a matter involving the president of the United States in connection with the Lewinsky investigation," Ray said.
"The country went through the matter of impeachment. The judgment was made by the country that it was not appropriate to remove the president from office," he said. "It is now my task as a prosecutor, with a very limited and narrow focus, to determine again whether crimes have been committed and whether . . . it is appropriate to bring charges."
He promised his investigation will be fair and thorough but said: "There is a bigger issue here, and the bigger issue is yet to be vindicated. And the issue to be vindicated is that no person, including the president of the United States, is above the law."
White House spokesman Jim Kennedy referred queries to Clinton's personal counsel. Presidential lawyer David Kendall did not immediately return a message left at his office.
Also on ABC, Sen. Charles Schumer, a Clinton ally, said he does not think Ray is conducting a partisan investigation. But Schumer, D-N.Y., said many Americans feel enough is enough.
"My basic view is that the common-sense view of the American people is the right view, which is the president has been punished. He has the mark of Cain on his forehead he could never erase," Schumer said. "And that we ought to . . . go on to other things."
Ray said the Lewinsky investigation is not the only one left on his agenda.
"It is my judgment based upon the several mandates that we have . . . to arrive at reasoned and considered judgments with respect to each, and when those decisions are made to release them . . . eventually to the public," he said.
He should be finished, he said, "during the course of this year."
Schumer said that risks involving the legal process in politics, specifically Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Senate from New York.