GOP Promises Broad Probe Into Waco
WASHINGTON (AP) _ GOP lawmakers angered by the Justice Department’s failure to produce crucial documents promised Sunday a broader investigation of the 1993 Waco siege than the one planned by a special counsel.
Top Republicans continued to press for Attorney General Janet Reno’s ouster while the administration pledged its support.
Meantime, former Sen. John Danforth, the Missouri Republican appointed by Reno to lead the independent investigation, said he would try to avoid a political inquiry.
The chairman of a House Government Affairs Committee, which will review the government’s role in Waco, said Danforth will concentrate on possible criminal activity while ``we’re going to be taking a broader look.″
``We need to find out who’s responsible,″ Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., said on ``Fox News Sunday.″ ``We don’t want people in charge of things like Waco if they’re not doing their job properly.″
Danforth, appearing on five Sunday news programs, said his investigation would have a narrow focus and seek to avoid politics.
``It’s not going to be sort of a general sweeping investigation into whether or not good or bad judgment″ was used by government officials during the 51-day siege in which some 80 Branch Davidian followers died.
Asked about lessons learned from Kenneth Starr’s investigations of the Clintons, Danforth said ``this cannot be absolutely open-ended where one issue sort of morphs into another issue.″
He said he would work with Congress, but ``what I would like to do is to wait until the very end to issue a report and not have a running commentary between now and then.″
Reno last week asked Danforth to determine whether there was a cover-up and the government was involved in the killings.
The renewed criticism of the Justice Department and Reno was prompted by the news that an FBI report the department turned over to Congress years ago lacked one page that mentioned the use of military-style incendiary tear gas against the religious cult.
A department spokesman has said the key page was given to lawyers in criminal and civil cases involving Waco survivors, and the special counsel will have to look into why it never reached Congress.
Burton, in a letter to Reno made public Sunday, said the omission of the critical page ``raises more questions about whether this committee was intentionally misled during the original Waco investigation.″
The Senate’s top Republican, Trent Lott of Mississippi, said Reno should be fired, repeating a view first stated last week. He said she has shown a pattern of incompetence on issues such as alleged Chinese theft of nuclear secrets and illegal campaign contributions.
``Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an attorney general that could investigate wrongdoing instead of having always to bring in adult supervision?″ he asked on CBS’ ``Face the Nation.″
Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, who has suggested Reno step down because of issues other than Waco, said someone must be held accountable for department missteps.
``There’s so little confidence in the administration and Justice Department,″ he said.
But the White House remains confident Reno can do her job, said John Podesta, President Clinton’s chief of staff.
``She’s a tough-minded person, she is going to get to the bottom of this,″ he said on CBS.
Reno was asked Sunday by Burton to provide interviews this week with three Justice officials, including attorney James G. Touhey, Jr. Earlier this month, Touhey wrote a memo detailing his discovery that some copies of the 49-page FBI lab report, including the copy sent to Congress, did not include the last page which mentioned the use of military rounds.
The Justice Department insists that reports of the use of two flammable tear gas rounds against a storm bunker does not change the conclusion that the later fire that engulfed the Branch Davidians inside the compound was set by cult members.