Las Vegas Sun

July 27, 2017

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Editorial: Demanding Reno memo is wrong

SOME politicians like to hear the sound of their voice so much that they don't know when to shut up.

A case in point is Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., the chairman of the House panel investigation campaign fund-raising in the Clinton administration.

Burton has repeatedly demanded that Attorney General Janet Reno turn over a memo from FBI Director Louis Freeh, which reportedly outlines the FBI director's disagreement on whether an independent counsel should have been appointed.

Reno rejected Freeh's advice in deciding against an independent counsel last week. Many Republicans, in turn, have been squawking about their disagreement, calling for the release of Freeh's memo to Reno.

Fortunately for law enforcement everywhere, Freeh and Reno sent a joint letter to the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, refusing to turn over the memorandum.

The attorney general and the FBI director dismissed Burton's demand, saying the memorandum would provide a "road map of our investigation."

They said Freeh's internal memorandum included confidential grand jury testimony about a pending inquiry that could hinder prosecutions.

They also noted that turning over the memorandum could have a chilling effect on the candor of future deliberations among law enforcement officials. These officials might feel that any private advice they would give could end up being made public.

"Public and judicial confidence in the criminal justice process would be undermined by congressional intrusion into an ongoing criminal investigation," they wrote. "Access to the confidential details of an ongoing investigation would place members of Congress in a position to exert pressure or attempt to influence the prosecution of specific cases, irreparably damaging enforcement efforts."

Considering how Burton has politicized his inquiry into campaign fund-raising, our nation's top law enforcement officials had every right to be concerned.

Such a request also isn't very credible coming from Burton, who has been accused of soliciting donations from a former lobbyist for the Pakistani government and threatened to cut off access to GOP friends or colleagues when that lobbyist failed to come up with the money.

What is especially troubling is the chilling effect Burton's unwarranted demand would have on law enforcement, if the memo had been turned over.

Even though Freeh disagreed with Reno on the appointment of a special prosecutor, he believes the investigation would have been jeopardized.

Unfortunately, there is a new breed of politician that is multiplying at an alarming rate in this nation. The new politician, symbolized by the likes of Dan Burton, will make outrageous statements and demands, all in the hope of getting media attention.

While the Senate committee investigating fund-raising had its moments of partisanship, it was nowhere near the level of petty, partisan politics practiced by Burton.

A thoughtful and reasoned inquiry into campaign fund-raising is what's needed, not a lot of hot air from Dan Burton.