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web posted October 2, 2000

Ray sees prosecution decision soon after Clinton leaves office

A decision on whether to prosecute President Clinton for his conduct in the Monica Lewinsky scandal will come "very shortly" after Clinton leaves office next January, Independent Counsel Robert Ray says.

"I think the public would like me to wrap up this investigation, but that doesn't mean walk away from the responsibilities I have," Ray said September 24 on CNN's "Late Edition."

"That decision will be rendered shortly, very shortly after the president leaves office in the best interest of the country, and also not to unfairly tread on the new president's administration."

That is the last major piece of unfinished business in the $52 million independent counsel investigations of activities by Clinton and his wife, Hillary.

Ray announced the week before hat he was ending the six-year Whitewater investigation after finding insufficient evidence to "to prove beyond a reasonable doubt" that either Clinton committed a crime.

A grand jury was impaneled in July to help decide whether the president should be indicted on charges he committed perjury or obstructed justice when he denied his affair with Lewinsky in sworn testimony in the Paula Jones case. The scandal led to Clinton's impeachment and a Senate trial, in which he was acquitted.

Ray said the decision whether to prosecute will not be affected by who wins the November presidential election. Other factors could influence the decision, such as "whether there's a substantial federal interest in bringing a case," he said.

Ray also said Clinton's disbarment case in Arkansas could be a factor. He did not say how that might affect the decision.

In the case of the Whitewater investigation, Ray said even if he had enough evidence to obtain grand jury indictments he would not have filed charges unless he believed he had enough evidence to convict.

"No responsible prosecutor would bring a case simply based on a judgment that a grand jury would return a charge by a probable cause determination," Ray said. "Much more is expected of a prosecutor."

He said it was important to announce that the investigation had ended.

"The country is entitled to closure as a matter of fairness," he said. Referring to Hillary Clinton's Senate candidacy in New York, Ray said: "A candidate for the United States Senate is entitled to finality and a rendering of a judgment if one could appropriately be made before the election."

Clinton jokes about 1996 fund-raising scandal

The president earned big laughs on September 24 when he made light of the 1996 fund-raising scandals as well as the probes that have plagued his two terms in office, delighting an audience of California political supporters.

Bill ClintonRecalling the glorious natural surroundings of a Santa Barbara fund-raiser years ago, the president said, "I thought we were all just going to levitate off the side of the world."

Pausing for comic effect, he then continued, "If I had done that, it would have been the subject of another investigation."

Clinton then parodied the media that has sniffed out every whiff of scandal, speaking in a mock-serious, broadcast-style voice.

"How did he do that? What was behind that? What mysterious foreign entity financed that levitation?" Clinton intoned.

Republicans in Congress launched a variety of investigations into the possible Chinese influence and illegal foreign donations after Clinton and Gore won re-election in 1996.

A Justice Department task force has charged more than two dozen people and continues to investigate 1996 campaign finance activities, but Attorney General Janet Reno declined to appoint a special counsel.

The week before, newly released White House e-mail messages revived the controversy over a 1996 event Gore attended with Chinese-Americans at a Los Angeles Buddhist temple.

More than $100,000 was illegally raised for Clinton, Gore and other Democrats at the April 1996 event. The White House says the event was not a fund-raiser.

But Gore's staff described the luncheon as a fund-raiser, and an e-mail suggested he bring $20 as "an offering," according to the reconstructed White House computer messages.

High Court defers to Microsoft

The Supreme Court said September 26 that a federal appeals court, not the highest court in the land, should hear Microsoft's appeal of a judge's decision ordering the software giant to be broken into two parts.

Microsoft had asked the justices to send the case to the appeals court. The Justice Department wanted the nation's highest court to bypass that step and hear arguments this winter over whether the company must be broken up.

The court acted on an 8-1 vote, with Justice Stephen G. Breyer dissenting. "Speed in reaching a final decision may help create legal certainty," Breyer wrote, contending the Supreme Court should hear the case now.

Microsoft is seeking to overturn U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's ruling that it engaged in illegally anticompetitive conduct. The judge in June ordered the company split in two, but he postponed enforcement of the order during Microsoft's appeal.

A federal law allows major antitrust cases to skip the appeals court step and move straight from a trial court to the Supreme Court if the justices grant direct review.

But Microsoft urged the justices not to do so, contending the case is too complicated and that the appeals court should "clear out the procedural and factual underbrush first."

The Justice Department said taking the case through the appeals court would delay a final ruling by at least a year. A long appeals process "could irreparably harm competition in a vital and rapidly evolving sector of the national economy," government lawyers contended.

The justices also declined to hear a case against Microsoft filed by 19 states that joined the Justice Department in suing the company in 1998.

The company sought to take its appeal first to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia because that court has reversed Jackson's decisions on Microsoft-related matters twice in the past. The Justice Department wanted to avoid the Court of Appeals for the same reason.

In a statement attached to the Supreme Court's order, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist said he would not disqualify himself from handling the Microsoft cases although his son is a partner in a Boston law firm hired by Microsoft in another case.

"My son's personal and financial concerns will not be affected by our disposition of the Supreme Court's Microsoft matters," the chief justice said. The unnecessary disqualification of a justice can have a "negative impact" on the court and create the risk of an evenly divided vote, he added.

The cases are Microsoft v. U.S., 00-139, and New York v. Microsoft, 00-261.

Elian Gonzalez relatives sue Attorney General Reno, city of Miami

The Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez are suing Attorney General Janet Reno, the city of Miami and several other parties over the seizure of the young boy from their home.

Lazaro Gonzalez, right, his wife, Angela, center, and Marisleysis, left, listen to their attorney during a news conference
Lazaro Gonzalez, right, his wife, Angela, center, and Marisleysis, left, listen to their attorney during a news conference

Their lawsuit, filed September 28 in U.S. District Court, also named Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Doris Meissner, Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, INS Agent Betty Mills -- who carried Elian from the home -- and all of the other INS, Border Patrol and U.S. Marshals agents who participated in the operation to remove the boy from his uncle's house in the Little Havana neighborhood.

Attorney Ron Guralnick is representing Lazaro Gonzalez, his wife, and his daughter, Marisleysis, in the case. He told reporters he would ask for a "very large figure" for damages.

"This was absolutely outrageous," he said of the April 22 operation, in which federal agents burst into the Gonzalez home in the early morning hours and rushed a crying Elian into a van. The boy then was flown to Washington and reunited with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

Guralnick said each of the defendants was being sued for conspiracy to deny the family its constitutional rights, unlawful search and seizure and punitive and compensatory damages.

He said he may eventually include President Clinton as a defendant in the case, because, he said, Clinton promised Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, that such a raid would not take place.

Elian was the subject of an international custody battle after he was found floating on an innertube in the waters off the Florida coast last November. His mother and 10 others drowned when their boat capsized in an attempt to reach the United States. His father's relatives in Miami wanted the U.S. government to give the boy an asylum hearing, but his father wanted him to return to Cuba.

Elian left the United States with his father June 28 after an appeals court injunction keeping him in the country expired and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from his Miami relatives.

Armed, uniformed agents stormed the house on April 22, breaking down the door and gassing protesters who had vowed to bar their entry. They grabbed Elian, raced back out, and within hours the boy was reunited with his father in Washington while angry Cuban Americans set fires in the streets of Miami.

Elian left the United States with his father June 28 after an appeals court injunction keeping him in the country expired and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from his Miami relatives.

FBI focuses on Bush consultant in debate tape probe

A senior law enforcement official told CNN that a media consultant staffer working for the presidential campaign of Republican George W. Bush remains the focus of an FBI investigation into who sent confidential Bush debate preparation materials to the camp of Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore.

The staffer, Yvette Lozano, a low-level aide who works for Maverick Media, Bush's Austin-based media consulting firm, told ABC News earlier last week that she did not send the materials, which included a videotape of Bush's debate preparations.

The senior law enforcement official stressed that the FBI has not completed the analysis of forensic evidence in the case.

The official told CNN that one possibility the FBI was looking into was that a superior at Maverick Media may have asked Lozano to send the debate-preparation tape to the Gore campaign.

The official said it would "change the lay of the land" if investigators found that Lozano acted at the request of a higher-ranking campaign official.

The source, who asked not to be identified, said the FBI is proceeding methodically because of the political sensitivity of the case, and tells CNN the "case is not ripe" to decide which -- if any -- federal laws have been violated.

If evidence indicates Lozano or others had lied during the probe, federal prosecutors could consider a charge of making false statements to federal agents, the official said.

Another possibility that the Justice Department may examine is the misappropriation of funds in connection with the use of any government funds by the campaigns.

Last month, junior Gore campaign staffer Michael Doyne was suspended from his duties after he discussed with a friend the possibility that there might be a so-called mole in the Bush camp.

But later, Doyne wrote an affidavit that said the discussion was not "based on any actual facts or any actual knowledge that (he) had about the subject."

Gore communications director Mark Fabiani said the vice president's campaign was confident it has not received or used any information from a mole within the Bush campaign.

To date, no evidence has surfaced that Doyne and the videotape are linked in any way.

CNN poll: Bush, Gore tied at 45 percent

It can't get any closer than this: A CNN/USA Today/Gallup tracking poll on October 1 showed Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore tied with his GOP rival, George W. Bush, at 45 percent.

In a poll the day before, Gore led Bush by just 2 percentage points, 46 percent to 44 percent.

The survey showed the position of Green Party candidate and consumer advocate Ralph Nader unchanged from the September 30 poll, with 4 percent. Also unchanged was the standing of Reform Party candidate Patrick Buchanan, with 1 percent.

How close is the race between Bush and Gore? Not only do both the major-party candidates have the same share of the vote, but both men have identical favorable and unfavorable ratings. Fifty-nine percent have a favorable view of Gore, and 59 percent have a favorable view of Bush. Both have unfavorable ratings of 36 percent.

Bush's favorable rating has grown since mid-September, when he trailed Gore by 5 points in the political horse race.

The October 1 figures illustrate the pattern seen for more than a week -- both men hovering in the mid-40s in a virtual deadlock, with neither candidate able to sustain even the smallest of advantages for any length of time.

The October 1 tracking poll results, taken from interviews with 691 likely voters, was conducted September 28 through 30.

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