Justice: Pushing Reno Out Wouldn't Be Seemly

Don't look for Attorney General Janet Reno to go anywhere other than the enormous edifice at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue that's home to the Justice Department any time soon. She's happy to be at the helm of the department and recently told reporters, ``As I've said all along, if the President wanted me to stay, I would be honored to do so.''

Though the White House has not always been happy with her independent ways, her unquestioned integrity makes it highly unlikely that she would be jettisoned, especially when the President, his wife and other figures in his Administration are under fire for various alleged ethical and legal transgressions.

It would be especially unseemly to push Reno overboard at a time when she has initiated a preliminary review to determine whether an independent counsel should be appointed to investigate recent fund-raising practices of the Democratic Party. Reno already has recommended the designation of an independent counsel four times -- decisions for which she has sometimes been criticized by sources within the Administration. Some analysts note, however, that under the law, the Attorney General has had little latitude.

Substantively, Reno has not always seen eye to eye with the White House on criminal law enforcement matters. ``There has been some tug-and-pull--the President and White House are somewhat more conservative than Reno,'' said John D. Podesta, a former White House aide who is now teaching at Georgetown University and is himself in the running for a senior post on the White House staff. ``That's been a source of some friction, but she has [ultimately] been a team player.''

Reno's management of the department has also been criticized, but deputy attorney general Gorelick is said to have cracked the whip, imposing a tighter chain of command between the Attorney General's office and the division chiefs.

Reno, widely regarded as a straight shooter, remains a popular figure nationally. She's stressed such issues as the need to combat domestic violence and other ``pro-family'' themes. She is also an enthusiastic supporter of putting more police officers on the street under the Community Oriented Policing Services program.

Reno has said that her mild case of Parkinson's disease, which has caused a noticeable tremor in her left hand, doesn't interfere with her work. If she were to leave, forget the speculation that Clinton would tap Mickey Kantor, who is resigning from his post as Commerce Secretary. Though Kantor is well liked on Capitol Hill and by Clinton, his heavy political involvement as chairman of Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign does not make him an ideal candidate.

One surprising name that has surfaced as a possible replacement for Reno is that of former New York Gov. Cuomo, who immediately would be viewed--once again--as a prospective Supreme Court nominee. Another possibility would be one of the youthful rising stars among state attorneys general, such as Michael Moore of Mississippi, who has attracted national attention by aggressively pursuing litigation against tobacco firms.

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