Dissecting Reno's Justice Department
Geoff Metcalf interviews best-selling author David Limbaugh

Editor's note: The truth of Lord Acton's famous quote, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," is demonstrated anew in WorldNetDaily columnist David Limbaugh's latest best-selling book, Absolute Power: The Legacy of Corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department.

In his book, Limbaugh, an attorney by trade, deftly outlines the various scandals and missteps of Reno's tenure -- from Travelgate to Monicagate to Pardongate and beyond. Today, WorldNetDaily writer and talk-show host Geoff Metcalf interviews Limbaugh about his new work.

By Geoff Metcalf

Question: David what prompted you to take this on as a task?

Answer: I wanted to do a book of non-fiction. As you know I've been doing a column for about two-and-a-half years and it monitored the Clinton administration like we all have. I am a lawyer by trade ...

Q: Are you bragging or complaining about that?

A: Kind of a mixture. I was talking to some friends about a title for a book and this book, chronicling the abuses of power of the Clinton administration that were facilitated by the Reno Justice Department, seemed to be a perfect fit for me using the little expertise I had in the areas of law and politics. So I thought that would be a great book for me to write -- and Regnery bought-off on the idea and we went forward.

Q: I have been using a phrase for a decade that is "abuse of power under the color of authority" and you do a superb job in your book of documenting how the Clinton regime pretty much adopted that as their standard operating procedure.

A: Yeah. Interesting when you phrase it that way -- "under the color of authority" -- or under color of state law or whatever. I bet you have some interesting insights into the latest appellate decision allowing the criminal suit to go forward against Lon Horiuchi. Because he was acting, so called, under color of law when he fired those shots.

Q: Listen, the Eichman defense didn't work before ... it's not going to work now.

A: Right. But it is a fascinating thing -- and it's very important that we bring people accountable, make people accountable -- we don't want the government to be tied where they can't enforce the law but ...

Q: I don't want to digress because I do want to focus on your book -- we've got Travelgate, Chinagate, Filegate, Waco, the Elian mess and all that, but I have to ask you this: You've been looking at Janet Reno and doing a lot of research on Janet Reno -- I was amazed that they actually put up this trial balloon that she might run for governor in Florida. What's your take on that?

A: It's amazing. When I recently watched her being interviewed by Sean Hannity, I was appalled by her level of detachment, by her lack of self-reflection, by her unwillingness to say that the FBI misled her -- from which I infer she has ratified all their actions at Waco and other things. I think it's outrageous. I think she is exhibiting the complete obliviousness or sociopathic tendencies that are Clintonesque. I'm not sure which but, if she does run, I don't think we can underestimate her.

Q: Yeah, but David, the people in Florida, they know all the really dirty, sleazy stories.

A: Well they knew the stories when they almost elected Al Gore too. And what I'm saying is, I think the election will transcend Janet Reno. It will be about the Republicans vs. the Democrats. I don't think she can beat Bush. I just think it will be a nasty contest, with national implications and national funding, and it will be very distracting for Jeb Bush and it will hurt him. Because they will demonize him like they did Katherine Harris, like they did every other enemy they ever had. It will be nasty affair if it happens.

Q: Has there ever been an example of a Justice Department as politicized as the Reno Justice Department?

A: I don't think there is anything remotely comparable in our history. Even including the John Mitchell Justice Department under Nixon. Can you?

Q: I can't think of any. She has exceeded all of the standards. Listen, let me throw a few items at you and you can thumbnail comments for us, OK?

A: OK.

Q: Travelgate?

A: Well, that is an example, as I chronicle in the book, of Clinton -- while purporting to champion the rights of "little people" -- he trampled all over them. He targeted Billy Dale and the other six travel-office employees for termination so he could replace them with his own cronies from Arkansas.

And it wasn't enough for him to just fire them -- they didn't have tenure -- so he could have legally fired them without cause. But I guess he didn't want to take the political heat for firing them without any reason and replacing them with Arkansas people so he had to demonize them and criminalize them, and he did.

Q: Enter Bill's Arkansas cousin.

A: Yeah. He planted his remote cousin, Catherine Cornelius, and she found evidence -- kind of drummed-up evidence -- of financial irregularities, so called. And, it turned out, it was exposed in the trial that Billy Dale did co-mingle some of the travel-office money with his own personal account. But there was an innocuous explanation for it -- that was that he needed the cash for tips to pay these foreign agents who extracted these monies to get the press corps through their countries with facility.

Q: Where did the money come from?

A: You need to understand this was not government money. So the government didn't have a compelling interest in this. It was all press corps money, and nobody in the press doubted Billy Dale's character or credibility. In fact, of all people, Sam Donaldson, among others, testified as a character witness at the trial. And the jury, by the way, acquitted Billy Dale in two hours and 12 minutes.

Q: Then it really got good. Tell us what happened next?

A: A significant thing happened afterwards. The so-called "Hell to pay" memo: David Watkins, a White House aide, wrote to Mack McLarty, the chief of staff saying that "you know that if I hadn't fired the Travel Office employees in conformity with the first lady's wishes, there would have been hell to pay."

Q: And remind us what the first lady said in response to that?

A: Of course, Hillary denied, under oath, that she had instigated those firings. Robert Ray later decided not to prosecute for whatever reasons, but not because she wasn't guilty. But then the Clintons, of course, spun it as if to conclude that she was vindicated -- and she wasn't. It was a sordid event from start to finish, and Hillary and Bill were right in the thick of it. All of it was indefensible, inexcusable, and "little peoples'" lives were ruined irreversibly.

Q: This abuse of power under the color of authority really started with the firing of those 93 U.S. attorneys. Now was that a big deal or was that something that sorta, kinda happens anyway?

A: When I first read it, I sort of wondered that too. The way Ted Olson -- who I quote in the introduction, our new Solicitor General -- explained it to me was that always the new presidents eventually get around to replacing the U.S. Attorneys.

Q: They serve at the pleasure of the president anyway.

A: Yeah but, in this case, Clinton fired them all, and gave them ten days notice, and got rid of them before anybody had been nominated -- much less confirmed to take over -- and he lost all that work in progress. Previous administrations had never done it like that. There had been a lot more transitional time and you didn't lose the work in progress. You see the contrast with the Bush administration. They didn't even fire Mary Jo Wright, who is handling one of the most controversial investigations that remain and that's Pardongate.

Q: Was this a function of just executive-branch hubris and unbridled arrogance that, "Hey, we're the new king and we can do whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want?"

A: I think that's right. I don't think Clinton so much thought about it -- I think he was just used to being autonomous.

Q: That's the way he did it in Arkansas.

A: Yeah, and he brought that system with him to Washington and he wanted to act without accountability -- and he largely did, thanks to Janet Reno and other enablers.

Q: Throughout the entire Clinton regime, I kept waiting for a point of diminishing return where enough was enough, and it seems that even up to the end with Pardongate, we never reached that point where he felt, "Well, I'd really like to do this but I know I can't get away with it."

A: Oh no. In fact I think his continual escape from accountability just fueled him. I think there was really a point at which he was really taunting us.

Q: OK, what in your opinion was that point?

A: I'll give you the specific time I think it occurred. When he gave his grand-jury testimony, he first set us up through his spin-meisters, saying he had acted crazily and stormed out of there -- he leaked all that so when his testimony was actually shown, the video of it, and he was calm and collected, it would make the previous reports look ridiculous and he would, by contrast, look good.

But during the grand-jury testimony, he was sneering at us. He was committing perjury in front of our faces -- not about sex, mind you, but about whether he had committed perjury previously in his Paula Jones testimony. He was lying about whether he lied to cover his own butt. It was amazing the attitude of contempt that he displayed to the American people at that point. I think he is a risk taker. One of these guys that does it on a dare.

Q: He has to be an adrenalin junkie for sure.

A: Yeah, remember those stories about him having sex in the governor's mansion in the bathroom while he was looking out on the lawn and his wife was out there -- it's just sordid stuff.

Q: Former Arkansas Trooper Larry Patterson has regaled us with stories like that. In the White House, for crying out loud, you would think that people around him -- we are hearing now from the Vanity Fair piece that Al Gore was constantly frustrated by the inappropriateness of not only his behavior but also his general conduct -- you would think that maybe some grown-up supporter, in an effort to protect their guy would tell him, "Mr. President, knock that crap off."

A: I agree with you. But I find the fact that Al Gore purported to be disgusted by it even more reprehensible. If he was indeed disgusted by it, why did he never say anything? Why did he stand with him, side by side, after he got impeached and say he was "one of the greatest presidents in history"? Why did none of the Democratic senators vote to convict him in the impeachment trial? None of these Democrats had any honor. They were all Clintonized: They all made a Faustian bargain, trading what integrity they had for holding on to power through Bill Clinton. I am outraged by this b.s., after the fact, that people were repulsed. I mean, Joe Lieberman is at the top of the list.

Q: It's like McNamara coming out after the Vietnam War with his mea culpa?

A: Yes. Lieberman standing in the well of the Senate acting like he was all upset. That was all opportunistic and designed to keep Clinton in power -- not take him down, keep him in power.

Q: What about Waco? For the last few weeks I find we are revisiting eight-year-old stories. We talked to Charles Key recently about the Oklahoma City bombing, we had Mike McNulty on about Waco -- it's like all that bad stuff is coming back to haunt us again and there is no closure.

A: Yeah -- and there isn't. That's what happens when you don't have accountability. That's what happens when you have eight years of obstruction and stonewalling. You have an unquenched sense of justice. You have these loose ends. I'm not going to complain, because it's helped my book in terms of these issues being resurrected. But they were never put to bed.

Q: I remember Janet Reno standing up and saying basically, "The buck stops here." But she didn't do jack about it.

A: She didn't mean that! Because a few weeks later, she said, "If you want to look for fault at Waco, don't look to the federal government, look to David Koresh and the Branch Davidians." And then, when Sean Hannity asked her recently whether the FBI misled her, she had an opportunity to distance herself from that and she refused. "I know of no way the FBI misled me."

Well, then, that means you ratified what they did and what they did was plenty wicked in many cases. Too many people analyze this improperly by assuming the culpability of David Koresh and the government's culpability was mutually exclusive and they are not. The fact that Koresh may have done some things wrong does not exempt the federal government from accountability and from our scrutiny.

Q: We have recently reported people are now corroborating Mike McNulty's work on that F.L.I.R. Project that, yeah, the feds shot at the Branch Davidians as they were trying to escape the burning building.

A: Yeah. I want to see how that plays out. McNulty called me after my book came out and he was very gracious -- but then, he went on to say he didn't think I went far enough. Although I alluded to that F.L.I.R. stuff, I didn't go into it in detail because I didn't know what the truth was. I mean, I do believe the Davidians torched the place after the government stormed the premises but I believe there was no excuse for the government to storm the premises and they should have known -- had every reason to know -- that that was a natural reaction for Koresh with his apocalyptic world-view and his specific belief that, in time, prophecy was going to play out with him at the center of it.

So, they had every expectation that that was going to happen. Going forward was criminally negligent -- just outrageous -- in the name of protecting the children. The only harm facing those children was from the federal government. By the way, the kids that remained on the premises, at that point, were all offspring of David Koresh. The ones that weren't his had been released previously.

Q: Notwithstanding the protestations of Reno to the contrary, maybe it's because people eventually get desensitized to this stuff -- serial outrages, one after another, going back to Bimbogate eruptions during the '92 election -- one abuse after another and another and another and eventually people just get numb to it. But, come on, the Chinagate stuff -- when you've got Charles LaBella and Louis Freeh specifically, in writing, telling the attorney general there has to be an investigation and she blows them off -- that was the epitome for me.

A: Yup. Robert Lit and Robert Conrad also -- all four of them. And she refused to appoint an independent counsel -- she was at her obstructionist worst in the campaign finance scandal. Despite clear evidence of criminal violations by Al Gore and Bill Clinton, separately and together. Her excuse was, there were other people, career Justice officials, who had a contrary position. Then she issued these platitudes saying, "I was guided by the law and the facts."

Well somebody follow up and say, "Ms. Reno, what were those facts? And what was the pertinent law?" Because the facts all pointed toward unequivocal violations of criminal law, with controlling legal authority by Bill Clinton and Al Gore. And the law clearly said when you have that kind of a conflict, which is inherent when it comes to investigating these covered people who are your superiors -- who have control over the hiring and firing of your position -- you have to resolve doubts in favor of appointment. Plus, the people who recommended against appointment were ludicrous on their face.

Q: Florida attorney Jack Thompson has written and spoken about ubiquitousness of the knowledge in Florida -- about Janet Reno's aggressive homosexual activity and drunk-driving arrests and other way-weird stuff -- and I asked him at one point "Hasn't she sued your butt yet?" This stuff is getting talked about down there in Florida. Is that going to just crucify her -- if or when she runs for anything -- or is it just beyond that?

A: I do think that she is kind of Teflon too, in the same way that Clinton is, in the sense that -- I like your answer -- whatever damage has been done, has already been done. Unless there is really any new stuff. I mean, if any of that stuff Thompson is talking about is really true, that could be a different story.

Q: Allegedly the drunk-driving stories have been corroborated. One claim he has made -- and I think he's made it in print -- is that she has been blackmailed by some organized-crime types who supposedly have video of her or something.

A: I don't have any knowledge -- any first-hand knowledge -- but Janet Reno, just to be totally blunt with you and without intending to be disrespectful, strikes me as asexual. I can't imagine her being what she has been accused of. I just can't see it!

Q: I don't know if it is a function of her illness that has precipitated it, but I think the woman is just out of it. Larry Klayman [founder and chief counsel of Judicial Watch] told me a story. He was having lunch in Washington, D.C., and Janet was with a couple of her female friends at a table near him having a few martinis. And Larry sent a drink over to her. Now, at the time, Larry Klayman was at the nexus of the assault on the Clinton administration. She acted like she didn't know who he was. When he approached her table as he was leaving the restaurant, he shook her hand and introduced himself and she reportedly said, "Oh yeah, Larry, I know who you are. You keep up the good work."

A: That is consistent with the way she struck me. That's why it's hard for me to characterize her as evil. She seems so out of it to me. She doesn't seem competent enough to be deliberately evasive. I just think she thinks that sounds good. "I'm not able to answer. These are under investigation."

Q: She told Hannity at one point, "Well I could answer ..."

A: But this really brings it home. She said, she wasn't even going to give an opinion about her own preferences about the pros and cons of running for governor because she thought it might affect her own objectivity about whether to run later. (laughing) I couldn't believe that. In other words, I'm not going to say this because it might taint my later decision-making process. I'm not kidding.

Q: Is she really that out of it or does she think we are all surviving on two brain cells?

A: It's worked for her so far. I doubt she's even heard about my book.

Q: Elian! The whole Elian Gonzales situation-disaster?

A: Let me just preface it by saying this: I think that we tend to mis-analyze that by assuming -- and this plays into the liberal hands -- the issue is simply, and only, whether Elian should have been returned to live with his natural father, or should he have stayed here with his Miami relatives because his mother died to give him that freedom? Yes, that's an issue.

Q: So what was the real issue?

A: The real issue involving misconduct of the Clinton administration and high-handedness was that they initially -- the Clinton administration initially through the State Department -- said that Elian's fate would be decided by a Florida-state family court. Then, after Fidel raised his screaming objections, Clinton did a 180 and directed Reno (presumably) to do a 180 and she directed the INS to oppose Elian's asylum application. The significance of this is that all this legal wrangling that was going on -- non-lawyers might assume that this was in the context of a trial and in the context of an evidentiary hearing.

Q: OK, that was the perception. What was the reality?

A: The truth is, the INS, through Reno, kept Elian from ever getting his day in court. Moreover, she directed the INS not to follow its own guidelines -- which called for interviewing Elian -- and they even have suggestions in the guidelines what kind of questions you ask a six-year-old asylum applicant. They never even interviewed him. Now I ask you: Were they interested in the facts? Were they interested in Elian's best interests? Or did they have other reasons dominating their consideration of this issue. I submit to you, there is no question about it. While they claim to be compelled to do what they did because of the rule of law, the truth was just the opposite. They were acting on the outside periphery of the rule of law as the court of appeals commented.

Q: What did the Court of Appeals rule?

A: The Court of Appeals said, basically, in one of those cases, "We'd love to reverse this agency. But since they're acting on their outside parameters of their discretionary authority, we can't. We don't agree, but we can't reverse them."

Q: What struck me was, ultimately, it wasn't so much a procedural battle as a political one. I mean, the negotiator for the Justice Department was p.o.-ed. He was in the middle of negotiating when the raid took place. He called Reno and basically said, "Hey, what the heck are you guys doing?"

A: I remember the guy who later turned coat and went with Gore -- I can't remember his name -- he was working for Elian's relatives at the time. He was outraged because they were negotiating at the very time the raid took place. What kind of bad faith is that the government is exercising? By the way, in that final jack-booted-thug raid, the same thing applied: Clinton-Reno claimed they were compelled by the state law to do what they did when, in fact, they were violating the Constitutional rights of the Miami relatives -- even Dershowitz and Tribe condemned that raid.

Q: Your book does a superb job of crystallizing this abuse of power under the color of authority. There have been other books, including Laura Ingrahm and others -- I mean, it is turning into a boutique industry that is filling sections of libraries. Are we going to have to wait for some historian-academic 10 or 20 years in the future to peel the leaves off the onion -- even if all the facts are in evidence? Is anything ever going to come out to demonstrate how absolutely, totally abusive this administration had been?

A: Well, you're asking someone with an obvious bias. I think my book has done that with respect to the Justice Department. But, as to the matters that we don't even know about ...

Q: Like I said, you did a superb job in a niche. But one item I was ranting ad nauseum about was the Gore-Chernomyrdin deal. That got no traction at all in the mainstream.

A: Yeah, you're right. And there's so much even in the niche involving the Justice Department, there were so many leaves that were unturned. People are flabbergasted by the degree of loyalty that Clinton engendered. Nobody talks about this guy. All this stuff that we fill books with is on the public record.

Q: Yeah, but loyalty begets loyalty. Here's a guy who misuses someone then discards him or her like a soiled Kleenex.

A: I know. Including Janet Reno. How do you explain that kind of thing? Look what he did to Web Hubbell. Someday -- as time passes -- I do think the record will be more and more clear. I think people will begin to talk. Do I ever think he will be brought to legal accountability?

Q: Naw. That's not going to happen.

A: No. And frankly, except for vindicating the rule of law, I'm not looking for that. I'm just gratified that he's out of there.

Q: I think Hillary is going to have a tough row to hoe and I don't think the Clinton family is going to be absolved of lawyers and billable hours anytime in the near future.

A: No. But I'm not in the least bit concerned about her formidability as a presidential candidate. I think she's only been popular in those times when she can portray herself as a victim. She can no longer do that because Clinton is no longer in the public eye -- as least not as a public official. She can't claim that -- she's gone to that well one too many times anyway. And she's always been disfavored by the public when she has been in a position of power. Look at the health-care thing and other stuff. Her mean-spirited nature and arrogance is manifest when she is in positions of power. She is, by definition, going to be in a position of power for the next six years. Her presumptuousness and haughtiness, superciliousness, is going to be there for all to see. I don't think she could get elected beyond some northeastern very liberal states.

Q: And it's going to drive Tom Daschle nuts. I've got to ask you about this guy Bill Johnson, former federal prosecutor -- intentionally withheld information about the tear-gas canisters at the Branch Davidian raid -- we recently heard he's going to get probation. Just probation?

A: I saw that on WorldNetDaily. It's just amazing things continue to happen like this. I don't know why John Danforth continues to defend Janet Reno.

Q: He itches and moans about the FBI obstructionists.

A: Yeah, it's hard to say. I put in my book that I respect Danforth's integrity and all that -- because I worked with him all those years in Missouri, even though he's way too liberal for me. But he even admitted in his report that the Justice Department kept papers from him. And he doesn't castigate them -- it's almost as if he's protecting them, even though he alludes to it in his report. So I think it's good that he finally came down a little bit, at least rhetorically, on the FBI. Why did he state conclusions beyond the scope of his investigation? In other words, "I know for 100 percent certainty that the government was not culpable." Well, how, when he didn't even ask to investigate the government or the ATF involvement or a lot of the things the FBI did?

Q: And the stuff he did try to get out of the FBI, he complains they wouldn't give him.

A: Yeah, I know.

Q: At one point, he even threatened he was going to subpoena Louis Freeh.

A: So, then, how can he come to those conclusions they didn't do anything wrong if they didn't have anything to hide?

Q: OK, David, so you've taken on the Justice Department. What next? How about the Energy Department?

A: That's interesting. That would be an interesting one. That's an enigma too. Everybody seems to lionize Bill Richardson and I never understood that. It just seems like one stonewall after another and even one mismanagement after another.

Q: Not everyone. I've interviewed Notra Trulock and he and others have not got nice things to say about Richardson.

A: That's true. Trulock was great on that. But Bill O'Reilly likes Richardson, for example. You've talked with Bill, you ought to ask him. I have no idea why Bill has so much respect for him. At least he seems to when he interviews him anyway.

Q: I don't know about Bill. I interviewed him about his book and I like him, but he made a comment about Gore not being a bad guy and I just about gagged.

A: I know -- and that's not as bad as Dan Rather saying Bill Clinton's an honest guy, but we don't expect much from Rather.

Q: Bill Clinton lied when he didn't have to. But a fascinating thing is, Janet Reno apparently lied for him because she had to. Janet Reno wasn't his first pick but she arguably was the most controllable of any of his selections for any cabinet positions. Was she selected specifically because of her malleability?

A: It's hard for me to make that case definitively, for two reasons. As you mentioned, Zoe Baird and Kimba Woods preceded Reno as choices for attorney general and, secondly, she did some things that caused him fits early on, such as the appointment of independent counsels and Travelgate, Filegate, Whitewater -- spanning the scope to the Monica Lewinsky thing. Initially, she declined jurisdiction in the tobacco suit. Of course, she later did a 180 -- for political reasons, though the law hadn't changed -- but that's another story you can get from my book. I still conclude, yes, she was malleable, but I don't know the reason. I don't think we can say that's why he picked her. I don't know -- Hillary may have picked her because they were of like mind.

Q: David, she sided with Clinton instead of the independent counsel and I thought she was legally obligated to side with the independent counsel?

A: Geoff, thank you! That's a big point we hadn't covered and a big point I made in my book. When an independent counsel is appointed under the Act, he stands in the shoes of the attorney general. The attorney general, therefore, is honor bound -- legally obligated -- to support the independent counsel and, yet, she was filing opposing briefs in the same case, which prompted Judge Lawrence Silverman at one point to say, "Can it be said that President Clinton has declared war on the United States of America?" Meaning that he's got Janet Reno fighting the independent counsel -- both of whom are purporting to represent the United States on separate sides of the same lawsuit. It's an outrage.

Q: I thought that was a big deal. You did a good job on it in your book but, come on, everybody else pretty much gave them a pass on it.

A: Yeah. Nobody talks about it.

Q: She always talks about, "I'm just following the letter of the law."

A: Yeah, and it's a lie! Of course, I'm not sure she understands that. I really don't know. I probably give her too much credit for ignorance because that's charitable. Calling her ignorant is really giving her a pass.

Q: But on the independent counsel thing, it was the focus -- it was the nexus of all the controversy and debate. She had to know what the obligations were of her department in relation to Ken Starr.

A: I agree, but there was no accountability. So, like Clinton, she could do pretty much what she wanted to do. Look what she said to the senators every time. Orrin Hatch would start out asking her questions -- they'd be loaded for bear -- by the time it was over, he'd be just shaking his head saying, "I can't believe this woman weaseled out of it again."

Q: David, if you do another book I'll give you the title.

A: What is it?

Q: "Enough to gag a maggot."