Reno Recalls Clinton-Waco Chat

Associated Press, July 27 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) - Recounting her conversation with President Clinton the day before the Waco disaster, Attorney General Janet Reno said Thursday that the president pressed her for an explanation of the plan for sending in the FBI.

"I went through it with him, told him why I decided that we should go ahead," Reno said of the Sunday phone call with Clinton on April 18, 1993. "And he wanted, as I recall, to know what the questions were" that Reno had asked the FBI.

Reno said Clinton asked her, "Are you sure you've had all your questions answered" about the FBI's plan?

"When I talked to him that Sunday afternoon, I advised him, we discussed it, and we went ahead," she concluded.

Reno's comments at her weekly news briefing follow disclosure this week of testimony by Clinton in April that he made "a terrible mistake" in yielding to Justice Department pleas to storm the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas.

"I gave into the people at the Justice Department who were pleading to go in early, and I felt personally responsible for what happened and I still do," the president said. "I made a terrible mistake."

As far as specific questions that Reno and Clinton discussed, the attorney general referred reporters to John Danforth's preliminary report on the Waco disaster released last week which states that before deciding to approve the FBI plan, Reno wanted to know "conditions inside the complex, the status of negotiations and the reasoning behind the plan."

The report says the FBI provided Reno materials including a behavioral psychologist's opinion that negotiations were unlikely to resolve the crisis and that the Branch Davidians' leader "would probably continue to abuse the children."

Reno told reporters that "I think everybody who has been touched by Waco would like to be able to undo it. But the real issue is for the president and "all of us ... what could we have done to have prevented the tragedy?"

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