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2004-07-29

Ex-AG Janet Reno on the Florida Elections, John Ashcroft and Leonard Peltier

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Amy Goodman tracks down the former U.S. Attorney General on the floor of the Democratic National Convention. [includes rush transcript]

As we walked on the floor of the convention center I spotted former US attorney general Janet Reno sitting in the front row of the Florida delegation, just behind the Kucinich delegates from Maine who were draped in pink. Reno was appointed in 1993 by President Clinton becoming the first woman attorney general of the United States. In 2001, she launched an unsuccessful campaign for Florida governor. I wove my way through the crowded Florida delegation and asked Reno what she thinks of her successor John Ashcroft.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JANET RENO: I think it’s important for America to talk out the issues together and with mutual respect and I hope he will do it.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you regret not asking for a recount in Florida?

JANET RENO: No.

AMY GOODMAN: Why?

JANET RENO: Because there was no basis for asking for a recount under the law.

AMY GOODMAN: In what way?

JANET RENO: Hum? Because we did not reach—because of the miscounts, we did not reach the level that would permit the recount.

AMY GOODMAN: If the whole state were recounted, they said it would have gone to Gore all the counts show. What is your comment on that?

JANET RENO: We don’t know for sure.

AMY GOODMAN: But do you think that there should have been a recount?

JANET RENO: The Supreme Court intervened and made the decision.

AMY GOODMAN: But, that was later on.

JANET RENO: Hmm?

AMY GOODMAN: That was later on.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think could have been done differently? Do you have thoughts about what could have been done differently?

JANET RENO: In 2000? I didn’t get involved in 2000 because I was not a candidate.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the Anti-Terrorism and the Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996—

JANET RENO: What?

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the Anti-Terrorism and the Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 paved the way for the USA PATRIOT ACT?

JANET RENO: Paved the way for what?

AMY GOODMAN: The USA PATRIOT Act? The USA PATRIOT Act?

JANET RENO: What paved the way for it?

AMY GOODMAN: The 1996 Effective Death Penalty and Anti-Terrorism Act?

JANET RENO: No, I don’t.

AMY GOODMAN: Why?

JANET RENO: I don’t see any basis for concluding that the PATRIOT Act passed with little discussion followed on the heels of a piece of legislation that was thoroughly discussed.

AMY GOODMAN: Right now the voice of the country is on Florida. Everyone is saying—

JANET RENO: You are going to have to speak louder.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m sorry. Right now, the focus of the country is on Florida. Concerned that Florida doesn’t happen again in Florida.

JANET RENO: I think the focus of the country should be on the country as a whole because each state that has a close election faces the same issues that Florida faced.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you think it can be avoided what happened—

JANET RENO: By proper preparation and by citizen involvement.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned about electronic voting machines?

JANET RENO: I think it’s important to understand how we develop the technology that can properly utilize these machines.

AMY GOODMAN: Right now, the New York Times today talked about the 2002 voting machines in Florida having crashed and now they can never be counted or verified. Your thoughts on that?

JANET RENO: I think that’s an example, again, of the need for developing the education that will prepare people to properly protect the machines, properly insure privacy, properly utilize the machines to achieve the correct result.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned about increased surveillance? Increased surveillance today under the USA PATRIOT ACT?

JANET RENO: I think these are issues that we must discuss on a bipartisan thoughtful way that will achieve some fair and balanced result.

AMY GOODMAN: Last question about Native American leader Leonard Peltier. President Clinton did not ultimately grant him clemency. You were Attorney General at that time. What are your thoughts on his case?

JANET RENO: I think the decision has been made and I think that it is important, if there is new evidence that we look at it, but that we move ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: Could you repeat that? I didn’t hear what you said.

JANET RENO: I think it’s important that we review all evidence and make appropriate decisions. We have done so and now we must move ahead and if there is new information, we have got to consider it.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it should be reconsidered? Do you think it should be reconsidered now?

JANET RENO: I haven’t heard of any new evidence.

AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts at the time, though Leonard Pel—one last question. At the time Leonard Peltier was not granted clemency.

JANET RENO: Was not what?

AMY GOODMAN: —-was not granted clemency, but Marc Rich was. The man, whose family given—-who had given through his wife, so much money to President Clinton and to the Democratic Party. Your thoughts on that?

JANET RENO: I am not familiar with the issues with respect to any new evidence with respect to Marc Rich. I am familiar with the situation regarding Leonard Peltier and I don’t think there’s been a basis to recommend clemency.

AMY GOODMAN: Even the judge at the time—

AMY GOODMAN: At that point, the former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno gestured and stopped the interview. Speaking again on the floor of the Democratic National Convention as the speakers were at the podium.

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