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By BBC's Rob Watson in Washington
"Facing potential political disaster, Al Gore moved fast to head-off renewed controversy"
 real 28k

Saturday, 24 June, 2000, 03:27 GMT 04:27 UK
Gore declares: 'Truth is my friend'
Gore on campaign trail
Al Gore wants to head off any new investigation
US Vice President Al Gore has released the transcript of an interview with a government prosecutor, which he says proves he is telling the truth over allegations of wrong-doing in election fund-raising.

Leaked reports have revealed that the prosecutor, working for the US Justice Department, recommended after the interview that Mr Gore should face further investigation by a special council.

The US Attorney General Janet Reno has said she will not be pressured by the leaked information into making an early decision on what action to take.


I think the truth is my friend in this

Al Gore
Mr Gore said he was releasing the transcript of the prosecutor's interview so that people could "judge for themselves".

"I think the truth is my friend in this," he said.

The allegations against the vice president surround events during the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election campaign.

At issue are telephone calls Mr Gore made from the White House, and a visit to a Buddhist temple in California, where over 100,000 was raised illegally by one of his supporters.

Government officials have said the central issue is whether Mr Gore lied over the incidents when he was questioned by the prosecutor on 18 April.

US Attorney General Janet Reno
Reno: "will not be pressured"

The 150-page transcript contains wide-ranging questions and answers about Mr Gore's fund-raising activities, particularly in relation to his attendance at the Buddhist temple.

The vice-president adamantly denied knowing that political money was being raised at the temple.

"I sure as hell don't recall having - I sure as hell did not have any conversations with anyone saying this is a fund-raising event," Gore testified.

The questioning was led by Robert J. Conrad Junior, chief of the Justice Department's campaign financing task force, with assistance by two FBI agents.


People are sick and tired of all this stuff and the best way to start anew is with a new administration

George W. Bush

Mr Gore has questioned the timing of the prosecutor's recommendation and its public disclosure - four months before the presidential election.

Mr Gore rejected suggestions that his interview with the prosecutor had been confrontational or angry.

"I concentrated on being co-operative," he said. "The tone was also co-operative and professional."

Opposition

Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush quickly reacted to Mr Gore's situation.

"I reiterate my call for a new tone in Washington which is going to require a new administration in Washington," said Mr Bush.

"People are sick and tired of all this stuff and the best way to start anew is with a new administration."

But Mr Gore appeared confident voters would make their own judgement.

"The questions about all this have all been asked and answered," he said.

Recommendations rejected

Ms Reno has already twice turned down recommendations to investigate the vice president.

US President Bill Clinton
Gore has been distancing himself from Clinton scandals

At her weekly news conference, she said she would not be forced into a decision this time by leaks and newspaper headlines.

"I don't want to present half facts," she said. "I don't want to present a piece here and a piece there that may not be subsequently corroborated. I want to do it the right way."

A BBC correspondent in Washington says the appointment of a special council would be a political disaster for Al Gore, whose presidential campaign has already been criticised as lacklustre.

Public opinion polls currently show Mr Gore lagging well behind Mr Bush.

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See also:

25 Jan 00 | Profiles
Al Gore: Groomed for power
06 Jan 00 | Parties
The Democratic Party
06 Jan 00 | Parties
The Republican Party
14 Jan 00 | Vote USA 2000
Q&A: Big bucks politics
22 Apr 00 | Americas
Clinton quizzed in funding probe
24 Mar 00 | Americas
Probe over White House e-mails
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