Independent Counsel: What Politics?

Granting that the nation is tired of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Independent Counsel Robert W. Ray said his decision to impanel a new grand jury to consider criminal charges
against President Clinton was not partisan and was done to speed the case to a conclusion.

Ray, writing in Tuesday's Washington Post, said forming the grand jury "now rather than later" was done to prevent the matter from hanging over the head of the next president. Waiting, he said, "would have prevented me from resolving this case promptly after the president leaves office, something I promised I would do."

News of the new grand jury was first reported by The Associated Press two weeks ago on the day of Vice President Al Gore's presidential nomination acceptance speech, prompting Democrats to complain that Ray's motives were political in this election season. The grand jury was impaneled July 11.

Ray had said at the time that the disclosure actually was a setback to his investigation. In the op-ed piece, he noted that his office had been condemned for the leak when in fact it was later disclosed that a judge appointed by President Carter, a Democrat, was the source of the story.

"Many who so quickly rushed to judgment realized their error and have now reconsidered their evaluation of this office, for which I am grateful," Ray wrote.

In a New York Times interview published Tuesday, Ray also defended the planned release of his Whitewater report a few weeks before New Yorkers elect their next senator: first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton or Republican Rep. Rick Lazio.

Ray said he would issue the findings on the Arkansas real estate transactions the moment they are ready and added it would be wrong to delay disclosure.

"Even withholding them could have political repercussions and that could be viewed as being manipulative," he said, adding that there would be adequate time for anyone to respond to the report.

Ray wrote in the Post article that he would be faithful to his oath to carry out the job of deciding responsibly, fairly and without partisanship whether Clinton committed perjury or other crimes. He said no decision about whether to ask the grand jury to return an indictment had been made.

"I am bound by the oath I took to consider whether criminal charges should be brought against the president once he leaves office, weary though the country may be of the subject ... Resolution of these matters must not be left to hang over the next president's term, to his or the nation's detriment," Ray wrote. "Continuing the criminal process by impaneling a grand jury cannot credibly be dismissed as a partisan endeavor."

"I hope the public eventually will accept that the decision to come will be made in the right way and for the right reasons," he added.