Keep after Microsoft, Reno urges

By DAVID VISE

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Janet Reno said Thursday she hopes her successor will not drop the Justice Department’s antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. or its multibillion-dollar lawsuit against the tobacco industry.

Regardless of who wins the White House and who is chosen as attorney general, Reno said it is vital for the work of the Justice Department to continue in a professional manner based on the law. Some contributors to the Bush campaign hold out hope that he might drop both cases if he wins the election.

Earlier this week, Microsoft stock rose when it appeared that Texas Gov. George W. Bush was headed for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and that Vice President Al Gore’s prospects had diminished. The Bush campaign has hinted that the Texas governor might direct the Justice Department to drop the case if he prevails in the legal battle for the White House.

"I would very much hope that in reviewing the Microsoft litigation, those that had to make the decision would see how important it is to ensure competition, to give the consumers of America an opportunity to pick and choose and get the best deal," Reno said. "And with respect to the tobacco litigation, I would hope that whoever has to make the decision would recognize that we owe it to the taxpayers to try to recoup federal health expenses related to smoking."

Reno said neither the Bush nor Gore campaign has asked the FBI to begin background checks on possible Cabinet appointments. Last week, Reno said she was prepared to conduct background checks on prospective Bush and Gore appointees at the same time, which may be necessary if the presidential race is not decided soon.

Reno acknowledged that the Justice Department, on a preliminary basis, is reviewing allegations by the NAACP and others about alleged discrimination against African-American voters and others in Florida.

"As each complaint comes in, we are reviewing it to determine whether it would be appropriate to proceed with federal jurisdiction," Reno said, adding that most issues raised in the contested Florida election are matters of state law.

Last week, Reno met briefly with activist Jesse Jackson to discuss the situation. He told her the Justice Department was moving too slowly and not doing enough. "We’re trying to look at all the concerns that have been expressed, both by the NAACP and others," Reno said.

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