Reno ended up in hot water with the White House early on for rejecting a newly invented government proposal that Gore’s staff urged for the FBI and DEA to merge. She listened carefully to both sides and turned down the idea.
“That was one of the main tensions. They wanted to do great things, ”Stern recalled.
Reno’s independence proved irritating and beneficial to the Clinton White House. While the multitude of independent advisors she sought caused political heartburn, her detachment from Clinton made it easier for her to cope with GOP criticism when she repeatedly refused to appoint one to investigate Democratic fundraising violations during the 1996 presidential contest .
This fight would have been particularly difficult for Garland to miss, both before and after he stepped down from his role as Gorelick’s deputy.
Indeed on on the day the Senate confirmed it to the DC Circuit in March 1997, The first task was a resolution calling on Reno to find an independent lawyer to investigate reports of illegal fundraising from overseas sources.
The Senate debate took place about a month after it was announced that President Bill Clinton had invited large Democratic donors to stay in the Lincoln bedroom and that Clinton approved such invitations specifically for those giving $ 100,000 or more.
Reno, the first federal attorney hired to investigate electoral issues, said Garland’s role in handling these politically explosive tasks under Reno was well positioned to address similar issues that the Justice Department is currently facing.
“It’s impossible that he didn’t learn from what he saw,” said Chuck LaBella, the former US attorney in San Diego. “I think Reno was good at being attorney general, don’t get me wrong, but I think he’s in a much better position.”
LaBella, whom Reno had brought in to lead the high-profile campaign funding task force, said Garland came into the job with a lot more knowledge of how things work in DC.
“Garland has a support mechanism in Washington and in the country because of the experience Reno did not have,” LaBella said.