WASHINGTON -- Independent Counsel Robert Ray says critics are misconstruing his plan to divulge conclusions of the Whitewater investigation just weeks before voters decide whether to elect Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Senate.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and several legal experts said the Independent Counsel statute under which Ray was appointed limits him to filing his soon-to-be-completed report with a federal appeals court, which wouldn't release it until well after Election Day.
The criticism came after Ray told The New York Times he would issue a statement of his findings and conclusions in the Whitewater probe a few weeks before New York voters go to the polls.
Ray "is defying the law," Levin declared.
"Our plan to make a public statement is not shocking," Ray said in a statement. "This office is not releasing a final report or a portion of a final report without court approval."
Ray added that the U.S. Attorney's manual expressly authorizes public statements regarding matters that have "already received substantial publicity."
But Levin said Ray does not have the authority to release conclusions and that "Congress was very clear about this precisely to avoid an independent counsel releasing or appearing to release a report for political purposes."
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