Editor’s note: This is one in a series of exclusive WorldNetDaily investigative reports on the Justice Department’s still-active criminal probe of 1996 Clinton-Gore fund-raising abuses.

WASHINGTON – Top Justice Department official Lee J. Radek, roundly criticized for steering the Chinagate probe away from the White House, has a friend in Robert S. Mueller, President Bush’s pick to replace FBI Director Louis Freeh.

Bush has praised Mueller as a straight arrow who will reform the tarnished bureau, which suffered one embarrassing blunder after another under the Clinton administration – from Waco to Filegate to Richard Jewell to Wen Ho Lee to Oklahoma City to Robert Hanssen.

“The FBI must remain independent of politics and uncompromising in its mission,” Bush said. “Bob Mueller’s experience and character convinced me that he’s ready to shoulder these responsibilities.”

But FBI agents frustrated with what they say has been the politicization of not only the bureau, but the entire department, have their doubts about Mueller’s will to clean house.

They cite his close ties to Radek, for one, and his glowing endorsement from China cheerleaders like Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Hillary Clinton.

Department sources say Radek owes his position as chief of the Public Integrity Section – the highly sensitive office charged with investigating public corruption – to Mueller.

Mueller ran Justice’s criminal division under the last Bush administration and drew fire for being too lax in probing the BCCI banking scandal. It was under Mueller that Radek, then deputy chief of the unit, became a section chief for the first time.

For the past four years, Radek has run the campaign finance task force that was charged with looking into rampant 1996 Clinton-Gore fund-raising abuses that included Chinese money-laundering and possible influence-peddling.

FBI agents who worked on the investigation brand Radek, a 30-year department veteran, a “bureaucrat” who has been more interested in throttling the case against the Clinton White House – and thereby keeping his job – than pushing it (even though his job is to punish public officials for wrong-doing). Politicians and pundits, such as New York Times columnist William Safire, have flat-out accused him of orchestrating a cover-up.

Justice insiders say Radek worried for his job when Vice President Al Gore lost the presidential election.

But then President Clinton named Mueller acting deputy attorney general during the transition, and Radek breathed easier, sources say.

“After the election, after Gore lost, Lee was talking about how he was going to have to leave government with the new administration coming in,” an insider said. “But when Mueller went back to the department right before the end of the Clinton administration, Lee seemed to have a new lease on life, and is still there” – and still monitoring the still-active task force probe.

David Schippers, the impeachment prosecutor for the House Judiciary Committee, says he can’t understand how Radek has survived.

He contends that investigators in 1998 had information that Radek colluded with the White House on the direction of the Chinagate investigation. Schippers, who read the sealed LaBella memo back then, wanted to broaden the investigation, seeing a potential for treason in the Chinagate scandal, but was pulled back by Republicans.

“Radek was the contact for the White House. He’s the guy who was running the Department of Justice,” Schippers told WorldNetDaily. “I mean, I don’t give a [expletive] what anybody says, he’s the one who took his direct orders from Hillary, and he did what he was told, and [former Attorney General Janet] Reno just jumped to his call.

“That was the guy we wanted, oh, we wanted him bad,” he added. “He was the one we had planned to bring in, demand documents, and when he didn’t bring them in, we planned to put him in jail until he did.”

Radek was dubbed “Dr. No” by line prosecutors because of his refusal to probe White House and Democratic officials for the 1996 campaign crimes.

Stephen Mansfield, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, complained that Radek yanked the notorious Buddhist temple fund-raiser case off his desk, delaying the investigation into whether Gore and other officials knowingly participated in the crimes there. By pulling Mansfield off the case, Radek allowed temple clerics time to destroy evidence.

Radek also had run-ins with task force prosecutors Charles LaBella and Steve Clark, as well as Justice official Robert Litt and Freeh himself.

It seems only Reno saw eye-to-eye with Radek.

Radek provided Reno with the hair-splitting legal arguments she used to deny repeated requests from Congress, the media and public-interest watchdog groups to turn the Chinagate case over to outside prosecutors.

(Two senior FBI officials swore under oath last year that Radek told them privately in a 1996 meeting that he was under “pressure” to steer the case away from the White House to save Reno’s job. Radek claims he can’t recall the meeting.)

Even when Reno did turn over Clinton corruption cases to outside prosecutors, Radek tried to impede their investigations.

Independent Counsel Donald Smaltz, for one, said Radek in a July 1995 meeting argued that he should not pursue certain matters related to Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, run by Clinton booster Don Tyson. Smaltz said he changed the focus of the probe into Agriculture Department bribes as a result of the meeting.

Asked in a House hearing who at Justice he had the most problems with, Smaltz said it was “him, Radek, and his division.”

Interestingly, task force FBI agents working on the Yah Lin “Charlie” Trie case in Arkansas complained when Tyson’s personal lawyer, out of the blue, helped Trie’s secretary cart off boxes of documents under subpoena. It appeared that someone, perhaps at main Justice, had tipped off Clinton cronies that agents planned to execute a search warrant that same day in 1997.

The lead FBI agent on the ground in Little Rock then was Ivian C. Smith, who’s dealt with Radek on a number of public-corruption cases.

He describes Radek’s integrity as “pretty low.”

“He’s a bureaucrat, not a prosecutor. He hasn’t been in a courtroom in close to 20 years. He’s just a Washington bureaucrat,” Smith, now retired, said in a phone interview. “He’d be frightened to death if someone were to go into him and say, ‘Hey listen, we’re going to transfer you to anywhere outside the Beltway.’ It would just frighten him to death.”

Smith says Radek is the wrong person to be prosecuting politicians. That person should be intrepid. Radek is not, and as an example, he recounted how Radek refused to advise Clinton appointee Paula Casey, former U.S. attorney in Arkansas, to remove herself from a political corruption case in which she had a conflict.

“I referred the case to the department [in Washington],” Smith said. “Some weeks go by, and I get a call from Lee Radek, and he says he wanted me to call Paula Casey and tell her that she’d want to recuse herself from the investigation.

“I said, ‘Well, Lee, why should I call her?’ And he said, ‘Well, I don’t want her hollering at me,'” Smith said. “So I called her and she hollered – and I was just a messenger” for Radek.

“But that kind of showed his courage right there,” Smith said.

Radek declined to be interviewed for this story, but in a TV interview last year, he asserted that he’s based his task force decisions on sound legal reasoning, not politics.

“We don’t do politics,” he told NBC’s Tim Russert. “We do justice.”

Radek’s friends defend him as an aggressive and nonpolitical prosecutor.

In fact, Reid Weingarten, a former colleague, says Radek is a “prosecutor’s prosecutor.”

Nancy Luque, who serves with Radek on an American Bar Association panel on white-collar crime, also vouches for his integrity, saying he does the “right thing.”

Only, their endorsements ring hollow when you consider they’re both defense lawyers. Not only that, some of their clients got off easy thanks to Radek and his task force lawyers.

The task force gave wrist slaps to Weingarten’s clients Trie and Pauline Kanchanalak, another convicted Clinton-Gore donor.

Luque represents Maria Hsia, another Clinton-Gore donor, who had several charges against her dropped. Her sentencing on the remaining felony counts is set for September.

Smith suspects that Radek’s friendships with the lawyers for such key targets in the Chinagate probe “had an influence” on how hard he prosecuted them and squeezed them for information on higher-ups like Clinton and Gore.

Radek was handsomely rewarded by the Clinton administration for his efforts at the Public Integrity Section.

Between 1993 and 1999, he got $47,100 in bonuses, including $12,000 in 1999 alone.

Next installment in Chinagate series: Did the Washington Post assist Justice Department officials in the cover-up?

Editor’s note: If you would like to let Justice Department officials know how you feel about their handling of the Campaign Financing Task Force investigation, you can contact them at the following phone numbers or e-mail addresses:

Lee Radek
Public Integrity Section chief
(202) 514-1412

Joseph Gangloff
Public Integrity Section deputy chief
(202) 514-1412

Michael Horowitz
Campaign Financing Task Force supervisor
(202) 353-8579

David Ayres
Chief of staff for
Attorney General John Ashcroft
(202) 514-3892

Mindy Tucker
Press secretary for
Attorney General John Ashcroft
(202) 616-2777

You can also contact the congressional committee leaders who have oversight over the Justice Department:

John Cardarelli
Press secretary for
Rep. Dan Burton, chairman,
House Government Reform Committee
(202) 226-5309

Brian Walsh
Communications director for
Rep. Bob Barr, member,
House Government Reform Committee
(202) 225-2931

Mark Corallo
Press secretary for
House Government Reform Committee
(202) 225-5074

Leslie Phillips
Press secretary for
Senate Governmental Affairs Committee
Joyce Rechtschaffen
Staff director for
Senate Governmental Affairs Committee
(Chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman)
(202) 224-4751

Mimi Devlin
Press secretary for
Senate Judiciary Committee
(Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy)
(202) 224-7703

Jeff Lungren
Communications director for
House Judiciary Committee
(Chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner)
(202) 225-3951

Previous stories:

FBI agents claim DOJ fixed probe

Task force still sparing big fish

FBI won’t OK book that criticizes bureau

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