MS/DOJ - White House may seek justice briefing on Microsoft

It's possible that President Clinton may take an active interest in the US Department of Justice's remedy recommendation for Microsoft. The president isn't ruling out the possibility of a briefing from justice officials, a White House official said yesterday.

"We reserve the right to be briefed at some point, but there is nothing scheduled - there is nothing planned," said White House spokesman Jake Siewert, confirming an earlier published report that such a briefing was possible.

If Clinton is briefed, it may happen in the next few weeks. The Justice Department and the 19 states are due to file their remedy recommendation to trial Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson by April 28 at the latest.

The judge, who last week ruled that Microsoft had broken antitrust law to preserve its monopoly in desktop operating systems, has scheduled a hearing on May 24.

The government may either recommend breaking up Microsoft or imposing a series of remedies designed to change the company's behavior.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates met with Clinton this week at a White House conference on the "new economy" and also met at different times with congressional leaders from both parties.

But the congressional meetings may spark an ethics inquiry. US Rep. Vic Snyder, a Democrat from Arkansas, said, in a letter to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, that "it would appear that Mr. Gates was improperly solicited for campaign funds at the meeting, discouraged from contributing to certain political organisations, or asked to account for past donations...." Those actions are prohibited from by House ethics rules and federal law, said Snyder, who based his complaint on a variety of press reports.

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