Time: Mon Jul 14 22:04:02 1997
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Date: Mon, 14 Jul 1997 21:53:33 -0700
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: What Did the President Know When? (fwd)

>by Micah Morrison, Wall Street Journal Op-Ed
>"Ugh," the president wrote.
>That one-word response appeared next to a notation that the Democratic
>National Committee would be setting aside $1 million "for potential 
>fines" relating to fund-raising, on the margins of an October 7, 1996, 
>memorandum to the president from political aide Phil Caplan. The 
>presidential "ugh," of course, can be interpreted in different ways. But 
>along with the accompanying stamp "The President Has Seen," it does 
>suggest that Mr. Clinton knew that some DNC fund-raising was 
>presumptively illegal.
>Presidential knowledge of illegal activities is just now a subject of 
>some consequence, with hearings into illicit fund-raising in the 1996 
>election cycle opening tomorrow in Sen. Fred Thompson's Governmental 
>Affairs Committee. The hearings are--or at least ought to be--about more 
>than the mundane facts that campaigns cost money, that it has to be 
>raised somehow, and that sometimes solicitors step over the line. By now 
>the Democratic National Committee essentially has acknowledged rampant 
>illegal solicitations, promising to return millions. What the country 
>deserves to know is whether this pattern of violation was directed by a 
>conspiracy hatched in the Oval Office.
>The law of conspiracy is instructive, perhaps the best way to frame the 
>central issue amid the welter of revelations, including preemptive 
>"document dumps" by the White House. Under conspiracy statutes, if Bill 
>Clinton agreed with his top aides to raise money by means he recognized
>as illegal, and if actual criminal acts resulted, he would be a party to 
>the conspiracy, as guilty of the crime as the actual perpetrators. The
>defining question is, in the lexicon of Watergate: What did the 
>President know and when did he know it?
>Conspiracy law is even more pertinent to Attorney General Janet Reno's
>defense of not appointing an independent counsel on campaign 
>contributions. Her department is investigating underlings not covered by 
>the independent counsel statute, and even refusing to approve Sen. 
>Thompson's proposals to provide some of them with immunity from 
>prosecution so they can tell their stories in public. But once the issue 
>is framed as a possible criminal conspiracy involving the president and 
>other covered officials, refusal to name an independent counsel is 
>Certainly Mr. Clinton's campaign operatives appear to have engaged in 
>acts that routinely veered into impropriety and at times outright 
>illegality. For starters:
>One of the central figures in the controversy, former Democratic 
>National Committee vice-chairman John Huang, allegedly laundered 
>millions in illegal funds into Democratic campaign coffers through the 
>likes of poor monks at the now-famous Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple
>fund-raiser hosted by Vice President Al Gore, Indonesian gardeners, and 
>a glorified former Arkansas burger-flipper named Charlie Trie. Mr. Huang 
>has notified congressional investigators he'll plead the Fifth Amendment 
>if called to testify.
>Bank records indicate that Mr. Trie funneled hundreds of thousands of 
>dollars from foreign accounts at the Bank of China to the DNC. Mr. Trie 
>also attempted to deliver more than $600,000 in suspicious checks to the 
>Clintons' legal defense trust, and once showed up at a White House 
>coffee with a Chinese arms dealer. Last Wednesday, the New York Times 
>reported that Mr. Trie also appeared in Manhattan in August 1996 with 
>$100,000 for the DNC as a presidential birthday party got underway at 
>Radio City Music Hall. Mr. Trie has fled the country.
>According to news reports in the U.S. and Asia, Arkansan Mark Middleton, 
>a former White House aide, attempted to solicit Taiwanese officials for 
>$15 million in campaign donations at a time when China was conducting 
>missile tests in the waters off Taiwan and President Clinton was 
>deciding whether to dispatch the Seventh Fleet to the area; Mr. 
>Middleton denies the charges and says he'll invoke the Fifth Amendment
>if called to testify.
>Hillary Clinton's top aide, Maggie Williams, received a $50,000 campaign 
>check from California businessman Johnny Chung in the White House, 
>although federal statutes bar government employees from accepting such 
>contributions. Mr. Chung managed to contribute $360,000 overall to the 
>Democrats, despite being labeled a "hustler" out to impress his Chinese 
>business associates by a National Security Council official. Mr. Chung 
>has not responded to congressional subpoenas.
>The NSC also objected to the presence in the White House of oil 
>financier Roger Tamraz, wanted in Lebanon on a charge of embezzling $200 
>million. Mr. Tamraz, last spotted in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, 
>gave more than $170,000 to state and national Democratic organizations.
>With the help of Little Rock attorney Mark Grobmyer and Export-Import 
>Bank director Maria Haley--both longtime Clinton associates--Thai 
>lobbyist Pauline Kanchanalak pushed a $7 million deal at the 
>Export-Import Bank for a Blockbuster video franchise in Bangkok, while 
>channeling more than $500,000 to the Democratic Party. The deal fell 
>apart and the Democrats have returned most of the money; Ms. Kanchanalak 
>has decided to remain in Thailand for a while.
>Democrats on the Governmental Affairs Committee, and apparently the 
>attorney general, presumably regard these and other apparent offenses as 
>merely random acts of excessive exuberance. Committee Democrats are 
>expected to stress that fund-raising is messy and that everyone uses 
>"soft money." They also likely will discover instances in which 
>Republican fund-raisers have stepped over the line. But the hearings 
>seem almost certain to develop a mass of evidence suggesting that the 
>president knew a lot about what his agents were doing, and that he and 
>his confidants must have understood that they were taking money from 
>illegal sources.
>Investigators probing a White House conspiracy could even zero in on a 
>suspected date of launch: Sept. 13, 1995. On that day, the president and 
>senior aide Bruce Lindsey met with Mr. Huang, Arkansas wheeler-dealer 
>Joseph Giroir and James Riady, scion of Indonesia's Lippo Group.
>White House accounts of the September 1995 meeting have been marked by 
>stonewalls and half-truths since the final days of the 1996 presidential 
>campaign, when New York Times reporters Jeff Gerth and Stephen Labaton 
>revealed several White House meetings with James Riady. Before the 
>election, the White House characterized the Riady meetings as "social" 
>visits. After the election, the White House disclosed that the dispatch 
>of Mr. Huang from Commerce to the DNC had been discussed at the 
>September 1995 meeting; in the White House version of events, Mr. Huang
>had "volunteered" for the fund-raising post.
>Yet a look at the players gathered in the White House that September day 
>in 1995 continues to call into question the administration's version of 
>events. The self-effacing Mr. Huang was the least important person in 
>the room and seems the least likely to "volunteer" for anything. He had 
>left the employ of Lippo Group in 1994 with a $700,000 bonus to join the 
>Commerce Department with a top-secret clearance.
>Mr. Riady, by contrast, was the former employer who provided the bonus, 
>and presumably controlled other financial spigots. One week after Mr. 
>Riady and his associates paid five visits to the White House in June 
>1994, for example, Lippo made a $100,000 payment to former Associate 
>Attorney General Webster Hubbell, then under pressure to cooperate with 
>the Whitewater probe. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr is investigating 
>that payment as possible "hush money." Mr. Riady's association with Mr. 
>Clinton reaches back to the early 1980s, when his family owned an 
>interest in Little Rock's Worthen Bank. At the same time he developed a 
>relationship with Mr. Giroir, now involved in Lippo-related business 
>ventures in Indonesia and China. Mr. Riady has now returned to 
>After the September meeting with the president, Mr. Huang was dispatched 
>to the DNC, where his fundraising career began. What were his orders? 
>What understanding did he have with Mr. Riady, Mr. Giroir, the 
>president, and Mr. Lindsey?
>Following the September meeting, Mr. Lindsey delegated details of Mr. 
>Huang's DNC transfer to White House Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes.
>In two White House "document dumps," Mr. Ickes provided congressional 
>investigators with thousands of pages of memoranda and notes on the 1996 
>campaign. In addition to providing several tantalizing clues about the 
>origins of the violations of campaign laws, Mr. Ickes's dozens of memos 
>to the president and vice president paint a detailed portrait of Mr. 
>Clinton's obsessive control of seemingly every aspect of the campaign. 
>The president tracks the weekly flow of money raised; he drafts campaign 
>literature appealing for funds; he reviews the scheduling of White House 
>coffees and directs the DNC apparatus to "start overnights right away" 
>with big donors in the Lincoln Bedroom.
>Included among the Ickes documents is an intriguing set of notes 
>relating to Mr. Huang. On Oct. 10, 1995, following Mr. Lindsey's 
>instructions, Mr. Ickes meets with Mr. Huang. "Willing to work out of 
>DNC," Mr. Ickes writes in a tight, at times illegible hand. "But needs a 
>reasonable title." At the top of the page, Mr. Ickes cryptically notes: 
>"Overseas Chinese group" and "55 million overseas Chinese." The number
>vastly exceeds the number of Chinese-Americans who can legally donate to 
>political campaigns, and appears to point directly at non-U.S. residents 
>being targeted for illegal contributions.
>Mr. Huang's starburst career as a fund-raiser was launched. He quickly 
>began raising millions, working with Mr. Trie and others. Published 
>accounts have raised questions about Mr. Huang's contacts with 
>Indonesian and Chinese sources after receiving high-level intelligence 
>briefings, adding a specter of espionage to the funding controversy.
>Mr. Trie, meanwhile, was also trying to help out his old friend Bill 
>Clinton with some substantial donations to the Clintons' legal trust 
>fund. In March 1996, he delivered the first of two installments of more 
>than $600,000 in suspicious money orders to the Clinton legal trust. 
>This problem also ended up in Mr. Ickes's notes. The solution? "Don't 
>report names if $ are returned," Mr. Ickes wrote, adding at the bottom 
>of the page the name "Betsey Wright," a Clinton damage-control expert. 
>The money was returned, and the incident did not become public knowledge 
>until after the election.
>The millions continued to pour in throughout 1996, financing Mr. 
>Clinton's expensive media air war against the GOP. At a July 1996 
>fund-raiser in California, the president saluted his "longtime friend 
>John Huang," adding that Mr. Huang had been "so effective I was amazed 
>you were all cheering for him tonight." Yet only a year after the 
>California salute to Mr. Huang, the bulk of his millions have been 
>earmarked for return by the Democrats and are the subject of 
>congressional and criminal probes. How much did the president and the 
>vice president know about the questionable activities when glasses were 
>raised to Mr. Huang in July 1996? The Ickes documents suggest they knew 
>a great deal.
>This degree of direct presidential control of fundraising, indeed, 
>strikes many long-time political observers as extraordinary. "His 
>direct, hands-on involvement was risky, certainly in violation of the 
>spirit of the law and possibly illegal," Bob Woodward of Watergate fame 
>wrote in "The Choice," his book on the 1996 campaign. By January 1996,
>he wrote, President Clinton "personally had been controlling tens of 
>millions of dollars worth of DNC advertising. This enabled him to exceed 
>the legal spending limits and effectively rendered the DNC an adjunct to 
>his own re-election effort."
>All presidents are political, of course, but because of their official 
>duties, nearly all have delegated political fundraising to keep some 
>degree of insulation. The real question of the campaign finance probes 
>is whether Messrs. Clinton and Gore obliterated these lines, turning 
>their offices into fund-raising machines. The issue is not so much 
>whether foreign contributors were trying to suborn the administration as 
>whether the administration was shaking down foreign contributors.
>Did the Lippo Group get policy preferences for its favors--perhaps, for 
>example, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown's signing of a deal, brokered by 
>Mr. Giroir, for Lippo and Louisiana's Entergy Corp. to build a power 
>plant in China. Were seats on Mr. Brown's trade missions for sale? Why 
>precisely did the administration approve the transfer of high-technology 
>aircraft manufacturing equipment from McDonnell Douglas to China despite 
>the initial opposition of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? Was former White 
>House aide Mark Middleton dispatched to a jittery Taiwan to raise funds 
>with the promise of the imminent arrival of the Seventh Fleet? If a 
>president is willing to traduce the Lincoln Bedroom, can the Seventh 
>Fleet be far behind?
>"We were fighting a battle not simply for re-election," the president 
>told a news conference shortly after his victory, "but over the entire 
>direction of the country for years to come." Mr. Clinton's view of the 
>difference between himself and Bob Dole may strike many as preposterous, 
>but it is certainly suggests an anything-to-win attitude. What Sen. 
>Thompson and his committee need to determine is whether this attitude 
>led the president and his men to unleash John Huang, Charlie Trie and 
>the rest knowing that laws would be broken. In criminal terms this is a 
>conspiracy, and in Constitutional terms it is a breach of a president's 
>duty to see that the law is faithfully executed.

Paul Andrew Mitchell                 : Counselor at Law, federal witness
B.A., Political Science, UCLA;  M.S., Public Administration, U.C. Irvine

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