Clinton received warning on donors Security advisers sent caution about access

February 15, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Foreign policy advisers to President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore repeatedly issued warnings against maintaining ties and granting access to several Asian-American fund-raisers and donors who sought to influence U.S. policy and capitalize on their White House connections, according to JTC

documents released yesterday by the National Security Council.

The documents were disclosed in an effort to aid the nomination of former national security adviser Anthony Lake to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

But they also raised new questions about why Clinton and Gore continued their ties to certain fund-raisers after officials at the National Security Council warned against it.

"The fundamental import of some of these documents is that we had a National Security Council, professional people, that gave when asked, I think, pretty good counsel that should have been more closely heeded," said Michael McCurry, Clinton's press secretary.

The papers, internal memorandums, e-mail and notes culled from the files of the National Security Council, show that an NSC aide advised "great great caution" about Gore's participation in a fund-raiser at a California Buddhist temple with ties to Taiwan.

Gore attended the fund-raiser at one of the most tense moments in U.S. relations with China and Taiwan, one month after U.S. warships were sent near Taiwan in response to Chinese military exercises protesting Taiwan's first direct presidential election in March 1996.

The documents also suggest that as early as April 1995, Clinton recognized the potential embarrassment of mixing domestic politics with foreign policy when he expressed concern about the circulation of photographs of him with a group of Chinese officials that included Huang Jichun, the vice president of a Chinese conglomerate that trades weapons.

The officials attended one of Clinton's weekly radio addresses at the request of the Democratic National Committee and a large contributor, Johnny Chung, a Taiwanese-American from California who gave more than $300,000 in the past two years.

"It turns out they are various Chinese gurus, and the POTUS wasn't sure we'd want photos of him with these people circulating around," an official at the National Security Council, Melanie Darby, wrote shortly after the visit, using the White House acronym for "president of the United States."

In response, a council China specialist, Robert Suettinger, wrote back: "The joys of balancing foreign policy considerations against domestic politics. I don't see any lasting damage to U.S. foreign policy from giving Johnny Chung the pictures. And to the degree it motivates him to continue contributing to the DNC, who am I to complain?"

But Suettinger also predicted that Chung should be "treated with a pinch of suspicion."

"My impression is that he's a hustler, and appears to be involved in setting up some kind of consulting operation that will thrive by bringing Chinese entrepreneurs into town for exposure to high-level U.S. officials," he wrote.

White House aides said they did not believe that pictures from the radio address were sent out.

In summer 1995, Chung also tried to insert himself as a negotiator between Chinese and U.S. officials after China imprisoned a leading crusader for human rights in China, Harry Wu -- an action that prompted Suettinger to warn the White House that Chung could "conceivably do damage" to U.S.-Chinese relations.

Around the time of the radio address, Chung contributed $50,000 to the Democratic National Committee. And around the time he sought the photographs, he gave $125,000.

Amy Weiss Tobe, the committee's communications director, said Chung's donations were under review, along with many other donations, after several news articles raised questions about the source and propriety of the donations.

Huang turns out to be the second person from Citic, the state-run trading company that controls a major arms dealership in China, to visit Clinton.

In February 1996, the Democratic National Committee arranged for Wang Jun, the company's chairman, to attend a coffee session at the White House with Clinton, who has said he regretted the Wang invitation after it became public.

The documents also show that Charles Yah Lin Trie, an old friend of Clinton's from Little Rock, Ark., urged him in a letter to reconsider his decision to send the aircraft carriers to Taiwan.

Around the same time, Trie was trying to give the first portion of nearly $640,000 in questionable donations to the fund set up to pay Clinton's growing legal bills. The defense fund ultimately rejected the donations from Trie after it retained private investigators who could not trace the true source of much of the money.

Pub Date: 2/15/97

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