Probe into gifts to Clinton fund
expands to include Chinese arms dealer’s visit to White House
WASHINGTON - As the Justice Department launched an investigation into more than $600,000 in questionable contributions to President Clinton's legal-defense fund, administration officials said yesterday the central figure in the controversy had brought the chief of a Chinese military-weapons trading company to meet the president last Feburary.
White House press secretary Mike McCurry said the president's aides made a mistake last Feb. 6 when they permitted Charles Yah Lin Trie, a Clinton friend and former Arkansas restaurant owner, to bring the visitor to a political breakfast in the White House residence.
"This is not how we conduct bilateral discussions with the Chinese government," McCurry said in an interview. He said White House aides had failed to consider the implications of the visit by the arms dealer, Wang Jung, before they approved it. But he added that those who attended the session do not remember Wang saying anything.
|Los Angeles Times, December 20, 1996|
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The invitation of Wang to what was intended as a meeting of Democratic Party leaders with Clinton demonstrates the remarkable influence that Trie, a Taiwanese native, has had at the White House. Although Trie could not be reached for comment, the invitation of Wang likely had some connection to the former restaurant owner's efforts to cultivate international trading partners in China.
Wang is chairman of Poly Group, whose subsidiary, Poly Technologies, is a major vendor of missiles and other weapons. It is owned by the People's Liberation Army.
Wang went to the White House for the meeting with Clinton at a particularly sensitive time in Sino-American relations, shortly after it was learned that Beijing had sold cruise missiles to Iran. Wang is the son of Wang Zhen, former vice president of China, and is considered a "princeling," the child of a powerful Communist Party member.
He Ping (the son-in-law of senior leader Deng Xiopang) is president of Poly Group and is a major general in the Chinese army.
Meanwhile, officials confirmed yesterday that the Justice Department has broadened its investigation of allegedly illegal Democratic fund raising among Asian Americans to include Trie's involvement in raising more than $600,000 in donations to the Clinton legal defense fund. The fund was set up to pay the president's legal bills arising from the Whitewater land development deal and other matters.
Much of the money delivered to the fund by Trie came from disciples of Suma Chaing Hai, the leader of a Buddhist sect headquartered in Taiwan.
The Justice Department's decision moves the inquiry a step closer to the president, apparently reopening the question of whether Attorney General Janet Reno will appoint an independent counsel to investigate.
In a news briefing, Reno left open the possibility she might consider seeking an independent counsel to take over the campaign finance inquiry as a result of the legal-defense fund contributions collected by the president's close friend.
Three weeks ago, Reno turned down a request from Republican members of Congress for an independent counsel to handle the investigation, which at that time centered on allegations that the Democratic National Committee had solicited illegal donations. At the time, she said an independent counsel was not needed because the investigation did not involve the president.
Justice Department subpoenas for documents were issued to the White House and the fund. -- Copyright © 1996 The Seattle Times Company, Los Angeles Times, December 20 1996
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