Clinton Friend Probed over Gifts, Testimony: Perjury Suspected in Green's Depositions

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The Justice Department's campaign finance task force is investigating Washington investment counselor Ernest G. Green, a longtime friend of President Clinton's,on charges of making illegal campaign donations to the Democratic Party and lying about it to Senate and House committees.

At the center of the probe, according to lawyers and others familiar with the task force inquiry, is a $50,000 donation Mr. Green made in February 1996 to the Democratic National Committee - the same day he helped a Chinese arms dealer get an Oval Office visit with Mr. Clinton.

Mr. Green, managing director at Lehman Bros. Inc. in Washington, also is under investigation for perjury in connection with his depositions before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Government Reform Committee.

The sources said the task force probe has focused on accusations that Mr. Green was illegally reimbursed for the DNC donations and later lied about them and his business relationship with Democratic fund-raiser Charles Yah Lin Trie, who has since pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws and agreed to cooperate in the task force probe.

Mr. Green, one of the "Little Rock Nine" who integrated Central High School in the wake of the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, did not return calls for comment. But his attorney, Larry Barcella, confirmed an investigation was under way based on a criminal referral by the House Government Reform Committee, and said his client was "not concerned about the ultimate outcome."

"Like all congressional referrals, I'm sure they're doing a thorough review," Mr. Barcella said. "I hope they look at it without the partisan overlay that initiated it."

Mr. Clinton has often cited Mr. Green as a civil rights champion. The two have made numerous appearances together over the years, including a sneak preview in 1993 in Little Rock of a Disney film, "The Ernest Green Story." Just this week, the president celebrated the integration of Central High School with Mr. Green and some of of the "Little Rock Nine."

Mr. Green also was a guest this year of Mr. Clinton at a White House state dinner for Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings.

Task force officials have declined comment, but FBI Agent Jerome Campane testified in May during Trie's campaign finance trial that documents Trie and an assistant destroyed before a search warrant could be issued included letters and personal notes from Mr. Green. The agent said they would have been valuable to a congressional inquiry into 1996 campaign abuses.

Mr. Wang's White House visit came after Mr. Green and Trie, also a longtime Clinton friend, helped him get a U.S. visa and arranged for a meeting with Mr. Clinton during a Feb. 6, 1996, White House coffee hosted by the DNC. Federal Election Commission records show Mr. Green donated $50,000 to the DNC that same day. …