Huang's Thin Files Arouse Suspicion: Lawmakers Probe Commerce Dept

Article excerpt

Congressional investigators looking to examine John Huang's Commerce Department files are probing a possible obstruction of justice by department officials suspected of shredding or hiding his papers after they had been requested by a House committee.

Investigators want to know what happened to Mr. Huang's files after an Oct. 18 request by the House International Relations Committee for all correspondence, memos, telephone logs, handwritten notes, appointment calendars and other files he maintained during 17 months as deputy assistant secretary for international economic policy.

The department turned over what it said were Mr. Huang's files on Oct. 29 - a stack of papers less than an inch thick. Some of those documents were illegible copies of incoming telephone calls and appointments.

"There is concern about a possible obstruction of justice and whether some files were hidden or destroyed," said one source close to the House probe. "We need to look at the chain of custody for Mr. Huang's records and find out who had them and what they did with them."

The investigators' concerns were detailed in a letter Monday by Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, New York Republican and the panel's chairman, who asked Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor for an explanation on whether all the requested Huang files had been turned over and for a listing of the persons involved in gathering those records.

"If this is the full extent of Mr. Huang's records retained by the Commerce Department, it would appear either that Mr. Huang did almost no work during his year and a half at the department, or else that Mr. Huang and/or the department have violated the Federal Records Act," which requires the department to turn over the Huang documents, Mr. Gilman said.

Commerce Department spokeswoman Anne R. Luzzato yesterday did not return calls seeking comment, and the department has not responded to the Gilman letter.

Mr. Huang, a former fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee and former executive at the Indonesia-based Lippo Group, is at the center of a growing scandal over his ties to foreign-linked campaign donations to the DNC and the 1996 Clinton campaign.

The International Relations Committee also is trying to determine if foreign influence - centering on campaign contributions arranged through Mr. Huang and the Lippo Group - altered U. …