Clinton Admits Policy Chats but He Says His Friend James Riady Never Influenced Decisions

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton acknowledged in an interview that he twice discussed policy about Indonesia and China with James Riady, the Indonesian financier, Democratic contributor and longtime friend of Clinton's who is at the center of several inquiries into the influence of foreign money in Washington.

In an interview in the Oval Office on Thursday evening, Clinton said Riady had never influenced policy decisions. But he also said it had been a mistake for the Democratic National Committee to send John Huang, a former employee of Riady's and until last year a Commerce Department official, to Taiwan to raise money for the 1996 campaigns.

Huang's visit came several months after Clinton sent two aircraft carriers to protect Taiwan from Chinese military harassment earlier this year. There has been speculation that Huang sought to capitalize on Clinton's action to protect Taiwan. "I would have counseled against that," Clinton said of the trip, adding that he did not know about Huang's foreign venture before it took place. Clinton's description of his relationship with Riady was his first detailed response to the accusations of influence peddling and improper campaign contributions that flared up in the last weeks of the campaign. A month ago, the White House described Riady's visits as purely social. Later, it corrected that to suggest there was some general discussion of China. Friday, just hours before Clinton departed for Hawaii, Australia and a summit meeting of Asian leaders in Manila, the White House released details of visits to the White House by Riady, Huang and others involved in the inquiries under way at the Justice Department and on Capitol Hill. Most of the information involved entry logs kept by the Secret Service. The logs, the White House said, suggest that most of the visits were for briefings, receptions or meetings with midlevel officials with little connection to Asian policy issues. But the White House also said that at a meeting of Clinton, Riady and Huang in September 1995, Huang said he could better serve the president by leaving the Commerce Department for the Democratic National Committee. …

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