Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Seeks Inquiry into Allegations China Attempted to Direct Money to Democrats in '96, Paper Says

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Seeks Inquiry into Allegations China Attempted to Direct Money to Democrats in '96, Paper Says

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton called Thursday for an investigation into whether China sought to funnel funds into last year's presidential campaign - on behalf of Democrats.

He said he had no knowledge of allegations in a Washington Post report that representatives of China sought to direct gifts from foreign sources to the Democratic National Committee.

The president added that the allegations "obviously have to be thoroughly investigated." It is illegal for a foreign government or foreigners to donate to U.S. campaigns. "Obviously it would be a very serious matter for the United States if any country would attempt to funnel funds to one of our political parties for any reason whatever," Clinton said. Privately, presidential aides said they were stunned by the disclosures - and made no effort to dispute them. Senate Governmental Committee aides said they were already following several leads and allegations that China worked through Indonesia's Lippo Group to influence U.S. politics. Sources told The Washington Post that a Justice Department investigation had uncovered evidence showing that the Chinese Embassy was used for planning contributions to the Democratic National Committee. The sources - officials familiar with the inquiry - declined to give details about the scope of the evidence. They also declined to specify what foreign contributions might have been involved. But they said the evidence was serious. A Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington denied that his government had anything to do with improper efforts to influence the Clinton administration. According to the Washington Post's sources, the evidence led Justice Department lawyers and FBI executives to increase the number of FBI special agents working on the special inquiry from a handful to 25, including several specialists in foreign counterintelligence investigations, the sources said. Laura Ingersoll, a Justice Department attorney assigned a leading role on the fund-raising task force, has security clearances to investigate a variety of sensitive intelligence matters, officials said. The new dimension to the fund-raising investigation could result in Attorney General Janet Reno's eventually recommending that the matter be turned over to a special prosecutor, one source said. Reno so far has declined such requests, saying the Justice Department can conduct a full and independent inquiry and that there is no specific and credible allegation of wrongdoing against any of the senior executive branch officials covered by the Independent Counsel Act. Such a finding would have to be made by the Justice Department task force before Reno could recommend that the courts name a special prosecutor. The United States and China have been at odds over human rights and trade issues, but the White House has been seeking recently to improve relations. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will travel to Beijing later this month, and Clinton announced in his State of the Union message that he also would visit. …

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