- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2000

Former fund-raiser Charles Yah Lin Trie, who pleaded guilty last year to making illegal campaign donations to the Democratic Party, told a House committee yesterday he is sorry for the trouble he caused his longtime friend President Clinton.

"I … would like to apologize for any harm I caused President Clinton," Trie said in written testimony to the House Committee on Government Reform.

"All of my mistakes were of my own doing and not encouraged by President Clinton or anyone else."

Trie also told the committee he was unaware his fund-raising activities which included the movement of hundreds of thousands of dollars from businessmen overseas to the Democratic Party were illegal.

He said he pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the government's campaign finance probe because his attorney told him to do so.

The former Little Rock, Ark., restaurant owner, whose friendship with Mr. Clinton dates back 20 years, pleaded guilty in May to a felony count of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and a misdemeanor charge of making political donations in the names of others.

In exchange for probation, he agreed to cooperate in the government's campaign finance probe.

As part of the deal, the Justice Department dropped two other pending indictments.

In his statement to the panel, Trie acknowledged using his friendship with Mr. Clinton to establish several overseas business connections many of which resulted in thousands of dollars in illegal campaign donations.

The statement, which Trie did not read because of his poor English, also denied that he knowingly engaged in any espionage for China or that he had been approached to spy on the United States.

He called the accusations "the biggest joke" because he was born in Taiwan, where "China is the enemy."

He added that no spy recruiter would approach him because "I don't look that smart."

But Trie also confirmed for the panel that an Indonesian businessman with ties to the Chinese military gave him $200,000 to contribute to the Democratic Party and to reimburse those who gave to Mr. Clinton's legal defense fund.

He said the money was part of more than $350,000 given to him by Jakarta businessman Tomy Winata, much of which he used for personal expenses.

He said that at one point Mr. Winata offered him $50 million, but that he turned it down because he did not believe he "deserved it." He did not elaborate.

Trie also tried to blame the FBI's seizure of his records to explain why he hadn't filed his income tax return for 1996, but backtracked because the seizure didn't occur until well after tax time.

"When you start lying, things get messy," chided Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican.

Trie's statement and his answers to questions of panel members parroted comments he made in FBI interviews conducted over a four-month period last year concerning his efforts in raising cash for Mr. Clinton and the Democratic Party.

In a 74-page summary of those interviews, Trie said it was he who first suggested that Mr. Clinton or Vice President Al Gore be encouraged to attend a fund-raising event at a California Buddhist temple because "a lot of money" would be available for the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign.

Mr. Gore, despite repeated efforts, has not been able to explain why he attended the fund-raiser.

Trie used the $200,000 for donations to the Democratic Party and to reimburse Mr. Clinton's legal defense fund. He identified Mr. Winata as his source for the cash.

Mr. Winata, whose business concerns include property holdings, a bank controlled by the Indonesian army and a telecommunications company, has been described by U.S. intelligence officials as an ethnic Chinese who profited by serving as a front man for corporations controlled by the Indonesian and Chinese armies.

He has been identified as an associate of Liu Chao-ying, a lieutenant colonel in the People's Liberation Army who routed $300,000 from the PLA to California businessman Johnny Chung for the Democratic Party.

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