- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2000

President Clinton told Justice Department investigators he did not remember a 1992 limousine ride with Indonesian businessman James Riady, who promised to raise $1 million for Mr. Clinton's presidential campaign despite federal laws barring donations from foreign nationals.
Mr. Clinton told the Justice Department's campaign finance task force, according to sworn testimony released yesterday by the White House, he had no "specific recollection" of conversations he had with Mr. Riady during the August 1992 ride recalling only that Mr. Riady "sometime in '92 after I became the nominee" had promised to help his campaign.
The president's comments are documented in a 155-page transcript of a four-hour interview April 21 by task force investigators.
The task force is probing campaign finance abuses by the Clinton-Gore Re-election Committee and the Democratic Party, and has focused on the fund-raising activities of Mr. Riady, a friend and supporter of the president for more than 20 years.
"I don't know whether he ever gave that much money," Mr. Clinton told investigators. "If he said a million, I'm surprised I don't remember it."
Former Democratic National Committee fund-raiser John Huang, who pleaded guilty to election law violations, told a different story last year when he was interviewed by the task force.
He said he specifically discussed the $1 million offer with Mr. Clinton and the president never discouraged Mr. Riady from honoring the pledge.
Huang, who also worked as a top official at the Commerce Department and at the Lippo Group, a multibillion-dollar banking conglomerate owned by Mr. Riady, said after the limousine ride, he met with Mr. Riady personally to arrange for thousands of dollars in donations that ultimately were funneled through Lippo employees.
Huang told investigators Mr. Riady advised him the president was surprised by the $1 million offer, but did not elaborate.
"Huang assumed that these people would be 'made good' or 'taken care of' for their contributions because Huang himself had been 'taken care of' for his contributions" to the Democratic Party, according to a transcript of a Jan. 19, 1999, interview of Huang by FBI agents in Los Angeles.
Conduit contributions meaning that those listed as donors were reimbursed by others are illegal under federal election laws. It also is illegal for foreign nationals to contribute to U.S. federal elections.
The documents show the president made no inquiries on the source of the cash from his longtime Indonesian friend.
"When asked why Riady simply did not give one large lump sum donation to the DNC, Huang offered the following two explanations: If Riady had done this, all of the press would get after him. In addition, Riady wanted to show a wider appearance of support in the Asian-American community," according to a transcript of a separate Feb. 23., 1999, interview with Huang.
Huang pleaded guilty in August 1999 in a plea agreement with the government to violating federal election laws and was fined $10,000 and given one year of probation. He raised $1.6 million for the DNC in the 1996 presidential campaign that later was returned.
In his testimony, Mr. Clinton told investigators that while he did not remember the $1 million offer, such contributions during presidential elections are commonplace.
"Sometimes people give that much money. I know in an election or two ago that one of the Republicans got that much money from one source," Mr. Clinton told investigators. "So, it happens from time to time and it's not unlawful. But I, I just don't remember."
In June, Vice President Al Gore released a 150-page transcript of his interview with the task force investigators, showing he did not remember being told a 1996 event at a Buddhist temple in California was a fund-raiser. The event raised $65,000 for the Democratic National Committee.
"I sure as hell don't recall having I sure as hell did not have any conversations with anyone saying this is a fund-raising event," Mr. Gore said. "As to whether or not I had any follow-up conversations that said, were we able to set up this event or not, I don't think I did. But I may have."
The vice president had been interviewed on April 18. Some of his answers about the White House coffees that both he and Mr. Clinton held for big-money donors resembled legalistic answers Mr. Clinton gave about Monica Lewinsky, with the president saying one answer depended on the definition of the word "is."
Mr. Gore, when asked the role of coffees in raising money, said, "Let me define the term 'raising.' … If you mean by it, would they be events at which money was raised, the answer is no."
Mr. Clinton also:
Denied taking Mr. Riady into the White House Situation Room in 1993, on the day that federal agents raided the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas. Investigators noted that Mr. Riady used such anecdotes to give government ministers in Indonesia the impression that his family "had a direct pipeline to the Oval Office."
"I don't think I've ever taken anybody to the Situation Room. I think that's highly unlikely," he said, although he did not recall anything that happened that day. "I did my best to go through the day to do my job, do what I was supposed to do."
Defended the dozens of White House coffees he attended by top fund-raisers, describing them as innocent activities. "And I still do some of them, but mostly in the late afternoon, unrelated to the DNC," Mr. Clinton said. "I liked them and they were easy on me."
Denied telling Mr. Riady of concerns he had about payments to former Associate Attorney General Webster L. Hubbell because Mr. Hubbell was a would-be witness in a pending investigation by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr. Such a conversation "would have made Mr. Starr happy," he said.

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