Gavel To Gavel

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Gavel To Gavel: Fund-Raising Hearings

Hearing Highlights, 7/30/97

Here are some highlights from Wednesday's session of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's campaign finance hearings:

'I Received A Visit...'

"On March 21st, 1996, I received a visit from an individual previously unknown to me or anyone else associated with the trust, who identified himself as Charlie Trie. Mr. Trie advised me that he was a friend of the president from Little Rock, Arkansas, and was concerned about the president's mounting legal bills. Mr. Trie then stated that he had collected contributions for the trust in the form of checks and money orders totalling $460,000 from the Asian American community. Mr. Trie stated that these contributions represented an expression of gratitude and support for the president by Asian Americans."

-- Michael Cardozo, executive director of the president's legal trust

Why The Money Had To Go Back

"The trustees reached this decision for several reasons: One, the unique circumstances under which the funds were delivered to the trust. Two, the fact that it now appeared that most if not all of these contributions were raised at meetings of a religious organization, the Ching Hai Buddhist sect, which, according to I.G.I. [Investigative Group Inc.], was described by some as a cult, and which raised concerns about peer pressure and coercion. And three, concerns about the ultimate source of some of the contributions, due to what appeared to be the advancement of funds by the Ching Hai organization to some of the contributors."

-- Michael Cardozo, on why the trust's officers decided in the end to return all the money Trie turned in

New Documents From The White House

"At approximately 5 p.m. yesterday [Tuesday] afternoon, the White House hand-delivered documents to us containing records of Ng Lap Seng's visits to the White House. This is the Mr. Wu who we spent so much time discussing yesterday. These records were specifically requested on May 21, 1997. They would have been extremely helpful to [FBI special agent] Jerry Campane in his testimony that immediately preceded the production of these documents. These records indicate that Mr. Wu visited the White House 10 times from June 22, 1994, thru October 21, 1996, including one visit with the president and four visits with [former Clinton aide] Mark Middleton."

-- Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), chairman of the investigating committee

'We're not going to tolerate that'

"We have tried to work with the White House. We have tried to do it in private. We've tried to do it attorney to attorney in a responsible manner. We have objected on several occasions that they were trying to manipulate the press and us by waiting until testimony had happened before relevant documents had been produced. Supposedly, then, the story would become old news ... and the same thing with regard to depositions. ... We're not going to tolerate that."

-- Sen. Fred Thompson

Shades Of Watergate

Majority Counsel Mark Tipps: "Your 'gray hairs' is the way you put it ... your gray hairs allowed you to recall earlier days in Washington. And I believe your exact quote was that 'When people drop large sums of money off in a manila envelope in Washington, you've got to be very careful'. Correct?"

Cardozo: "That's correct."

Tipps: "And I believe that you and the first lady then engaged in some conversations about the Watergate days and about the Watergate investigation. Correct?"

Cardozo: "That's correct. I reminded her, I told her I was thinking about Maurice Stans and Bill Bittman when I saw this large sum of money."

Difficulty Recalling Trie

Minority Counsel Jeffrey Robbins: "When you told the first lady about this, you mentioned that she had some difficulty remembering who Charlie Trie was and then remembering that he was the proprietor of a restaurant that her husband likes to go to. You told us over the course of this proceeding that she instructed you to be diligent and scrupulous in your review of the checks and to take a good hard look at the contributions. Is that what she said?"

Cardozo: "Yes, it is."

Trie 'Was The Messenger; We Wanted To Know What Was Behind The Messenger'

"We were not focused on Mr. Trie, Mr. Trie was not in the newspapers, he was not the subject of a congressional investigation. He was an unknown entity and was largely irrelevant to the trust. He was the messenger; we wanted to know what was behind the messenger."

-- Michael Cardozo

'Oh, My God ...'

Cardozo: "[Trie] requested a second meeting, came to my office, had a large sack with him, and said that in that sack he had another $170,000 which he would like to contribute to the legal expense trust. I advised him that we had not finished evaluating the eligibility of the original contributions and that we would not be able to accept whatever funds it was he had with him. I never saw the money, they were in an envelope, but he said they totaled $179,000."

Tipps: "What was your reaction when you saw him coming with that bag?"

Cardozo: "Well, it was a large shopping bag and it was heavily laden, and I said to myself, 'Oh, my God, he's got a million dollars this time!'"

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