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Another Buddhist Fund-raising Connection -- Dec. 17, 1996

Clinton: No Knowledge Of Trie Fund-raising -- Dec. 17, 1996


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Trie Visited White House Dozens Of Times

By Wolf Blitzer/CNN

Charlie Trie

WASHINGTON (Dec. 18) -- Making the Asian-American money trail more murky and embarrassing for the White House, sources have confirmed to CNN that Charlie Trie, the man at the center of the latest fund-raising flap, was a frequent visitor at the White House.

White House officials say Asian-American businessman and Democratic Party fund-raiser Trie made dozens of visits to the White House over the past four years. They say several of those visits were with President Bill Clinton, most recently last Friday night for a private holiday dinner. How many other times and the exact nature of those meetings remains unclear but the White House is not apologizing for any of this.

Says press secretary Mike McCurry: "I think the specific involvement of Mr. Trie does not raise any concerns here at the White House immediately, because he is a known individual and people were familiar with who he is and what his interests were."

Special Counsel Lanny Davis says he is reviewing records to see if Trie's meetings with the president were simply social or more substantive.

"I just want everyone watching to pause a little bit before you jump to conclusions," Davis said. "This is a businessman, this is an old friend of President Clinton's. Let us just wait a little bit before we jump to conclusions."

Trie's relationship with the president has caused an uproar following word that the Clintons' legal defense trust fund returned more than $600,000 in questionable contributions brought in by Trie.

Lanny Davis

A private investigation showed that some of the $1,000 checks and money orders came from followers of Ching Hai, a woman who leads a worldwide Buddhist group. Some of that money came from waiters, cooks and busboys who apparently could not afford to contribute that kind of money.

Trie, who started off in Little Rock 20 years ago with a small restaurant near the state capitol, emerged in recent years as a member of the Democratic Party's national finance board, which is reserved for people who have raised or contributed at least $350,000.

Last April, even after the Clintons' legal defense fund began to investigate his contributions, Trie was named to a federal commission on U.S.-Pacific trade and investment policy. Since Clinton took office, Trie also has set up an international trading company with offices at the Watergate complex in Washington.

The White House again denied suggestions that Trie was appointed to the trade panel because of his fund-raising.

"The Decision to appoint Mr. Trie to this board which involved Asian affairs of which he has some knowledge was made four months before in December 1995," Davis said. "The final vetting occurred in February. The actual contribution did not take place until April. It is just pure smoke to suggest that he got this appointment as some kind of reward. It is not true."

The White House says Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes told the DNC in October simply to take a look at Trie, six months after he was alerted to the problem. But a DNC official says Ickes never informed party officials of Trie's questionable fund-raising for the president's legal defense fund.

This story originally appeared on CNN's "Inside Politics."

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