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Democrats Agree: Chinese Had 'Plan'

By Guy Gugliotta and Edward Walsh
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, July 16, 1997; Page A06

Democratic senators who had raised questions during last week's campaign fund-raising hearings about an alleged Chinese plan to illegally influence U.S. elections said yesterday that evidence newly made available to them Monday supported the allegation that such a plan existed.

In a statement to reporters yesterday morning, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) said that "I conclude there was in fact a Chinese government plan to move money into the congressional elections last year."

Lieberman and Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) later issued a joint written statement saying "the information shown to us strongly suggests the existence of a plan by the Chinese government – containing components that are both legal and illegal – designed to influence U.S. congressional elections."

The statements appeared to help quell a partisan feud that had divided Republicans and Democrats on the Governmental Affairs Committee since the hearings began last week.

The controversy began when Sen. Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.), chairman of the committee, opened the long-awaited hearings last week by saying the panel believed such a plan – much of which had previously been reported in the news media – existed and was ongoing. In a four-page opening statement he has since said was cleared by FBI Director Louis J. Freeh and acting CIA Director George J. Tenet, Thompson said the alleged Chinese plan had been intended to "subvert our election process."

Democrats on the committee, particularly Glenn, the panel's ranking minority member, suggested Thompson had overstated the conclusions that could be drawn from evidence made available to them. The information was gathered by a Justice Department task force conducting a separate investigation into campaign fund-raising abuses. Specifically, senators questioned whether illegal parts of the alleged Chinese plan had ever been acted upon and whether they had had any effect on the presidential election.

Lieberman then subsequently requested an FBI briefing to clarify the matter, and he and several other committee members met with FBI officials for three hours Monday night. "I learned information [Monday] that was not in documents previously [seen]," Lieberman said yesterday. "I understood why Senator Thompson made the statement he did. . . . What is clear to me is there was a plan."

In their statement, Lieberman and Glenn added: "However, as we both agree, it is not clear from the evidence that illegal aspects of such a plan were ever put into motion. Nor is there sufficient information to lead us to conclude that the 1996 presidential election was affected by, or even part of, that plan."

Government officials familiar with the information provided to Glenn, Lieberman and six other committee members Monday said it included descriptions of evidence obtained from electronic intercepts between officials in the Chinese Embassy here and other senior officials in Beijing.

The information from the intercepts related to the discussions of the plan to direct Chinese funds into U.S. campaigns, the government officials said.

Other information made available to the senators also described a wire transfer of approximately $1 million in late spring 1995 to a Washington, D.C., bank account controlled by the Chinese Embassy here, the officials added.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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