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Justice Dept. Investigates Satellite Exports (Washington Post, May 17)

Chung Ties Funds To DNC (Washington Post, May 16)


Clinton Defends Satellite Waiver

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 18, 1998; Page A06

BIRMINGHAM, England, May 17—President Clinton said today that he supports a Justice Department investigation into possible efforts by the Chinese government to influence the 1996 U.S. political campaigns. But Clinton said no foreign policy decisions by his administration affecting China were influenced by political contributions.

Clinton's comments followed newspaper reports that Democratic fund-raiser Johnny Chung has told Justice Department investigators he was given $300,000 by a Chinese official to contribute to Democratic campaigns in 1996. The Justice Department also is investigating the administration's decision to export satellite technology to China to see whether it was influenced by contributions from a major Democratic donor.

Speaking to reporters at the conclusion of the Group of Eight summit here, Clinton dismissed suggestions of any connection between the administration's decision on the satellite technology and campaign contributions. "All the foreign policy decisions we made were based on what we believed -- I and the rest of my administration -- were in the best interests of the American people," he said.

But in apparent reference to the reports about Chung, Clinton said, "Now, if someone tried to influence them [the 1996 campaigns], that's a different issue and there ought to be an investigation into whether that happened. And I would support that. I have always supported that."

The Washington Post reported today that Justice Department investigators have launched a preliminary investigation to determine whether there should be a criminal investigation into a decision to provide a waiver for a U.S. firm for satellite technology to the Chinese. Two firms are at the heart of the preliminary investigation: Loral Space and Communications Ltd. and Hughes Electronic Corp. Loral is headed by Bernard L. Schwartz, who contributed more than $600,000 in "soft money" to the Democratic Party in 1996, making him the party's largest single contributor.

A senior administration official traveling with the president noted that the Post story indicated that there is no evidence that anyone at the White House, which issued a waiver to allow the technology transfer to the Chinese, knew anything about the campaign contributions. "He [Clinton] welcomes an effort to clarify that there was no political influence on policy decisions," the official said.

The official said key administration policy makers were willing to lay out the details of how the decisions on the satellite technology were made in an effort to demonstrate that no political influence was involved.

Clinton's comments supporting an investigation appeared aimed more at the reports about Chung's alleged comments. The president sounded a note of caution about the reports. "What is the substance of this, how serious is it, what are the facts, what evidence is there?" he asked. "Is this just somebody saying, or is there some reason to believe there is objective evidence to support this?"

Chung's allegations represent a serious development in the long-running investigation into alleged efforts by the Chinese government to influence elections. Chung reportedly told investigators he had received $300,000 from an officer in the People's Liberation Army who also was an executive with China Aerospace, Beijing's state-run rocket manufacturing company.

But investigators have no evidence that Chung ever directly attempted to influence policy or that anyone at the White House or the Democratic National Committee knew the source of the $366,000 Chung raised for the party at the time it was contributed. All of the money was returned after the DNC determined it could not vouch for the money's origins.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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