Apocalypse Nostradamus X.LXXII Mobile version§ MNIRX72-4B
Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg (born March 15, 1933) is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States passed a law to allow unfettered foreign contributions to our elective process ≡ epic fail in judicial matters
Part B: Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie and His Relationship with the Clinton Administration
The following is the text of Chapter IV, Part B without footnote references.
Charlie Trie was one of the first major DNC fundraisers to come under public scrutiny in the wake of the 1996 election. Many of Tries most notorious fundraising activities were not made public until months after the 1996 election. The DNC has taken the position that Trie was a rogue fundraiser with no official ties to the Democratic Party. The White House has taken the position that Trie was an old acquaintance of the President from Arkansas, but not a White House intimate. The Committee has continued to investigate Tries activities, and the material uncovered to date demonstrates that Trie is a central figure in the plan to funnel illegal campaign contributions into the 1996 campaign.
The facts uncovered by the Committee indicate that Trie was a close friend of President Clinton with wide-ranging access to the White House, Presidential advisors, and Clinton Administration officials. It appears that Trie used his access to the Administration and the DNC to promote a number of different interests, including his own and those of his Asian business associates. In promoting these interests, Trie received extraordinary treatment from the White House and the Administration. Trie was allowed to bring a Chinese national, Wang Jun, who was the head of a Chinese weapons company to a February 1996 coffee with the President when other major donors were not allowed to bring guests to the coffees. Trie received the personal attention of a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Jude Kearney, who introduced Trie to numerous American business contacts. Trie also received the assistance of the DNC in ventures ranging from the mundane, such as White House tours, to the significant, such as hosting events for the Secretary of Commerce. Finally, the White House itself gave Trie an incredible helping hand. The White House placed Trie on an expert Asian trade panel in 1996, when by all accounts, he was completely unqualified to serve. Trie used this appointed position to promote himself and his business interests.
However, there are still many unanswered questions regarding Charlie Tries relationship with the White House and DNC that the Committee continues to investigate. Many of these questions cannot be answered because of the persistent stonewalling faced by the Committee. Tries innermost circle of friends and associated has either fled the country or invoked their Fifth Amendment rights. Trie has taken the Fifth, been indicted, and faces trial in February 1999. Antonio Pan, who was indicted with Trie for violating federal election laws, has fled the country. Ng Lap Seng, Wang Jun, and most of Tries foreign benefactors have refused to cooperate with Committee investigators. The Clinton Administration has provided no assistance in obtaining the cooperation of foreign governments.
Tries American associates, including many linked to the DNC and White House, have invoked their Fifth Amendment privileges, including former senior White House aide Mark Middleton, John Huang, and Commerce Department employee Melinda Yee. As described throughout this chapter, the final barrier the Committee has faced is a consistent lack of candor and cooperation even from those witnesses who have testified. Trie associates such as Ernie Green, Charles Duncan, and Jude Kearney have testified, but their testimony is plagued either with inconsistencies with the testimony of other witnesses and documentary evidence, or by frequent, disturbing lapses of memory.
Finally, the Committees investigation of Trie has been hampered to a certain extent by the Justice Departments ongoing prosecution of Trie. A number of documents belonging to Trie were seized by the Justice Department, and are not available to the Committee until after Tries trial. In addition, Tries pending trial has made it impossible for the Committee to grant immunity to a number of witnesses close to Trie who would offer highly relevant testimony about his fundraising activities. For example, the Committee has located and obtained a proffer from a confidential witness offering substantial evidence against Trie, but the Justice Department has refused to approve the Committees plans to grant immunity until Tries trial is over. Tries trial has already been delayed once, exacerbating the difficulties faced by the Committee. The Committee is hopeful that after Tries trial, these documents and witnesses will be made available to the Committee so that its investigation may continue.
I. TRIES ARKANSAS ROOTS
Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie was born on August 15, 1949, in Fangcheng Hsien, Honan Province, China, and lived in Taiwan with his family from January 1965 to January 1976. Trie emigrated to the United States in February of 1976 and began working at Charlie Chans restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas. By 1978, Trie was a co-owner of the Fu Lin restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas, with his sister, Dailin Outlaw.
Charlie Tries political activity began long before he moved to Washington in 1994. In fact, Trie began donating to Clinton campaigns even before he became a citizen on December 7, 1984. In a two-week period beginning on September 29, 1982, Trie gave Bill Clintons gubernatorial campaign five separate checks totaling $1,100 and his wife, Wang Mei Trie, gave another $100 on October 23, 1982. Bill Clintons campaign acknowledged Tries contributions with five thank you letters and Bill Clinton, after returning to the governors mansion in 1982, became a frequent guest at Tries restaurant. Clinton and Trie appear to have developed a friendship during this period of time. In 1988, the President appointed Trie to the Arkansas Fire Extinguisher Board. Tries daughter told friends that her father and Governor Clinton often played basketball together in Arkansas. It was during this period of time that Trie began referring to then-Governor Clinton as "Lao Ke," a colloquial Chinese term meaning "Big Boss." President Clinton has also spoken publicly of their friendship. At a May 1996 DNC fundraiser, Clinton recognized Trie and remarked that:
Soon it will be twenty years that I had my first meal with Charlie Trie. Almost twenty years, huh? Twenty years in just a few months. At the time, neither of us could afford a ticket to this dinner, its fair to say.
A short time later, at a California fundraiser, President Clinton told Tries sister, "[y]our brother has been my close friend for two decades."
The Committee has also learned that Tries ties with a number of his associates in the fundraising scandal predate Tries arrival in Washington in 1994. Many of these relationships go back to Arkansas in the mid-1980s. For example, it was at the Fu Lin restaurant in 1983 that Trie met Antonio Pan, then an employee of a company called United Pacific Trading Inc. Tries fundraising activities with Pan in 1995 and 1996 led to the indictment of both. Early in the 1980s, James Riady of the Lippo Group sent one of his executives, Peter Chen, and Chens assistant Pan to Little Rock to run United Pacific, a Lippo subsidiary. Pan worked in Little Rock for two years before he was forced to leave the U.S. in 1985 because he was unable to obtain a work permit. Trie would renew his relationship with Chen and Pan in 1995, when both would begin working with him.
While running his small restaurant in Little Rock, Trie also struck up a relationship with James Riady of the Lippo Group. Riady and his family were leaders in Little Rocks small Asian community, and Trie had met them in this context. Trie also received a $60,000 loan from Riady in 1985 which allowed him to expand his restaurant operations. Trie would proudly mention his connections with Riady in 1996, after meeting with him in Jakarta.
In November 1991, Trie sold his restaurant and began a new career path by starting Daihatsu International Trading Corp., an import-export business. Trie was hoping to use his contacts in Asia to strike trade deals between Chinese and U.S. businesses on a wide variety of commodities. Trie attempted to put together deals ranging from chickens to wrenches to cigarette filters. Almost all of these deals ended in failure. For his efforts, though, Trie received a letter from President-elect Bill Clinton shortly after the 1992 election, congratulating him on establishing Daihatsu International and thanking him for expanding trade and understanding between the U.S. and China:
I am pleased to hear that you are establishing a branch of your company, Daihatsu International, in the Peoples Republic of China. . . . I wish you success in you new venture, and I appreciate your efforts for our state. Please let me know about your progress.
As part of his import-export business, Trie began making frequent trips to China. During one such trip in September 1992, Trie traveled to Changchun City, China, with several Arkansas businessmen and the Arkansas State Auditor, Julia Hughes Jones. Through Tries efforts, this business trip evolved into a formal sister city relationship between Little Rock and Changchun City in May of 1995. Trie apparently attempted to capitalize on his friendship with Bill Clinton even before he became a major donor to the DNC. Before his fundraising improprieties were exposed, Trie told an Arkansas newspaper: "[i]n China, people want to know you before they do business with you." The reporter then observed that "Chinese also like to see some proof that you are known and trusted by prominent people. Tries letter of best wishes from President-Elect Bill Clinton, for example, has helped."
At the same time as he was traveling to China, Trie also brought at least eight delegations of Chinese government officials and businessmen to the U.S. For one such delegation in April 1993, Trie enlisted the help of Julia Hughes Jones, to arrange a picture between a PRC governor and President Clinton. In his response to the request, Anthony Lake stated:
The delegation is led by a governor; immediately after his visit another delegation, led by a PRC Vice Minister, arrives in Washington. If we arrange for the governor to meet with the President, we will also need to arrange a similar meeting for the Vice Minister, who outranks him. Foreign provincial officials do not normally meet with heads of state.
Despite the barriers to Tries request identified in Lakes memo, Trie apparently got his way because he entered the White House on April 16, 1993 for what was described as a "photo op."
Tries efforts did not go unnoticed in Asia. By early 1994, Ng Lap Seng, a wealthy Macau businessman, became Tries partner in his latest venture, an attempt to purchase the dilapidated Camelot Hotel in Little Rock. Trie and Ng entered the U.S. in March 1994 to discuss the hotel proposal and inspect the building. Ng brought $80,000 in cash with him on his trip to the United States. Witnesses later saw Ng give Trie thousands of dollars in cash. These seem to be the earliest examples of the receipt by Trie of large amounts of money from Ng Lap Seng. In the coming years, Trie was to receive over $1 million from Ng, over $130,000 of which he would funnel into the DNC.
Ng has not cooperated with any of the campaign finance investigations. Nevertheless, the Committee has been able to learn a number of critical facts regarding Ng. Ng came to Macau from Guangzhou in China in 1979 "flat broke," and worked in the Macau garment business. However, soon Ng had experienced a remarkable metamorphosis, and by the 1990s, was a wealthy Macau landowner. How Ngs transformation was accomplished is currently unknown. However, there are a number of facts about Ng that are known, and that reveal a great deal about his roots and his loyalties. Ng owns a casino/hotel complex in Macau that is reportedly frequented by Macau gangs. Ng denies that he has any connections with organized crime. However, it is Ngs political ties that are of the greatest interest. Ng is a member of the Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Congress, a communist organization in the Peoples Republic of China. The Committee has also interviewed a witness who for several years worked closely with Ng in Hong Kong and Macau. That witness informed the Committee that Ng was a peasant farmer before coming to Macau, but somehow had been selected to act as a front for municipal and provincial authorities in the Peoples Republic of China. The witness also informed the Committee that Ng is poorly educated, and still does not understand many aspects of his business, frequently erupting in anger at business meetings. For his part, Ng has made few comments regarding the campaign finance scandal. In one of his rare media interviews, he made the following comments:
I am very upset, especially about this allegation that I am linked to organised (sic) crime. It is absolutely untrue and has no basis in fact. I dont like to talk a lot because when you find yourself caught up in something like this, it is very difficult to talk your way out. This is political. There is a purpose to all this and the target is President Clinton.
While Ng has made these statements in the press defending himself and President Clinton, he has never cooperated with Committee investigators.
Ng and Trie ultimately lost the bid on the Camelot Hotel. However, during the bidding process, Trie and Ng made many valuable contacts. One prominent lawyer who assisted Trie and Ng was C. Joseph Giroir. Giroir was a close friend of Clinton and a major DNC fundraiser. At one point during the bidding process, a local official questioned the source of the money offered by Trie and Ng Lap Seng, suggesting that Ng had criminal ties in Asia. Giroir responded angrily, calling the questions "inappropriate and offensive." But, with the failure of the Camelot Hotel project, Trie again changed his business focus, and decided to open an office in Washington, D.C.
II. TRIE COMES TO WASHINGTON
Shortly after his failed attempt to purchase the Camelot Hotel, Trie moved to Washington, D.C. to open a branch of Daihatsu. Tries move to Washington in the summer of 1994 coincided with his first major contributions to the DNC, and the expansion of his ties to the White House. Tries contributions allowed him to go from an obscure owner of a Chinese restaurant to a frequent guest at DNC galas and visitor at the White House. In June 1994 alone, Trie visited the White House four times.
In this period of time, Trie would also make his first contributions to the DNC. Over the course of the next two and a half years, these contributions would total over $229,000. A summary of contributions made by Trie, his family, and his companies follows:
A. Tries First DNC Contributions
1. The June 22, 1994, Presidential Gala
Charlie Trie was first solicited to contribute to the DNC in connection with the June 22, 1994, Presidential Gala in Washington, D.C. Trie was solicited to give $100,000 to the DNC, even though he had never made any significant political contributions previously. No one at the DNC demonstrated any concern about taking $100,000 from an obscure Arkansas restaurateur with little apparent wealth. Trie was rewarded with an immediate entree into the world of Washington insiders and presidential intimates, and the DNC was rewarded with badly-needed campaign cash.
Trie was solicited to make his first contributions to the DNC by Richard Mays, a close friend of the President from Arkansas. Mays had been appointed to the Arkansas bench by Governor Clinton, and was also a longtime major DNC donor and fundraiser. Mays claims that he knew Trie from patronizing his restaurant in Little Rock. Mays claimed not to recall the exact circumstances of his solicitation of Trie, but did state that he "had the distinct impression that [Trie] was in a position to contribute, and wanted to make a contribution." Mays says he based his conclusion that Trie was in a "position to contribute" to the DNC on the fact that Trie was traveling between Little Rock and Washington, D.C.:
Question: When you say "in a position to contribute," do you mean he had sufficient money to contribute?
Mays: I felt he did.
Question: And how did you get that impression?
Mays: I dont know how I got that impression, but frequently, he seemed like he was traveling extensively, you know, I knew he owned that Chinese restaurant down there, and he apparently had engaged in some business, other business interests. I really didnt have a specific judgment that, in fact, he could, but I certainly thought it was worth talking to him about it.
Question: Would you ever see him anywhere other than D.C. or Little Rock?
Mays: I dont recall that I have. I mean, I am not saying I havent, but I dont recall.
Mays asked Trie what he could contribute, and Trie told him $100,000. Mays claims that he was not surprised by Tries offer of $100,000, even though this was the largest contribution he had ever solicited. Tries $100,000 contribution was used for the DNCs Health Care Campaign, which was a public campaign to promote the Presidents health care legislative proposal.
At this point, Mays claimed he still had no concern that a political novice with little apparent wealth had pledged $100,000 to the DNC. Rather than conducting any background research of Trie, or looking into the source of Tries funds, he introduced Trie to Terry McAuliffe, then the Finance Chairman of the DNC. Mays set up a breakfast meeting between McAuliffe and Trie. At this meeting, Trie confirmed that he would make a $100,000 contribution to the DNC, and asked only that he be prominently seated at the June 22 gala. When asked if he ever had a concern about the source of Tries contributions, Mays responded "[w]hy would I have some concern?"
However, Richard Mays was not the only person who accepted Charlie Tries $100,000 contribution without asking any questions. To his recollection, no one at the DNC ever expressed any concern about Tries $100,000 contribution. David Mercer, the deputy finance director at the DNC, stated that:
I had no concerns. Whether it was in a situation that here is a guy who wrote a $100,000 check, Arkansas ties, and part of the family, if you will, . . . its not for me to have those concerns unless something was presented to me by Charlie, which nothing was . . . .
At this time, Terry McAuliffe claims that the DNC had an extensive system in place to check contributions to the DNC:
So we generally knew most of the people, and we had a very good process, and I would like to state for the record in 1994, we havent had any problems with checks. . . . I know Laura [Hartigan] checked everybody who sat at a head table.
Of course, there have been problems with contributions made to the DNC in 1994, despite McAuliffes pride in the DNCs vetting system. If Charlie Tries initial contributions were vetted, the system still allowed an obscure individual with no personal wealth to give $100,000 to the Democratic Party.
a. Tries $100,000 Contribution Came from Ng Lap Seng
Tries $100,000 was given to the DNC in three installments: first, a check for $20,000 dated May 14, 1994; second, a check for $60,000 dated May 14, 1994; and third, a check for $20,000 dated May 25, 1994. These contributions were drawn on the First Commercial Bank account held by Charlie and Wang Mei Trie. The contributions were made from $100,000 in funds wired directly from Lucky Port Investments, a Hong Kong corporation with no U.S. operations. In addition, Trie gave $7,500 through his company, Daihatsu International Trading Corporation, for this event. Although Richard Mays is listed as the solicitor of this contribution, he failed to recall why he solicited it, or even if he solicited it at all. Nevertheless, the $7,500 contributed by Daihatsu was similarly derived from foreign sources. Just as Charlie and Wang Mei Tries personal account at First Commercial Bank received a $100,000 wire transfer from Lucky Port shortly before the contribution, the Daihatsu bank account at First Commercial similarly received a wire transfer of $100,000 from Ng Lap Sengs account at the Bank of China in Macau shortly before the $7,500 contribution was made.
b. Ng Lap Sengs Cash
Two days before the gala, Ng Lap Seng and his wife entered the United States. Ng brought $175,000 in cash with him for his short stay in the United States. It is unclear what Ng did with this cash during his stay. Two days later, on June 22, Ng and Trie entered the White House for a meeting with Mark Middleton. The three later had lunch at the White House mess. It is currently unknown what was discussed at this meeting since Trie and Middleton have invoked their Fifth Amendment rights, and Ng has not cooperated with investigators.
c. Benefits Received by Trie
Trie received a number of benefits for making his large contributions to the DNC. First, he was permitted to bring two tables of guests to the June 22 gala. Among his invitees were: Ng Lap Seng, the source of much of his money; Pun Nun Ho, the wife of Ng; Jude Kearney, a Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of Commerce; and Anita Middleton, the mother of Trie associate Mark Middleton. Trie and his wife were seated at the head table with the President, Vernon Jordan, and DNC Chairman David Wilhelm. To be seated at the head table, according to David Mercer, Trie had to be approved by both the DNC and the White House. According to Dan Dutko, a DNC donor and fundraiser also seated at the head table, the Tries were "embarrassingly silent" throughout the dinner, and did not seem to know anyone at the table. However, both Trie and Ng did have their photographs taken with the President and First Lady at this event.
How Charlie Trie went from an obscure Arkansas restaurateur to a major DNC donor and fundraiser raises a number of questions. How was it possible for him to donate over $100,000 without raising the slightest suspicion at the DNC at a time when the DNC claims it was still vetting contributions? Trie was someone the President knew well. Did the President have any idea how Trie came into such great wealth? The Committee will not know all of the answers until someone in Charlie Tries inner circle stops taking the Fifth and starts cooperating with the investigation. However, there certainly were warning signs regarding Trie. It is clear that whatever signs were present, they were disregarded by DNC fundraisers eager to bring in campaign funds. What is more remarkable is that warning signs regarding Trie continued to multiply. Still, the DNC continued to demand money from Trie, and the White House continued to make Trie its honored guest.
2. The August 2, 1994 Presidential Birthday Event
The next major DNC event attended by Trie after the June 22 gala was the August 2, 1994, Presidential Birthday fundraiser in Prince Georges County, Maryland. Trie contributed an additional $20,000 to attend this event. The source of this $20,000 was a wire transfer of $100,000 from Ng Lap Sengs Bank of China bank account in Macau. Ng Lap Seng came to the United States to attend this event. On July 31, Ng entered the U.S., bringing with him $42,000 in cash. On August 1, 1994, Ng and Trie entered the White House to meet and have lunch with Mark Middleton. The following day, on August 2, Trie and Ng went to the Presidential birthday fundraiser. Although Ng did not officially contribute any money to the event, and was in fact not legally eligible to contribute, he is listed as an "Event Benefactor" in the event program. According to internal DNC documents, "Event Benefactors" were required to either contribute $10,000 or raise $25,000 for the event.
It is unknown why Ng was listed as an "Event Benefactor" when he was ineligible to contribute, and according to FEC records, never directly contributed funds to the DNC or raised funds for the DNC. While it is clear that Ng was the source of many of Tries DNC contributions, the DNC has claimed that it was not aware of this fact. Nevertheless, the fact that Ng was recognized as an "Event Benefactor" on a DNC program does raise serious questions as to whether the DNC was aware of Ngs role as the source of Tries generous contributions to the DNC.
Tries contributions to the June and August events brought him far more than a seat at the Presidents table and two nights of contact with Democratic party donors. Shortly after the August 2 event, Trie made at least five requests of the DNC:
(1) assistance in obtaining references for the apartment at the Watergate that he was trying to obtain;
(2) a videotape of the Presidential Gala;
(3) an invitation to sit on the DNC Finance Board of Directors;
(4) participation in the Department of Commerce trade mission to China;
(5) some kind of assistance regarding the Nam Van Lakes real estate project in Macau.
David Mercer, who was tasked with maintenance of high-dollar donors, quickly went to work on these tasks. First, he prepared a letter of recommendation to the Watergate for Trie, and had Susan Lavine of the DNC and Richard Mays prepare similar letters as well. Mercer also spoke with Terry McAuliffe, DNC Finance Chairman, and had the invitation onto the Finance Board of Directors approved. Tries invitation onto the Finance Board of Directors required him to raise or write a total of $250,000 in contributions to the DNC over the coming year. Mercer also contacted Kathy Hoffman at the Department of Commerce, to see if Trie could participate in any of the Department of Commerce activities during the August-September 1994 trade mission to China. While Trie was not an official participant on the trade mission, Mercer does not recall whether he was ultimately successful in having Trie invited to trade mission activities in China. Finally, Mercer gathered information regarding a private business project that Trie and Ng Lap Seng were pursuing in Macau, the Nam Van Lakes real estate project, as a preliminary step to helping Trie find investors for the project. These actions by David Mercer were only the first of many to assist Charlie Trie with his political and private business dealings.
3. San Kin Yips $15,000 Contribution in October 20, 1994
On October 19, 1994, Ng Lap Seng entered the country on his way from Macau to Washington, D.C. Ng brought with him $25,000 in cash. On October 20, Trie and Ng entered the White House for a 1:15 p.m. meeting with Mark Middleton. The same day, Trie and Ng attended a fundraising dinner hosted by Vice President Gore. In connection with this event, the DNC received a check for $15,000 drafted on the account of San Kin Yip International Trading Co. San Kin Yip was an American trading company that shared a name with a Macau company owned by Ng. San Kin Yip had only been incorporated 9 days earlier, and all of the funds used to make the contribution came from Ng Lap Sengs overseas bank account. However, to the extent that the DNC and Charlie Trie have discussed this contribution publicly, they have attempted to make it appear that Trie made the contribution, and that the DNC accepted it from Trie without knowing the source of the money used to make the contribution. Before he fled the country in 1997, Trie told the Washington Post "[i]n this case, I think somebody made a mistake." Certain documents support this claim. For example, the DNC check tracking form was filled out by Richard Sullivan, and on that form, Sullivan listed himself as the solicitor of the contribution. Sullivan also wrote that the contact for the San Kin Yip contribution was Charlie Trie. In addition, after the San Kin Yip contribution was made, David Wilhelm wrote a letter to Trie, thanking him for the San Kin Yip contribution and participation in the DNCs Business Leadership Forum ("BLF").
However, the Committee has located evidence which suggests that the facts regarding the San Kin Yip contribution may not be what Trie and the DNC have claimed them to be. First, the signature on the San Kin Yip check is that of Ng Lap Seng, not Charlie Trie. Second, DNC records indicate that the DNC knew that the check came from Ng Lap Seng, not Charlie Trie. A contribution list for the October 20 event credits Ng with this contribution. Finally, DNC documents show that Trie was already a member of the BLF before the October 20 event. Therefore, Wilhelms October 25, 1994 letter to Trie was unnecessary, and was either mistaken, or was made with the purpose to distract from the fact that the $15,000 contribution was from Ng Lap Seng, not Charlie Trie. The Committee has not received any explanation for why certain DNC records state that the October 20 contribution came from Trie, and other records state that it came from Ng. However, the facts show that in fact, the money used to make this contribution came from Ng, and that the check itself was signed by Ng. If, as documents suggest, DNC officials were aware that this contribution came from Ng Lap Seng, it raises important questions about what knowledge DNC officials had regarding foreign sources of funds.
B. Tries Expanding Contacts with White House Intimates
As a result of his contributions to the DNC, Trie had expanded opportunities for contact with high-level officials in the Administration. Beginning with his contributions to the DNC, Trie was a frequent guest of Special Assistant to the President Mark Middleton at the White House, and he met frequently with Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary Jude Kearney and Presidential friend Ernie Green. Trie was able to use these contacts to advance his private business interests. In return, Trie was called upon to expand his relationship with the DNC.
1. Mark Middleton
It is currently unknown how Charlie Trie met Mark Middleton. However, the two had extensive contact both during Middletons tenure in the White House, and after Middleton moved to the private sector in February 1995. While Middleton was at the White House, Trie visited him 13 times, beginning in May 1994. In addition, Trie brought his benefactor Ng Lap Seng with him to a number of these meetings. Ng visited Middleton at the White House six times before Middletons departure. Since both Trie and Middleton have invoked their Fifth Amendment rights, and Ng has refused to cooperate, we do not know what was discussed at these meetings.
Currency Transaction Reports show that Ng imported large amounts of cash into the United States shortly before each of his meetings with Trie and Middleton. As described earlier, Ng brought over $200,000 into the United States prior to his meetings with Middleton on June 22, 1994 and August 1, 1994. However, Ng also brought $12,000 into the country one day before a February 16, 1995 meeting with Trie and Middleton in the White House. Ng continued his importation of cash in 1996, and brought $19,000 into the country on February 18, 1996, one day before Ng visited the White House, and attended a major DNC fundraiser in Washington, D.C. Finally, Ngs last major importation of cash into the United States occurred on August 17, 1996, when he brought $70,000 into the U.S., one day before he attended the Presidents birthday fundraiser in New York City.
Middleton and Trie continued to share a close relationship after Middleton left the White House in February 1995. After a brief stint with International Realty Investors, Middleton opened an international consulting firm called Commerce Corp. International. Trie was a frequent visitor at Middletons offices, and an occasional traveler with Middleton to Asia. As described below, Middleton and Trie worked together on a number of business projects, and had financial links with one another.
2. Jude Kearney
Trie met Jude Kearney, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Service Industries and Finance at the Commerce Department, in China in 1993. While Kearney has testified before the Committee, his recollection on all subjects relating to Trie was extremely poor. Kearney suggests that Trie merely called him and introduced himself as an American businessman who did business in China, and who wanted to meet him. Kearney claimed that it was part of his job to meet individuals such as Trie, and he gladly did so. After Tries call to Kearney, the two met in a hotel in Beijing while Kearney was touring China as part of his duties as a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of Commerce. Kearney describes the meeting as a brief "get-acquainted" meeting in the lobby of Kearneys hotel in Beijing. However, Kearney later wrote a letter to Trie thanking him for his "red carpet treatment" during Kearneys trip. Kearney also wrote that it was "very helpful to have someone around who knew the ropes especially a fellow Arkansan." Kearneys letter appears to be inconsistent with his account of his meeting with Trie as being a "get-acquainted" meeting.
Nevertheless, Tries cold call to Kearney appears to have started a close relationship between 1993 and the end of 1996. Kearney met with Trie a number of times between January 1993 and late 1994 and Kearney attended social events at Tries Watergate apartment. Kearney also made an official request that Trie be included in the events held in connection with the Department of Commerce trade mission to China in August and September of 1994. Kearney stated in his testimony that Trie expressed an interest in participating in the Secretarys trade mission in some way, and Kearney passed that request on to the responsible officials at the Department of Commerce, Melissa Moss and James Hackney. Kearney denied that he was doing Trie any special favor, and indicated that he would pass on similar requests made by anyone. Documents received by the Committee indicate that Trie made this same request of the DNC at the same time as Kearney made this request. However, Kearney denied that he ever discussed Tries request with David Mercer or any other DNC official. Kearney also denied ever discussing political contributions with Trie. Trie did however, submit documents to Kearney indicating that he was a large donor to the DNC.
In addition to meeting with Trie and recommending him as a host for an event on the Department of Commerce trade mission to China, Kearney helped Trie in a number of other ways. First, he introduced him to a number of private business contacts. It appears that Kearney introduced Trie to: Elvin Moon, a construction contractor; Bill Sudow, a private lawyer in Washington, D.C.; Ernie Green, a DNC Managing Trustee and friend of Bill Clinton; and Lauri Fitz-Pegado, a high-ranking official in the Commerce Department. Kearney claims that his numerous introductions of Trie to other private businessmen was merely part of his job, trying to promote U.S. exports. However, it is unclear why Mr. Kearney devoted so much time trying to promote the private business interests of Charlie Trie, a person who, by all accounts, was a failure at every enterprise he attempted. In fact, Kearney himself admitted that he had no idea what Trie did for a living, and knew of no successful venture in which Trie was involved. Nevertheless, he had at least 10 meetings with Trie between 1994 and 1996, and introduced him to a number of high-level contacts in the public and private sectors.
3. Ernie Green
Among the individuals Trie met as a result of his DNC support was Ernest G. Green. Green is a Managing Partner at Lehman Brothers Washington, D.C., office, and is a close friend of President Clinton. Trie was introduced to Green by Jude Kearney, who thought that Green might be able to assist Trie with the financing for the Nam Van Lakes real estate project in Macau, which was owned by Ng Lap Seng, and which was being promoted by Trie. However the testimony of the persons involved differ greatly on the details of the introduction of Green to Trie. Green states that Kearney introduced him to Trie, and set up a meal where Trie, Green, Kearney, David Mercer, and Ng Lap Seng were in attendance. Kearney and Mercer, however, deny attending any introductory meeting between Green and Trie. Beginning with the Nam Van Lakes project discussed at the 1994 breakfast, Green and Trie would develop a close relationship involving travel, business, and political fundraising.
III. TRIES 1995 ACTIVITIES
The year started with Trie taking on a role reserved for only the top echelon of the DNC. Trie became a member of the prestigious DNC Finance Board of Directors, joining such other DNC powerhouses as Paul Montrone, CEO of Fisher Scientific, Edgar Bronfman, President of Seagram Brothers, and Fred Siegel of the Beacon Companies. As a member of the Finance Board of Directors, Trie obligated himself to raise $250,000 for the DNC, even though at the time, he could not even pay his credit card bills. Although Trie earned this post through his largess in 1994, his contributions and solicitations to the DNC decreased in 1995. Trie now began to cash in on political favors and pursue business ventures with friends he made through the DNC.
In 1995, Mark Middleton and Ernie Green emerged as Tries principal political and business confidants. Trie toured Asia with Green and Middleton, and introduced them to powerful business and political figures in an effort to promote their business interests in Asia. In return, Green and Middleton acted as Tries Washington liaison. Both met frequently with Trie, made introductions for Trie, and accompanied Trie to political events.
Also in 1995, Trie began to take full advantage of his status as a friend of Bill Clinton and major DNC supporter. Trie visited the White House frequently, approximately 15 times in 1995 alone. Some of these visits were for large events, but others were for private meetings with Mark Middleton. Tries relationship with the President and his staff was apparent in other ways as well. Trie gave Nancy Hernreich, the Director of Oval Office Operations and one of the Presidents closest aides, a pearl necklace for Christmas. Trie also received access to the Presidents box at the Kennedy Center. Finally, Trie was able to call upon his status with the DNC to receive special White House tours for family and friends.
A. Tries Spring 1995 Trip to Asia
By 1995, Tries business activities were expanding in Asia and the United States. Tries main company was Daihatsu International Trading, which he operated out of his Watergate apartment. Trie also operated San Kin Yip International, which had offices in Washington, D.C. and Little Rock, and was affiliated with an Asian conglomerate of the same name operated by Ng Lap Seng in Macau. In February 1995, Tries stature in Asia was enhanced when Ng Lap Seng and his friend and business associate, William Peh, named Trie as a Director of Pehs business, Consolidated Trust Company. Peh has asserted that he and Ng added Trie to Consolidated Trusts leadership because they believed his extensive connections on the China mainland would help them penetrate that market. In addition, Tries U.S. ties were helpful to the company. On a CTC corporate fact sheet, Trie was listed as an "Advisor to President Clinton." Trie brought many friends through the offices of Consolidated Trust, but no business opportunities developed. Around the same time, Peh moved his business into Ngs office building in Hong Kong.
Just several weeks after Mark Middleton left his White House job in February 1995, Trie, Mark Middleton and his brother Larry Middleton traveled to Asia. In a three week period, Trie and Middleton visited China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Jakarta, and Brunei. While in Hong Kong, Middleton visited Consolidated Trust Company, and told Peh and other CTC employees of his close relationship with the President and the fact that he had just left the White House to begin his own company. But in fact, Middleton had not quite severed all of his White House ties because as late as October 1996, more than 18 months after he left the White House, he still had a White House telephone number and he was passing out his White House business cards in Asia. In addition, a message on the White House voice mail system was left saying: "[t]hank you for calling the White House. To reach Mack McLarty, please dial (202) 456-2000. To reach Mark Middleton, please dial (202) 737-9305. . . . Again, thank you for calling the White House." The number left by Middleton was the number for his company, Commerce Corp. International. Yusuf Khapra, Middletons former assistant, claimed that he put the message on the White House voicemail when Middleton left the White House.
Middleton was looking for business opportunities in Asia and he was particularly interested in real estate projects. One of the projects that Trie introduced him to was the Nam Van Lakes project in Macau. This project was co-owned by Ng Lap Seng and Macaus Ho brothers, and Trie had heavily promoted the project to others, including Ernie Green, David Mercer, and Jude Kearney. Middleton expressed interest in Nam Van Lakes, and mentioned that he might be able to secure funding for the project from the so-called "Green Fund," an investment fund managed by Steven Green, Middletons boss at International Realty Investors. The Green fund was intended to raise funds for projects in newly democratized countries. It was unlikely that a project in Macau would qualify for funding from the Green Fund, since Macau was not "newly democratized," and in fact, was coming under the control of the Peoples Republic of China in the near future. However, according to one witness who was present during meetings with Middleton in Asia, Middleton told Ng and Peh that he would take care of it and make sure Macau qualified for funding.
B. Tries Fundraising in 1995
Tries fundraising activities continued in 1995, even though his own personal contributions decreased. Tries first major event of the year was a DNC Finance Board dinner at the White House with the President and First Lady on February 16, 1995. This was a small dinner for the highest level donors and fundraisers in the DNC. Trie and Ng Lap Seng attended, accompanied by Ernest Green, and Trie was accorded the special honor of sitting at the First Ladys table. Trie continued attending high-level events like this throughout the year.
In May 1995, Trie found another vehicle to increase his political standing with the founding of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Institute ("CAPACI"). Trie became a CAPACI board member and contributed $25,000. President Clinton spoke at CAPACIs inaugural gala on May 18, 1995. Trie attended CAPACIs inaugural, and brought a number of Asian business associates as guests, including Ng Lap Seng, his wife, Pun Nun Ho, Priscilla Wong and Kathy Chio. While these individuals were in Washington, Trie arranged a number of other events to demonstrate his political connections: an Asian Pacific American breakfast meeting with Commerce Secretary Ron Brown in which John Huang gave a briefing; lunch at the White House mess set up by the First Ladys office; and a White House tour. Mark Middleton initially requested that Trie and his guests be included in the Presidents Radio Address as well, but later dropped his request, because the same group had already met with the President at the CAPACI event.
In July of 1995, Trie hired Antonio Pan to assist him in his various enterprises. Pan was a longtime employee of the Lippo Group in Hong Kong and in Arkansas. As a Lippo employee, Pan had a number of contacts with Presidential friend Joe Giroir. In fact, when he departed Lippo to work for Trie, Pan wrote a brief note to Giroir letting him know:
A longtime friend of mine invited me to provide my service to his companys investment in the Asian region. After I obtained my current superiors understand [sic] and concurrence, I will resign my current position of Senior Vice President of marketing from this company. Please continue to extend your support to Lippo Group . . . .
While Pan stated that he was coming to help Trie with his investment activities, it is not clear what substantive business activities, if any, Pan was involved in. Throughout 1995 and 1996, Pan was most prominently involved in orchestrating complex schemes to funnel illegal contributions to the DNC. As described below, in these schemes, Pan was often a key participant, personally delivering large amounts of cash to various straw donors.
C. Tries Summer 1995 Trip to Asia
1. Travel with Mark Middleton
In July 1995, Trie accompanied Mark Middleton on another trip to Asia. During this trip, Middleton met with Liu Tai-ying, the chief financial manager of Taiwans ruling Kuomintang party. It has been reported during this meeting that Liu offered the DNC a campaign contribution of $15 million after Middleton explained his White House connections. Both Middleton and Liu have denied this report. While no contributions from Liu have been traced to the DNC to date, Liu did develop a relationship with Middleton and Trie. On September 21, 1995, Middleton and Trie escorted Liu to a fundraiser in San Francisco where Liu met President Clinton and Vice President Gore. It is currently unclear how Trie and Middleton got Liu into the event. To date, there is no record of Liu making a contribution, direct or indirect.
2. Travel with Ernie Green
On August 2, 1995, the last day of meetings scheduled for Middleton in Taiwan, Ernie Green arrived in Taiwan. Green came to Asia at the invitation and expense of Charlie Trie and Ng Lap Seng. Green claims that he had been introduced to the Nam Van Lakes project almost eight months earlier by Trie, and came to Asia to inspect the property to see if he could recommend it to his employer, Lehman Brothers, for financing. While on this trip, Green made a number of detours to pursue personal business interests. Green says that he started his trip in Taiwan, where he met with Taiwanese businessmen to pursue financial backing for a private telecommunications project that he was heading.
Green then traveled to Hong Kong and Macau to meet with Ng Lap Seng and inspect the Nam Van Lakes project. To this point, Green claims he had hesitated to lend his support to the project because Trie and Ng had not provided enough detailed information about it. In order to gain more information about the project, Green first visited Lehman Brothers Hong Kong office to speak with Barry Gold, a Lehman executive who handled infrastructure projects in Asia. According to Green, they discussed the real estate market and development in Macau and the impact of Hong Kongs impending transition to Chinese rule. Gold has no recollection of this meeting, and states that he only saw Green once in Asia, during Greens second trip to Asia in October 1995. In addition, Gold said Lehman Brothers would not have any interest in Nam Van Lakes because it did not participate in real estate projects. Golds statements are clearly at odds with Greens testimony.
At the end of Greens trip to Asia, Trie raised with Green the possibility of pursuing a new business venture with him to manufacture and sell self-inflating novelty balloons. Green was soon intrigued by this idea, and by the following year, had gone into business with Trie to sell these balloons.
Green contends that his contacts with Trie never brought him into contact with another Trie associate, Mark Middleton. For example, even though Middleton was also in Taiwan on August 2 and part of Middletons trip concerned the Nam Van Lakes project in Macau, Green claims that he never saw Middleton in Taiwan, was unaware of Middletons involvement with the Nam Van Lakes project, and claims he did not know of any business dealings between Middleton and Trie. However, both Green and Middleton sent letters to Ng Lap Seng expressing their interest in pursuing the Nam Van Lakes project. These letters are practically identical, and suggest that Green and Middleton may have had knowledge of the others activities involving Nam Van Lakes. Green denies that he had any contact with Middleton while in Taiwan, but it should be noted that Trie was hosting them both at the same time.
When Green and Trie returned from Asia, it appears that Green began to help Trie. Traveling with the First Lady to Beijing for the Fourth World Conference on Women in September 1995 would allow Trie to showcase his connections to colleagues and potential business partners in that region of the world. Green launched the lobbying effort to put Trie on this trip on August 29 by calling Melanne Verveer in the First Ladys office, saying he was calling at Alexis Hermans suggestion, about "trip to China and supporter from Arkansas, Charlie Tree [sic]." Green claims he has no recollection of this effort to help Trie. That same day, less than three hours later, Trie himself called Verveer and left a message stating: "spoke with HRC in Little Rock about going to Beijing wants to know if he can go with her." Two days later, Trie had already left for China, and David Mercer of the DNC called Janice Enright at the White House and left a message stating "Charlie Trie left for Beijing, hadnt heard from HI [Harold Ickes] or FLOTUS [First Lady]." On this same, slip, there is another message stating "Ernie Green already contacted and hes happy!!" Despite the existence of these documents, Green denies that he made any effort to have Trie included in the Beijing Womens conference.
In his quest to be included in the Beijing Womens Conference, Trie also enlisted the aid of Jude Kearney. Kearney, asked that Trie and one other individual be included in the private sector events at the Conference. Kearney acknowledged trying to help Trie be included in the Womens Conference, but testified that he was "trying to support the businesspeople whom we came to know in foreign markets and who were very involved in our initiatives; and Mr. Trie and Mr. Soo fit that description." Documents received by the Committee show Trie returning to the U.S. from Asia five days after the Conference on Women began. The Committee has been unable to determine if Trie participated in any events connected with the Conference.
D. Tries Fall 1995 Travel to Asia
1. Travel with Mark Middleton
In the fall of 1995, Mark Middleton and Charlie Trie returned to Asia. At one point during this trip, Middleton took a suite at the Hong Kong Grand Hyatt, where, in the words of a witness who was there, Middleton "held court." This witness, who worked with William Peh at Consolidated Trust Company, stated that Middleton had eight to ten businessmen and government officials from mainland China in his suite, all of whom were waiting to meet with Middleton. Middleton was holding private meetings in a bedroom adjoining the suite. This witness also recalls that Trie and Ng were present during this episode. It is not known what Middleton was discussing with these visitors, but the episode provides a glimpse of the type of business that Middleton may have been pursuing with Chinese entities with the assistance of Trie and Ng.
2. Travel with Ernie Green
In October 1995, Green returned to Asia, again at the expense of Ng Lap Seng. Greens second trip to Asia was a mix of business and a dinner with Commerce Secretary Ron Brown in Hong Kong. Green acknowledges that again he met with Ng regarding Nam Van Lakes, but still claims that he had not received the necessary information regarding the project. However, Green did develop an acute interest in Tries pop-up balloon scheme. He visited the balloon manufacturers Taiwan offices and the balloon factory in the Peoples Republic of China. After this tour, Green decided to begin investment in this project, and to then start a business with Trie to market the balloons.
3. October 18, 1995 Dinner at the Shangri-La Hotel
After Greens tours of the PRC and Taiwan, he returned to Hong Kong for the purpose of attending a dinner for Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. The dinner was held on October 18, 1995, at Hong Kongs Shangri-La Hotel, and is surrounded by controversy. The Committee has received contradictory testimony with respect to who organized the dinner, and what transpired at the dinner. Regardless of who actually planned the dinner, it is clear that there were four major personalities involved in the dinner: Ron Brown; Ernie Green; Charlie Trie; and Antonio Pan. At the very minimum, the dinner represented an unusual private event where the Secretary of Commerce was introduced to a number of foreign business leaders.
Ernie Green testified that the Shangri-La dinner was organized by Trie and Ng Lap Seng, and he was merely invited to the dinner by Trie. Yet again, Greens sworn testimony is contradicted by other witnesses. Melinda Yee, who attended the event with Secretary Brown, testified before the Senate that Green hosted the event:
Question: Who did host that reception, do you know?
Yee: As you said, Ernest Green.
Question: Do you recall the substance of your conversation [with Green at the reception]?
Yee: No. Just thanked him for hosting the Secretary.
Question: Do you know why he hosted this reception?
Yee: He had just proposed hosting he was with Lehman, Lehman Brothers, I believe. . . And they had a lot of business in Hong Kong and just suggested that it would be a nice thing to do if they could host a reception for the Secretary. So we thanked him. I thanked him for that.
Yees testimony regarding the event is confirmed by David Rothkopf, Acting Undersecretary for International Trade. Rothkopf testified that Green hosted the event, and also testified that he tried to prevent Brown from attending the event because of the appearance of impropriety that it created:
Question: Did you have any substantive dealing with him [Ernie Green]?
Rothkopf: I didnt have any substantive dealings with him. I recall an incident where there was some discussion about the Secretary in October of 95 going to a dinner party in Hong Kong on a trip that we were taking to China. Again, in one of those trip-planning meetings, somebody on the Secretarys behalf . . . said the Secretary has been invited to a dinner with Ernie Green in Hong Kong. And I looked or Ginger Lew said something or I looked at Ginger Lew, but I remember that there was an interaction between me and her, and Ginger was kind of like he shouldnt do that. And I was like he shouldnt do that because this was a friend of the Secretary. Again, there was all the scrutiny, and the thought was, you know, the Secretary should not be lending his office to Lehman Brothers if Lehman Brothers is doing some dinner.
Rothkopf: . . . But, so the dinner was taken off the schedule for the trip, and I believe it was kept off the schedule because I remember going up in the elevator at the hotel in Hong Kong
Question: This is during the trip?
Rothkopf: During the trip. And the Secretary turned to Bill Morton, who was the Deputy for Economic Development, sort of handled, coordinated the logistics of these trips. The Secretary said to Bill, Ill see you in 15 minutes. And I said the Secretary got off, and I said, what are you doing? It says here, you know, rest of night in the hotel on the schedule. And he says, oh, the Secretarys going to do something personal. And it later turned out that it was the he just kept the Ernie Green you know, they just did this dinner, and then it turned out it was something with a bunch of these other characters also. But it was something that was consciously taken off the Secretarys schedule.
Question: Were you disappointed to learn that?
Rothkopf: Disappointed? I was frustrated. You know, I mean, its frustrating when youre trying to do something and help somebody to go in a certain direction and they ignore your advice.
The "other characters" at the dinner referenced by Rothkopf included Charlie Trie, Ng Lap Seng, and Antonio Pan, who clearly had a role in organizing the dinner, based both on the fact that Trie spoke at the dinner, and that all three were prominently placed at the front of the greeting line for Secretary Brown and Ernie Green. Other guests at the dinner were a sampling of the business elite from Hong Kong, Macau, and the PRC. Green claims that most of the individuals who attended the event were invited to it by either Trie or Ng. Attendees at the meal included Eric and Patricia Hotung, Wang Jun of CITIC, Wong Xu, William Peh, Priscilla Wong, Yan Sheng Pan, Jie Liu, Trie, Ng, Antonio Pan, and representatives of Hong Kong and Macau tycoons Stanley Ho and Li-Ka-shing.
The dinner began with speeches by Brown, Trie, and Green. After that, Secretary Brown and Green were introduced to a number of guests, including Wang Jun. According to one press account of the dinner, Trie and Pan then solicited a number of the guests to contribute to the DNC. In addition, Green reportedly told guests at the dinner not to exchange business cards and to keep the event quiet. Green has denied this allegation. Eric and Patricia Hotung, whose $100,000 contribution to the DNC was questioned because of a possible link to a meeting with the National Security Council, also contributed $99,980 on two starter checks just eight days prior to the Shangri-La dinner. Other guests, including Ng Lap Seng, William Peh, Yan Sheng Pan, Jie Liu, Wang Jun, and Priscilla Wong, attended DNC fundraising events with Trie just months after this event. None were eligible to contribute to the DNC, and according to FEC records, none has directly contributed to the DNC. However, the Committee is investigating whether there is any connection between the appearance of these individuals at the Shangri-La dinner in October 1995 and their appearance at DNC fundraising events later in November 1995 and February 1996. The Committees efforts to investigate this event, like many others, has been hampered by a lack of cooperation in obtaining visas for foreign travel by investigators as well as the many witnesses who have asserted their Fifth Amendment privileges.
Trie and Green also pursued private business dealings at the Shangri-La dinner. First, Trie continued his efforts to entice Green and Lehman Brothers into involvement in the Nam Van Lakes real estate project. Trie, Ng, and Peh discussed the project with Green, as well as Greens Lehman associate, Barry Gold, who attended the dinner. In addition, Green continued his personal efforts to attract foreign investors to a PCS project that he was pursuing. Reportedly, Green discussed these efforts with Eric Hotung, but never was able to obtain Mr. Hotungs support.
E. "The Trie Team" - The November 1995 Car Barn Fundraiser
On November 8, 1995, the DNC held its top-level African-American fundraiser at the Car Barn in Washington, D.C. The main fundraisers working on this event were Ernie Green and Richard Mays. The main DNC staffer working on the event was David Mercer. Charlie Trie became involved in this fundraiser, raised money for it, and attended the event with a number of guests. DNC documents relating to the event indicate that Trie committed to raising $100,000 for the Car Barn event, a substantial portion of the $500,000 the event was intended to raise overall. The only funds that the Committee has found that Trie raised for the event, though, is $15,000 contributed by the CHY Corporation and Celia Chau. It is possible that Trie raised more money for the event, but the DNC has not provided any further check tracking forms crediting Trie for contributions made to this event.
Trie came to this event with a number of Asian guests, described by David Mercer as a "boatload" of visitors. None of these individuals appear on DNC guest lists for the event. Nevertheless, it appears that the DNC was prepared for their arrival, and had nametags printed for them. Trie and his guests attended a special private reception for the largest donors to the Car Barn event. A videotape belatedly produced by the White House Communications Agency records the Presidents introduction to Tries group. First the President greeted Trie, saying "Hey Charlie, how are you doing." Then Trie introduced the President to Dr. Chun Hua Yeh, a Taiwanese businessman, and Jiongzhang Tang. Then, Ernie Green introduced the President to Ng Lap Seng. Green noted that Ng hosted a reception for Secretary Brown in Hong Kong, and that he had been "very helpful." Green also informed the President that Ng owned a golf course in Macau, and that the President should use it when he is in Macau.
Later, the President posed for photographs with Tries group. The photographs were being taken by the event photographer, but also by Ernie Greens wife, Phyllis, and by Richard Mays. After several pictures were taken, Secretary Brown approached the group, and said "look at the crowd youre with!" He then joined the group for photographs with the President. While the photographs were being taken, Brown told the President that "big business helps us everywhere." As the group was breaking up, Brown informed the President that "this is part of the Trie Team." The President answered "yes." After the photographs were taken, Green, Mays, Brown, and the President formed a huddle and exchanged words for several moments. Neither Green nor Mays recalled what was discussed, but both deny that Trie or his associates were discussed.
The remarks made by Green, the President, and Ron Brown at the Car Barn event remain cryptic. Green and Mays both denied that they ever heard the term "Trie Team," other than this one time. Secretary Browns comments indicate that he was familiar with Trie and his associates. At least two members of the "Trie Team," Ng Lap Seng and Yan Sheng Pan, had attended the Shangri-La event with Brown. Brown also indicated no surprise at seeing these foreign businessmen at an event for DNC donors. Green and Mays also denied knowing what Secretary Brown meant by his comment that "big business helps us everywhere." Despite the lack of helpful testimony from individuals familiar with this event, the tape of the Car Barn event raises a number of question regarding the relationship between Trie, Ng, Ron Brown, Ernie Green, Richard Mays, and the President.
IV. TRIES APPOINTMENT TO THE BINGAMAN COMMISSION
One of the most significant examples of Tries access to the power of the White House is his appointment to the Commission on United States-Pacific Trade and Investment Policy, an elite commission formed by the President in 1996. The story of Tries appointment though, demonstrates the lengths to which the Clinton Administration was willing to go to reward contributors to the DNC. In this case, the Administration appointed Trie to an expert trade panel despite the fact that he lacked any qualifications to serve. Administration officials appointed Trie even though one person involved in the appointment process, Senate aide Steve Clemons, objected repeatedly and vociferously to Tries appointment, on behalf of Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico. These objections were met with the response that Trie was a "must appointment" from "the highest levels of the White House."
A. The Appointment Process
On June 21, 1995, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12964 establishing the Commission on United States-Pacific Trade and Investment Policy. The purpose of the Commission was to study trade between the United States and Asian countries, and to recommend ways to improve access of American companies to those markets. The Commission was commonly referred to as the Bingaman Commission, in honor of Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico. During the negotiations between the Senate and White House regarding the vote on GATT, Senator Bingaman told the President that he would vote in favor of GATT if the President established such a trade commission. Accordingly, Senator Bingaman and his staff had a great deal of input in the formation of the Commission.
When Executive Order 12964 was originally signed, the Commission was to have 15 members, appointed by the President. The Office of the United States Trade Representative was given the responsibility of compiling the list of recommended appointees for the Presidents review. The USTR received recommendations for candidates for the Commission from a number of sources, including the office of Senator Bingaman.
The first step in the process by which candidates for the Bingaman Commission were considered and appointed to the Commission required the compilation of the names of potential candidates by Phyllis Jones, the Assistant United States Trade Representative for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison. She received suggestions from a variety of sources, including the USTR, the National Economic Council, Congress, and the private sector. She discussed these candidates with interested parties at other government agencies and within the USTR. A list of recommended candidates then had to be cleared with Mickey Kantor, then the United States Trade Representative. After Kantor had cleared the recommended candidates, the list would be provided to the White House. The Office of Presidential Personnel would then review the list, and submit it to the President for his approval. According to one USTR official, the President was "sometimes active and nixe[d] or change[d] names" of candidates.
1. The White House Used the Commission for Political Payoffs
The office of Senator Bingaman was deeply involved in the appointment process for the Commission. Senator Bingamans main staffer dealing with the Commission was Steve Clemons, Senior Trade Policy Advisor to the Senator. Clemons provided names of candidates for the Commission to Phyllis Jones, and he reviewed names that had been compiled by the USTR. Clemons was also in frequent contact with Charles Duncan, the Assistant Director of the Office of Presidential Personnel ("OPP"). Duncan was the main White House official dealing with the formation of the Bingaman Commission.
Most of the candidates recommended by Clemons were corporate CEOs or trade experts that he believed would make a substantive contribution to the Commission. Early in the process, though, Clemons found that it was difficult to have Senator Bingamans candidates for the Commission considered by the White House and the USTR. Clemons discussed this issue with Duncan, and Clemons has said that Duncan told him that he checked the names of all recommended candidates for the Commission against a list of donors to the DNC. Clemons objected to Duncan, expressing the sentiment that the Commission should be about appointing qualified individuals, and not making political payoffs. However, Duncan made it clear to him that he would follow this process for the appointments to the Bingaman Commission.
In fact, Clemons informed the Committee that he became so desperate to have qualified candidates appointed to the Commission, that he contacted the DNC, and asked them to provide him with a list of large donors to the DNC. Clemons spoke with a DNC staffer named David Carroll, and explained that he had been working with the White House in trying to fill appointments for the Commission. Clemons told Carroll that he wanted to review a DNC donor list to see if he could find someone, "a CEO who can pass the White House screeners." Clemons recalled that Carroll promised to send him something "discreetly." Indeed, Clemons received the donor list, but was unable to find any qualified candidates on it that he could recommend to the White House.
Clemons experience with the Office of Presidential Personnel, is denied by Charles Duncan and the White House. Duncan provided sworn testimony to the Committee that he never checked the amounts that potential candidates to the Bingaman Commission, or any other position, had given to the DNC or the Clinton-Gore campaign. However, the Clemons testimony is confirmed by White House documents. Duncan has denied that he kept any donor lists in his office, and the White House has never produced any such lists in response to the Committees subpoenas. However, the OPP computer contains a database that shows that OPP kept track of precisely this type of political fundraising information. The database contains the names of potential candidates for appointment to the Clinton Administration. Most of the information fields in the database contain technical information like address and telephone number. The only field for substantive information appears to be the "classification" field of the database. This field contains information relating to candidates political activity. The only classifications the Committee had seen in this field are: "DNC Trustee," "DNC Key," "C/G Trustee" and "C/G Key." All of these classifications refer to levels of political contributions and support given to the Clinton-Gore campaign and the DNC. This database contains the names of Charlie Trie, John Huang, Charles DeQueljoe, all of whom are key figures in the campaign finance scandal, and all of whom received appointment to the Administration. Trie is listed in the database as a "DNC Trustee." The Committee has not received any information regarding how this donor data got onto the White House computers, but it is one obvious source for how Charles Duncan tracked the political contributions of potential candidates for appointment to the Clinton Administration.
2. Charlie Trie is Considered for the Commission
At some point in mid-1995, Charlie Trie told Ernie Green that he was interested in an appointment to a position in the Clinton Administration. Green then contacted Charles Duncan, who had been a friend of Green since the 1970s, and told him of Tries interest in an appointment. White House records indicate that on September 14, 1995, Trie and Green went to the White House to visit Charles Duncan. While Green denies attending any meeting between Trie and Duncan, White House WAVES records clearly show that Green went to the White House, and entered and departed the Old Executive Office Building at exactly the same time as Charlie Trie. The interview between Duncan, Trie, and Green lasted approximately thirty minutes. Duncan denies that he ever discussed the DNC or the Presidential Legal Expense Trust during his meeting with Trie and Green. Duncan has testified that he was interviewing Trie to try to determine the value that he would add to the Commission. However, when asked if he determined what value Trie would add to the Commission, Duncan answered as follows:
Question: You stated something to the effect that the purpose of the interview was to evaluate Mr. Trie with regard to the commission. Did you make a determination with regard to his qualifications as a result of the interview?
Duncan: I had begun to at that point in time.
Question: And what was that evaluation?
Duncan: My initial evaluation was that he would add value to the commission.
Question: And what was the basis for the beginning that you said of that judgment?
Duncan: The criteria for the commission was knowledge of trade barriers with Asian countries. I felt at that time Mr. Trie did have knowledge. I felt he would add value to it. The President has been very strong on having an administration and appointments as diverse as America. Mr. Trie, I thought, added diversity to it, also. And I thought it was also important to have small business people on this commission, and Mr. Trie would have been a small business person.
On September 15, 1995, the day following the meeting between Duncan, Trie and Green, Green called Mickey Kantor, the United States Trade Representative. Green claims that he does not specifically remember the call, but is certain that it was not about Charlie Tries appointment to the Bingaman Commission. Similarly, Ambassador Kantor does not recall having any involvement in Tries appointment. It is noteworthy that the September 15 call is the only call between Green and Kantor for which the Committee has any record. Also on September 15, Trie had the opportunity to see the President personally. Trie was one of 50 guests at the White House for a dinner recognizing the DNCs top donors. However, it is not clear whether Trie discussed the possibility of his appointment to the Commission at this dinner.
After his interview with Trie and Green, Duncan claims that he sought references for Trie. He called individuals "from Little Rock who knew Mr. Trie," specifically, Ernie Green, Bob Nash, and Lottie Shackelford. However, Green was the person who introduced Trie to Duncan, so it was clear that he supported Tries nomination. Also, Green had been extensively involved in Tries DNC activities. Duncan also spoke to Shackelford, who was a DNC Vice-Chair, and who was aware of Tries political activities. Shackelford told Duncan that she believed Trie was qualified for appointment to the Commission. However, Shackelford testified that Duncan never asked her about Tries knowledge of international trade, and, by her own admission, Shackelford had never discussed business of any kind with Charlie Trie. Her contacts with him had come only through patronizing his restaurant in Little Rock, and more recently, from attending DNC fundraisers. Nash was Duncans superior at the Office of Presidential Personnel. When Duncan asked him about Trie, Nash stated that he believed Trie was qualified for appointment to the Commission. Nash based his conclusion on the fact that Trie was "involved in international trade" and the fact that he had established a sister city relationship between Changchun City, China, and Little Rock.
By this point, Duncan says he had concluded that Trie would add value to the Commission, and decided to recommend his appointment to the Commission. Duncan had spoken with only three people with any knowledge of Trie. Of these three individuals, only one, Green, had any knowledge of Tries business activities. The other two, Nash and Shackelford, knew Trie primarily as a restaurateur. Nevertheless, Duncan claims that based on this information, he had concluded that Trie was qualified, and was willing to recommend Trie for appointment to the Commission.
On September 20, 1995, Duncan spoke to Phyllis Jones of the USTR to tell her that he wanted Trie added to the list of recommended candidates for the Commission. Duncan gave Jones three names that were not on the list given by USTR to the White House, but that he wanted to add. The three were Trie, Kenneth Lewis, who had been recommended by Senator Sarbanes, and a third individual who was never appointed. In an e-mail message sent to a USTR colleague after her conversation with Duncan, Jones described Trie as a "DNC nominee:"
Well, I spoke with Charles Duncan about Bingaman late Wed. Here is the update. They have not bumped anyone off of our list. However, they want to add 3 people - a Senator Sarbanes person (Charles will let me know the name), a DNC nominee Yah Lin Trie, President of Daihatsu International, an international trading company, and an Asian-American exec [sic] from Toys R Us.
Charles thinks the best thing to do is to get the exec [sic] order amended so it can be increased. Jennifer, how difficult is this to do? They are trying to push this through but we need to get the question answered about the commission size. Also we need to extend the report due date. Thanks.
However, in her deposition, Jones attempted to distance herself from her own e-mail, claiming that "[t]he only thing that Charles told me about Mr. Trie was that he was a small business person that had done business in Asia." She denied that Duncan told her anything about Tries support for the Administration, or his friendship with the President. In addition, both Jones and Duncan deny that they discussed Tries support of the DNC during their conversation. Jones was unable to explain why she referred to Trie as a "DNC nominee" if Duncan had never mentioned Tries support of the DNC during their discussion:
Question: . . . You describe Yah Lin, thats Charlie Trie, as a DNC nominee. What does that mean?
Jones: I dont know.
Question: Did Charles Duncan tell you that Trie was a DNC nominee?
Jones: I dont know why those choice of words were used here. I dont recall.
Question: Have you ever used the term "DNC nominee" to describe any other potential appointee to any commission?
Jones: I dont remember using it.
The e-mail message, though, casts grave doubt on Duncans claim that he had no knowledge of Tries support of the DNC, and had never discussed it with Trie.
It was during this September 20 discussion between Duncan and Jones that Duncan also recommended that the Commission be expanded past 15 members in order to accommodate Trie and the other new candidates. Therefore, Jones asked the USTR legal counsel to draft the required documents that would allow the President to issue a new Executive Order expanding the Commission. On January 31, 1996, the President signed Executive Order 12987, which expanded the Commission from 15 to "up to 20" members. This Executive Order allowed the President to appoint Charlie Trie to the Bingaman Commission.
3. Objections Are Raised to Tries Appointment
Shortly after the September 20 discussion between Jones and Duncan, Jones added Tries name to the list of appointees for the Commission, and circulated the list among individuals at USTR. When he received Tries name, Steve Clemons says he was immediately concerned. Trie was listed as working with Daihatsu International Trading Corp., and Clemons was concerned that Tries company was affiliated with the Japanese conglomerate of the same name. Therefore, Clemons called Trie, to try to confirm that he was not affiliated with the Japanese company. Clemons spoke to him, and confirmed that his company was not Japanese, but immediately developed a great concern that Trie was not qualified to be appointed to the Commission. Clemons could tell after one brief conversation that Trie was not knowledgeable regarding trade issues. He was even more irritated that so many candidates who were more qualified had been rejected by Duncan, and for some reason, Duncan saw fit to recommend Trie. For example, Clemons had recommended Ed McCracken, Chairman of Silicon Graphics, Robert Galvin the former Chairman of Motorola, Gordon Binder, Chairman of Amgen, and Steven Ballmer, President of Microsoft, and all had been rejected.
Clemons was so angered by Tries appointment to the Commission that he drafted a letter of protest for Senator Bingaman to send to President Clinton. Senator Bingaman initially signed the letter to Clinton, but then instructed Clemons not to send it, and to pursue his objections with the White House orally, rather than in writing, telling Clemons that "this was not the kind of matter to commit to paper." Clemons then began a series of telephone calls and e-mails to Phyllis Jones and Charles Duncan objecting to Tries appointment. Clemons stated that he "did everything he could" to stop the appointment of Charlie Trie to the Commission. Clemons stated that Jones was generally receptive to his arguments, but told him that since Trie was a White House selection, there was little she could do to change their mind. Clemons also had a series of heated conversations with Charles Duncan about Trie. In these discussions, Duncan stated that Trie was an "absolute must appointment" whose name had come "directly from the highest levels of the White House." Duncan also referred to Tries support of the Administration. Duncan concluded by telling Clemons that Trie was not coming off of the Commission. Clemons also says he repeated all of these objections in e-mail messages to both Jones and Duncan.
When faced with Clemons charges, Duncan denied them, and Jones claimed a lack of recall. Jones was questioned at length about Clemons charges:
Question: Other than that concern [that Tries company was Japanese], do you recall anyone at USTR having any other concerns about Charlie Trie being appointed to the Commission?
Jones: I dont know.
Question: Did anyone in Senator Bingamans office raise any concerns about Charlie Trie being appointed to the Commission?
Jones: I just dont remember.
Question: Other than the issue about whether Mr. Tries Daihatsu was the same as the Japanese car company Daihatsu, do you ever recall receiving any e-mails expressing concern about Charlie Trie being appointed to the Bingaman Commission?
Jones: I dont recall.
Question: Are you aware of any individuals expressing concern to Charles Duncan about Charlie Tries appointment to the Bingaman Commission?
Jones: I dont know.
Faced with Clemons detailed charges, Jones testimony is difficult to believe. Duncan, however, flatly denied Clemons charges in sworn interrogatories:
Interrogatory: Did anyone involved in the appointment process for the Bingaman Commission, including, but not limited to Steven C. Clemons, express any opposition to the appointment of Mr. Trie?
Duncan: No one expressed opposition, but the relative strengths and weaknesses of each potential nominee or potential appointment were discussed, including the strengths and weaknesses of Charlie Trie.
Interrogatory: Did you tell anyone involved in the appointment process for the Bingaman Commission, including, but not limited to Steven C. Clemons, that Yah Lin "Charlie" Tries name came from high levels of the Administration?
Interrogatory: Did you tell anyone involved in the appointment process for the Bingaman Commission, including, but not limited to Steven C. Clemons that Mr. Trie was a "must appointment?"
However, faced with the conflict in the testimony between that of Steve Clemons and that of Duncan and Jones, the Committee believes the Clemons testimony is more clear and accurate. Clemons has detailed recall of the events in question, and had no vested interest in the outcome of the investigation. Clemons, like the Committee, had an interest in seeing why the appointment process for the Bingaman Commission was so distorted. Jones and Duncan, on the other hand, have a vested interest in protecting the Clinton Administration from embarrassment. Jones served in the Clinton Administration, and Duncan continues to serve in the Office of Presidential Personnel. In addition, when the testimony of Duncan and Jones is reviewed, both had frequent lapses in memory, and both provided evasive answers.
Senator Bingamans office was additionally dismayed by the fact that the Commission was being expanded to accommodate Charlie Trie and one other political appointee. Months earlier, Senator Bingaman had recommended that the Commission be expanded to accommodate qualified candidates, including major corporate CEOs, but Duncan rejected this suggestion out of hand. Now, Clemons found that Senator Bingamans suggestion was being followed, not to allow the appointment of Steven Ballmer or some other qualified individual, but to make room for Charlie Trie. At the very least, Senator Bingamans office hoped that the expansion of the Commission from 15 spots to "up to 20" would allow some of their original suggested candidates to be appointed. But, in the end, Duncan would not allow any of these candidates to go through.
After the failure of Steve Clemons attempt to derail the appointment of Charlie Trie, the White House moved forward with the appointment process. On November 9, 1995, Duncan drafted a decision memorandum for the Bingaman Commission which listed Yah Lin Trie as a "White House selection" for the Commission. Two weeks later, Duncan drafted another decision memorandum, which this time listed Trie as an "Ernie Green" selection for the Commission. In the final decision memorandum, dated December 12, 1995, Trie was listed as being sponsored for appointment by Ernie Green. In his testimony before the Committee, Duncan indicated that he had erroneously listed Trie as a White House selection on the initial draft of the decision memorandum, and that he later corrected the error. Green testified that after he had initially recommended Trie for a position in the administration, Charles Duncan called him and asked if he would be "a supporter of Tries candidacy." However, the fact that Trie was originally listed as a "White House selection" on the first White House document prepared about his selection supports the account of Steve Clemons, that Trie was a "must appointment" whose name had come "from the highest levels of the White House."
B. Tries Clearance to Serve on the Commission
As part of his appointment to the Bingaman Commission, Trie had to prepare a number of documents, including a financial disclosure form. The form required Trie to disclose, inter alia, "each asset or source of income . . . which generated over $200 in income during the reporting period." On this form, Trie indicated that he received a salary of $60,000 from San Kin Yip International Trading Corporation, and $37,500 from Daihatsu International Trading Corporation. He did not disclose on the form that he received hundreds of thousands of dollars from foreign sources, despite the fact that the form required such information to be disclosed. In addition, when Trie first turned in his form to USTR officials, he had failed to sign it. USTR and Commerce officials processing his appointment to the Commission repeatedly requested that he sign his form, and he did so only one day before the Commissions first meeting.
Even once Trie signed his financial disclosure form, questions remained regarding the nature of his business. In the Spring of 1996, ethics officials at the Commerce Department and USTR prepared conflict of interest waivers for the members of the Commission. These waivers provided the members of the Commission with the necessary legal protection in case they did have some kind of conflict of interest. Laura Sherman, an attorney at the USTR, prepared Tries waiver, stating that Tries business interests gave him a "disqualifying financial interest in the matter." However, Sherman recommended that the United States Trade Representative, Charlene Barshefsky, grant the waiver because Trie "possesse[d] special expertise vital to the work of the Commission and ha[d] substantial knowledge and/or experience regarding trade barriers restricting U.S. business access to Asian and Pacific markets."
However, Ambassador Barshefsky refused to sign the waiver, stating that she had concern that Tries companies were foreign. Thereafter, Sherman interviewed Trie about his business. Trie told her that both Daihatsu and San Kin Yip were U.S. companies. Laura Sherman has also testified that Trie told her "San Kin Yip was a joint venture with a Macao corporation that invests in the United States; that he provided advice on those investments." Based on these statements, Sherman concluded that Trie would not have a conflict of interest in serving on the Commission. She then submitted the waiver to Barshefsky. However, the waiver form for Trie was never signed. In press reports about the affair, USTR sources stated that it simply "fell through the cracks."
C. Tries Service on the Commission
The fears of Ambassador Barshefsky regarding Charlie Tries service on the Commission were well-founded. Trie used his position on the Commission to promote his business and political interests. At worst, Tries actions on the Commission presented an illegal conflict of interest. At best, they represent the serious harm that can result when unqualified, unsavory candidates are appointed to federal positions without adequate background checks.
1. Tries "Contributions" to Commission Meetings
Charlie Trie attended at least eight of the meetings of the Commission. These meetings largely consisted of high-level intellectual discussions between the various members of the Commission, many of whom had extensive academic or business experience with Asian trade. Charlie Trie did not speak very much at Commission meetings, and when he did, his comments often could not be deciphered by his colleagues. One of the Commission members remarked that Trie "sat there like a bump on a log" during the meetings, and believed that Tries poor command of English caused him to be too embarrassed to speak. Trie brought with him to many Commission meetings an employee named Chu Lei. Chu Lei would often speak at meetings on Tries behalf. One Commission member recalled that Chu Lei once made a "stupid, indecipherable" statement to the effect that the "Chinese really like Americans, and cannot understand why Americans are so harsh with regard to trade." Eventually, because of her frequent and strange comments at Commission meetings, the members asked the Chairman of the Commission, to bar Chu Lei from attending any more Commission meetings.
Trie also made several written submissions to the Commission. These documents further confirm the fact that Trie was unqualified to serve on the Commission. Trie made three separate submissions to the Commission: "Proposal of the U.S.-Asia Trading Partnership Program;" "Recommendations for what we can do in U.S.-Asia Trade Policy Formulation;" and "Some Recommendations Before the Asia Trip." These documents are rife with grammatical and typographical errors, and are almost impossible to understand. After witnessing Tries performance at Commission meetings and reviewing these documents, many Commission members thought it was strange that Trie was on the Commission, and even the USTR official in charge of the Commission concluded that "I believe that more qualified members could have been found to participate, but believe that Mr. Trie tried to be a useful participant."
However, a close examination of Tries contributions to Commission meetings show that he was not merely unqualified to participate. Such an examination reveals a great deal about Tries political loyalties, and indicates that he was apparently attempting to use his position on the Commission to promote strongly pro-China political views. One Commission member recalled that Trie and Chu Lei "grew agitated" when the Commission members were discussing China in a negative light. The Vice Chairman of the Commission stated that Trie was interested in promoting more friendly relations with China, and was "terribly concerned" regarding a possible confrontation between the United States and China over Taiwan. These sentiments are confirmed by Tries recorded statements in the transcripts of Commission meetings. In a June 12, 1996 meeting, Trie stated:
I feel this . . . human right [sic] issue, why we dont listen the other side people [sic], what kind of problems they have, what they judge about the U.S. . . . I feel why we dont find some way to work with them because potentially they will dominate whole Asia [sic]?
Later at that same Commission meeting, Trie remarked:
Why dont they have human rights? What problems do they have? How can we work out together [sic]? . . . Weve got a chance to do the business, but on the human rights . . . human rights issue is a long way to [sic] I dont know. Theres a different culture, different country.
These sentiments were echoed in Tries written submission to the Commission as well:
There are a lot of territories that we forget to pay attention to which might bring us advantages we need such as in India, Southeastern Peninsula. If we work harder with China (which is actually very friendly to us) and the underdevelopped [sic] nations, we will find alot [sic] of rooms [sic] there.
Beyond promoting China, Trie also used his appointment to the Commission to promote himself. He mentioned the fact that he served on the Commission to a number of individuals. Outside of the United States, and among less sophisticated individuals, where, perhaps, the role of the Bingaman Commission was not so well understood, Trie claimed that he served as an "advisor to the President." Trie was even listed on the official letterhead of one Hong Kong company in this capacity.
2. Tries Participation on the Commission Trip to Asia
Trie also used his position on the Commission to promote his personal business interests. The vetting process that Trie went through before his appointment was intended to prevent this type of gain, but as described earlier, the process was entirely inadequate. In a document he sent to the Executive Director of the Commission, Trie recommended that the Commission meet with "small and medium business owners who are the real contributors to Taiwan economics." In the same document, Trie also recommended that the Commission meet with Wang Jun, the Director of CITIC. Of course, at the same time, Trie and Ernie Green were trying to arrange business deals with Wang Jun and CITIC.
During the Commissions September 1996 trip, Tries behavior attracted the notice of many members of the Commission. One Commission member recalled that Trie had "lieutenants" in many different Asian cities, who would meet him whenever the group arrived. Another recalled that Trie introduced him to a governmental official in Beijing. Upon his arrival with the delegation in Hong Kong, Trie was picked up by a limousine. When the Commission met with James Riady in Jakarta, Trie made it clear that he was friends with Riady, and had known him since Riady had worked in Little Rock in the 1980s. In Beijing, Trie took many Commission members to a restaurant where Trie clearly had great influence, and where he was greeted by a group that came and seemingly "paid homage" to Trie. Another recalled that Trie traveled by chauffeur-driven limousine while in Beijing. By the end of the trip, the Commission members were "amazed by [Tries] ability to maneuver."
Shortly after the return of the Commission delegation to the United States, press stories broke regarding Tries questionable fundraising practices. Trie stopped attending Commission meetings, and sent a letter of apology to the Commission members. In his letter, Trie apologized for missing Commission meetings, and proclaimed his innocence:
However, I want to let you know and want you to have confidence in me that I did not do anything that is illegal to assist and to support the Democratic Party and President Clinton in the campaign activities. I actually felt proud of myself supporting President Clinton, who, as you might have the same feeling as I, is the real person wholeheartedly want to and able to [sic] lead peacefully not only the United States, but also the world to the 21st Century.
After stories about Tries illegal fundraising had come to light, many Commission members questioned whether Trie should remain a member of the Commission. The Chairman of the Commission, Ken Brody, and the USTR decided that since Trie was a presidential appointee, it was the White Houses decision whether to remove Trie as a member of the Commission. The President ended up leaving Charlie Trie on the Commission. Therefore, even after Charlie Trie had fled the country in January 1997, the Commission continued to fax him Commission documents at his Watergate apartment. The Commission staff faxed Trie drafts of the Commission report, and asked for his comments, even though they knew that he was embroiled in the fundraising controversy, and that he had fled the country. When the report was published in April 1997, Charlie Tries name was on the cover as an official member of the Commission.
V. TRIES 1996 ACTIVITIES
While Tries career as a DNC fundraiser and Washington insider was to come crashing to a halt by the end of 1996, for most of the year, Trie enjoyed unprecedented access to the White House. Trie brought his friends and business associates to at least six different White House events, ranging from tours to arrival ceremonies for heads of state. Trie himself visited the White House at least 11 times in 1996, visiting high-level White House officials such as Charles Duncan and Ben Johnson. Through his frequent contacts with these officials, Trie built up personal relationships with many of them. For example, Trie gave a Christmas gift to close Clinton advisor Mack McLarty, who wrote back to Trie thanking him, and including a handwritten acknowledgment in his letter.
Tries personal ties with White House and DNC officials also led him to host a number of parties at his Watergate apartment. A number of Administration and DNC officials have testified to attending multiple events at Tries apartment. At various times, Tries apartment served as a gathering place for: Mark Middleton; Ernie Green; Charles Duncan, Associate Director of Presidential Personnel; Jude Kearney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce; Ben Johnson, Special Assistant to the President; Lottie Shackelford, Vice-Chair of the DNC; David Mercer, Deputy Finance Director of the DNC; and Susan Lavine, DNC White House Liaison.
Charlie Trie was to capitalize on these ties throughout 1996. First, he brought Wang Jun, Chairman of the China International Trust and Investment Corporation ("CITIC"), a Chinese government-controlled conglomerate, to the White House to meet President Clinton at a February 6, 1996, White House coffee. Trie made the introduction at the same time that Wangs company was under investigation for smuggling illegal machine guns into the United States. Also in 1996, Trie raised large sums of money for the DNC. Trie was prominently involved in raising funds for at least three major DNC events. Most of the funds raised by Trie have been determined to be illegal.
A. The February 6, 1996, White House Coffee
On February 6, 1996, Charlie Trie accompanied Chinese executive Wang Jun to a fundraising coffee held in the White House. Several weeks after the coffee, a subsidiary of Wangs company called Poly Technologies was discovered smuggling illegal machine guns to Los Angeles street gangs. After learning late in 1996 who Wang was and which company he was affiliated with, President Clinton described Wangs presence at the coffee as "clearly inappropriate." However, it appears that Wangs attendance at the coffee was not a simple mistake, but rather, was the result of a carefully orchestrated plan of Charlie Trie. It also appears that Trie had the cooperation and assistance of Ernie Green, the DNC, and the Clinton White House in getting Wang into the coffee.
1. Background of Wang Jun
Wang Jun was known to American governmental officials before his appearance at the White House coffee. He had visited the United States, and he had also met with U.S. governmental officials in China. It appears that Wang had somehow developed a relationship with officials in the Department of Commerce, most notably, Melinda Yee and Jude Kearney. In 1995, during Secretary Browns October trade mission to China, Wang requested that he meet with Brown to discuss trade opportunities. Yee endorsed this request and forwarded it to Jude Kearney for action. It is unknown whether Wang gained an official audience with Ron Brown during the trade mission. However, at the end of the trade mission, Wang did meet with Brown in Hong Kong. Wang was invited to the October 18, 1995, dinner at the Hong Kong Shangri-La Hotel organized by Trie and Ng Lap Seng. Photographs of the event indicate that Wang was one of the approximately twenty foreign business leaders invited by Trie and Ng.
At the Shangri-La dinner, Wang was introduced to Ernie Green, and according to Green, the two had a "modest exchange." Green also claims that he collected the business cards of Wang and an associate of Wang, Wong Xu of the Shezhen Bao Hua Trading Corporation, a subsidiary of CITIC involved in international investment. Shortly after the Shangri-La dinner, Green wrote to both Wang and Wong, inviting them to come to the United States later that year. Green wrote "I enjoyed our discussions and feel there are many business opportunities we may pursue. If your schedule will allow, I would like to extend an invitation to you to visit the USA during the month of December." Wang, Wong, and an entourage of CITIC officials used Greens letters of invitation to apply for a visa to visit the United States on January 22, 1996.
2. Wang Juns Invitation to the Coffee
In January 1996, Charlie Trie began speaking to high-level DNC officials about arranging for Wangs attendance at a DNC coffee in the White House. Trie told David Mercer that he wanted to attend a DNC coffee, and bring Wang Jun with him as a guest. Mercer responded that his request to bring a guest was unusual, but requested Wangs biography so that the DNC and White House could process the request. Mercer passed Tries request on to Richard Sullivan. Sullivan recalls that Trie had expressed a strong desire to have Wang at the coffee, and mentioned his extensive fundraising activities for the DNC in the past, and his planned activities in connection with John Huangs February 19, 1996, fundraiser at the Hay Adams hotel. It appears that the DNC had several concerns about allowing Wangs attendance at the coffee. First, there was a DNC policy of not allowing donors to bring guests to White House coffees. Second, Richard Sullivan claims to have had concerns about the fact that Wang was a foreign national. Therefore, Sullivan asked Karen Hancox, Deputy Assistant to the President for Political Affairs, to conduct background research on Wang and CITIC. However, it is not clear whether Hancox did actually conduct any research regarding Wang before the coffee. Despite any concerns, the DNC and the White House allowed Wang to attend the coffee.
According to Ernie Green, in late January 1996, Green was informed by Charlie Trie that Wang Jun and his party would be coming to the United States. At this time, Green began making plans to entertain the group and introduce them to Lehman executives in Washington and New York City. He also requested that Trie provide him with biographical information for Wang and his party. While Green readily admits to planning for business meetings with Wang, he denies that he had any role in arranging for Wangs attendance at the February 6 coffee. However, the records and testimony received by this Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee indicate that Green did have a role in planning Wangs attendance at the coffee. First, Richard Sullivan, the DNC Finance Director, stated that:
I understood David Mercer telling Marvin Rosen and myself, it was in the context of something that was important to Ernie and Charlie . . . It was a mistake. I was its obviously a mistake. It was something, as I understood it, that was important that Ernie had this guy in town doing business. Ernie had been a longtime supporter and it was purely as a favor to Ernie.
In addition, it appears that when the DNC asked Charlie Trie to provide Wang Juns resume in order to check his background, it was provided by Ernie Green, not Charlie Trie. Green denies that he was involved in arranging Wangs attendance at the White House coffee, but is unable to explain why he faxed Wangs resume to the DNC.
3. Ernie Greens $50,000 Contribution
The final, and most significant way that Green appears to have been involved in providing for Wangs attendance at the coffee is by making a large contribution to the DNC. Attendance at White House coffees usually required a sizable contribution to the Democratic Party by the person attending the coffee. However, neither Wang nor Trie contributed to attend the coffee. It appears, though, that Ernie Green made a sizable contribution in this period of time. On February 6, 1996, the day of the coffee, Green made a contribution of $50,000 to the DNC. The check he gave was signed by his wife, Phyllis Caudle-Green. Green has testified that he gave the $50,000 check to David Mercer at a breakfast on the morning of February 6. Green also stated that he and his wife gave the contribution out of a long-standing feeling that they should give a large contribution to the DNC. Green adamantly denied that his $50,000 contribution was connected to Trie or Wang Jun.
However, David Mercer denies that he received the $50,000 check from Ernie Green. Mercer recalls that he received the check from Charlie Trie. Mercers testimony is supported by the DNC check tracking form for Greens contribution. The form shows that Mercer credited Charlie Trie with soliciting the Green contribution. In addition to recognizing Trie as the solicitor of the Green contribution, Mercer credited the contribution to the February 6 coffee. Mercers accreditation of the contribution to the coffee was reviewed by a number of DNC officials, including Marvin Rosen, Scott Pastrick, and Richard Sullivan. In light of this documentary evidence, it appears that Ernie Green not only helped arrange Wangs invitation to the White House coffee, but that he also may have made a $50,000 contribution to the DNC in connection with the coffee.
Records received by the Committee also indicate that in the two month period surrounding the time that Green contributed $50,000 to the DNC, Green deposited over $38,000 cash he cannot account for into his bank accounts, and separately received $11,500 from Charlie Trie in travelers checks and a wire transfer.
a. Ernie Greens Mysterious Cash Deposits
Starting in December 1995, Green began a highly unusual pattern of banking activity in which he made a number of trips to the bank to deposit large amounts of cash. Green cannot account for any of these transactions. On December 15, 1995, Green deposited $4,000 cash into his Nationsbank account. On January 23, 1996, Green deposited $2,000 cash at Nationsbank, and $700 into his account at the Riggs Bank. Three days later, Green made two trips to Nationsbank, depositing $300 and $1,000 cash. On February 9, Green made four separate trips to two different banks. He made three trips to Nationsbank, making cash deposits of $1,000, $3,000, and again $3,000. Then Green went to Riggs and deposited $1,000 cash. On February 21, Green made three trips to the bank, depositing $5,000 and then $3,000 cash at Nationsbank, and then $2,500 at Riggs Bank. On February 22, Green deposited $3,000 cash at Nationsbank. The following day, Green deposited $3,500 cash at Riggs Bank. On February 28, Green deposited $5,400 cash at Nationsbank. Greens cash deposits are laid out in the following chart:
Greens banking activity during the two month period raises a number of questions. First, the volume of cash deposits, over $38,000, raises questions regarding the source of the money. The Committee asked Green, and he could not recall the source of any of this $38,000. Green merely speculated that it could have come from speaking engagements before churches and schools which paid him in cash. However, when asked about each cash deposit individually, Green could not recall the source of any of the cash that he deposited into his bank accounts. Green denied that any of the money came from Trie or Tries associates. The second question raised by Greens activity is the unusual pattern of deposits. At several points during January and February of 1996, Green went to the bank multiple times in one day to deposit large amounts of cash. For example, on February 9, 1996, Green made four trips to the bank and deposited $8,000 cash. Also, in late February, Green went to the bank seven times in a one week period to deposit $24,400 cash. This pattern suggests that Green may have been attempting to conceal the size of his deposits, and possibly avoid Currency Transaction reporting requirements. In his deposition before the Committee, Green denied that he was aware of, or attempting to avoid these reporting requirements. The Committee invited Green to provide further information to the Committee explaining the source of the cash deposits, but thus far, he has not done so.
b. Ernie Green Received At Least $11,500 From Trie
During this same period of time, Green received at least $11,500 from Trie. First, Trie wired $9,500 to the company run by Green and his wife to sell the self-inflating novelty balloons, the Green/McKenzie Group. In January 1996, Trie visited the family of his sister, Manlin Foung, in California. While he was there, Trie deposited a $30,000 cashiers check into his sisters bank account at the Travis Federal Credit Union. Then, several days later, Trie withdrew $15,000 in cash. On January 19, Trie asked Foung to wire $9,500 of his remaining money to the Nationsbank account for the Green/McKenzie Group. Before the Committee acquired proof that Green/McKenzie had received money from Trie, Green adamantly denied that he had received money from Trie in connection with the pop-up balloon venture:
Question: Did Green McKenzie receive any funds from any of Mr. Tries companies that he was affiliated with, be it Capitol Hill [Enterprises], Daihatsu or San Kin Yip?
Green: No. Any are we speaking of direct investments?
Question: Did you or your wife receive personally any money from Mr. Trie or any of his companies with respect to the pop-up balloon venture?
Green: No, we did not.
However, in his second deposition, once he was shown evidence of a wire transfer for $9,500 to Green/McKenzie, Green admitted that Green/McKenzie did receive money from Charlie Trie for the pop-up balloon venture:
Question: Under that agreement, do you know how much money Green/McKenzie received from Mr. Trie?
Green: I think this incoming wire was $9,500, and that was the amount.
Question: And that was all the money that you ever received from Mr. Trie for the balloon project?
Green: That is correct.
On this point, like many others, Green has offered contradictory testimony. This time, Green contradicted his own sworn statement in his first deposition. Especially alarming is the fact that Green flatly denied receiving money from Trie for Green/McKenzie in his first deposition, and then recalled with great precision the transfer of money from Trie to Green/McKenzie in his second deposition. Green acknowledged receiving this money from Trie only after the Committee subpoenaed the bank records of Green/McKenzie.
On February 27, 1996, Green deposited $2,000 at Nationsbank. In his second deposition before the Committee, Green acknowledged that he received $2,000 in travelers checks from Trie and deposited them into his account:
Question: I would now like to show you Exhibit EG-16, which indicates that you made a cash deposit of $2,000 into Nationsbank, your account there, on February 27, 1996. Do you recall the form of that deposit, whether it was cash or travelers checks?
Green: I assume that this is a travelers check.
Question: . . . Charlie Trie gave you these travelers checks; is that correct?
Greens explanation for receiving this money was that he had won a $2,000 bet on a basketball game with Trie. However, Greens admission followed sworn testimony before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs wherein Green flatly denied ever receiving any money from Trie:
Question: Did you ever receive any money from Mr. Trie?
Green: No, I have not.
Remarkably, Green was able to recall every minute detail of his $2,000 bet with Charlie Trie, while at the same time entirely forgetting the source of any of the $38,000 in cash he deposited between December and February 1996. Greens selective memory on this point, as many others, suggests that his testimony before the Committee about why he received the $2,000 in travelers checks is not credible. Greens sworn statements, therefore, that he was never reimbursed for his $50,000 contribution to the DNC, similarly carry little weight.
4. Wang Juns Tour of Washington, D.C.
Wang entered the United States at San Francisco on February 1, 1996. It is unknown where Wang traveled between February 1 and 5. On February 5, Charlie Trie scheduled a reception for Wang and other CITIC officials at his Watergate apartment. Little is known about this event or who attended, other than the fact that Jude Kearney was scheduled to attend. Kearney denied that he had any knowledge of Wangs attendance at the coffee, and also denied that he even knew of any connection between Charlie Trie and Wang Jun:
Question: Are you aware of any relationship between Mr. Trie and CITIC?
Kearney: Only what I have read in the papers.
Despite the fact that Kearney testified that he was unaware of any relationship between Trie and CITIC, Kearney was scheduled to attend the CITIC reception at Tries apartment. Kearney claimed to have no recollection of the reception, including whether he attended.
The following day, February 6, Wang had three significant appointments. First, he met with Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. Wang and Brown had met earlier at least once at the Shangri-La dinner, and possibly during Browns 1995 trade mission to China. It is unknown how this meeting was arranged, or who specifically attended the meeting. Second, Wang met with Ernie Green and his Lehman Brothers associate at Greens offices. According to those present, several individuals attended the meeting, including Wang, his translator, Trie, and Ng Lap Seng. According to Green, the purpose of the meeting was to "reintroduce" CITIC to Lehman Brothers. According to Green, at the end of the meeting, Trie mentioned that he and Wang were going to a White House coffee. It was at this time, Green claims, that he first learned that Trie and Wang were going to the White House. After the Lehman Brothers meeting, Trie and Wang went to the White House coffee. White House photographs indicate that Trie and Wang had a number of photographs taken with the President. However, other guests present at the coffee have informed the Committee that neither Trie nor Wang spoke at all during the event. Following the coffee, Trie took the CITIC delegation to New York, where Ernie Green had arranged a meeting with other Lehman Brothers officials. Shortly after the coffee, Trie and Wang received autographed copies of the Presidents State of the Union address. Wangs copy read "[t]o Wang Jun, with appreciation, Bill Clinton."
It has been suggested in the press that Wang may have used his visit to the United States in February 1996 as an opportunity to thwart the ongoing probe of CITICs arms-smuggling activity. Shortly after Wangs Washington tour and appearance at the White House, word of the federal investigation into Poly Technologies was leaked to the press. This leak brought an early end to the sting operation run by the Customs Service. At the time of the leak, Customs officials were on the verge of arresting high-ranking Chinese officials for arms smuggling. After the leak, which came from "diplomatic sources," the Customs officials were left only with low-level criminals to arrest. The Committee continues to review these matters.
B. February 19, 1996 Fundraiser
After Wangs visit to the United States in February 1996, Trie focused on raising funds for the DNCs February 19, 1996 Asian-American fundraiser at the Hay-Adams Hotel. This event was the first major DNC event organized by John Huang, and Charlie Trie was a major part of Huangs fundraising plans for the event. However, a large part of the money that was raised for the event was raised from illegal sources.
At this event, Trie and Ng Lap Seng were rewarded with a seat at the head table, next to President Clinton. On the other side of the President sat Pauline Kanchanalak and Ted Sioeng. Of the four individuals who sat around the President at the event, two, Trie and Kanchanalak, have been indicted, and two, Ng and Sioeng, have fled the country. Of these four individuals, only Trie was even able to legally contribute at any time. The following day, the participants in the February 19 dinner were invited to a breakfast with Vice President Gore. Trie, Ng, Pan, and a number of other guests had breakfast, as well as a number of photographs with the Vice President.
1. Tries Conduit Contributions
Trie brought a number of guests to the event, and raised at least $230,000. Many of the contributions that Trie raised for the fundraiser were illegal.
a. Manlin Foung and Joseph Landon
In February 1996, Charlie Trie telephoned his sister, Manlin Foung, and requested that she and her friend, Joseph Landon, contribute $12,500 each to the DNC. Trie promised to reimburse both Foung and Landon fully. Foung and Landon agreed to contribute. On February 19, 1996, Foung and Landon each contributed $12,500 via personal checks to the DNC with the understanding that they would be reimbursed before their checks cleared their respective banks.
Bank records indicate that on February 22, 1996, Antonio Pan opened a savings account at the Amerasia Bank in Flushing, New York, with an initial deposit of $25,200 cash. Within minutes of the initial deposit, Pan withdrew $25,000 cash from the savings account and purchased five sequentially numbered $5,000 cashiers checks totaling $25,000 from Amerasia Bank. Three of the cashiers checks totaling $15,000 were made payable to Foung and two totaling $10,000 were made payable to Landon. Pan then sent these checks to Foung via overnight mail. On February 23, 1996, Foung and Landon deposited these checks in their accounts.
b. Ming Chen and Yue Fang Chu
On February 14, 1996, San Kin Yip Holdings Co. Ltd., a company controlled by Ng Lap Seng, wired $150,000 from the Bank of China, Hong Kong, to the joint account of Trie and Ng held at Riggs Bank, Washington, D.C. At the time of the transfer, the account balance was $10,459.55. The wire transfer was received only five days before the February 19 dinner. In the days following the wire transfer, four checks totaling $37,500 were issued by Tries employee Keshi Zhan from Trie and Ng=s joint account to individuals who subsequently contributed the same amount of money to the DNC. Zhan issued check number 382 dated February 19, 1996 to Ming Chen, an employee of Trie, in the amount of $12,500. Yue Fang Chu, an individual who shares an address and at least two joint bank accounts with Ming Chen, contributed $12,500 to the DNC the same day, February 19, 1996, from their joint account at Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union.
Check number 383 dated February 19, 1996, in the amount of $7,500 was also issued to Ming Chen. That same day, Yue F. Chu issued a check in the amount of $7,500 to the DNC from one of her joint bank accounts with Chen held at the Chevy Chase Bank of Chevy Chase, Maryland. Chu was credited with both the $12,500 and the $7,500 contributions on the Federal Election Commission records.
c. Zhengwei Cheng and Xiping Wang
Keshi Zhan issued check number 384 dated February 19, 1996, to Zhengwei Cheng in the amount of $5,000. Xiping Wang, an individual who shares an address and a checking account at the Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union with Zhengwei Cheng, contributed $5,000 to the DNC the same day, February 19, 1996, from that account. Xiping Wang was credited with the $5,000 contribution on the Federal Election Commission records.
d. Keshi Zhan
On February 9, 1996, Tries assistant Keshi Zhan issued a check to herself from the joint bank account of Trie and Ng in the amount of $12,500. She then wrote a check to the DNC in the amount of $12,500. Both the check from Trie to Zhan and the check from Zhan to the DNC are dated February 9, 1996. However, Zhan did not deposit the check from Trie into her checking account until February 26, 1996. Similarly, Mr. Zhans check to the DNC did not clear her account until February 26, 1996. Zhans conduit contribution allowed her to attend the February 19, 1996, dinner with President Clinton as well as the February 20, 1996 breakfast with Vice President Gore and have her photograph taken with both. Ms. Zhan invoked the Fifth Amendment in response to Congressional requests for cooperation. Zhan received immunity from the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. However, Committee staff were convinced that Zhan was not being truthful in her testimony, and accordingly terminated her deposition, and sealed it so that she could be prosecuted.
e. Lei Chu
Lei Chu, Tries advisor on the Bingaman Commission, attended the February 19, 1996 fundraiser at the Hay Adams Hotel with Charlie Trie. She also attended a breakfast with Vice President Gore the following day at the Hay Adams. More importantly, Lei Chu made what appears to be a conduit contribution to attend the event. On February 20, 1996, Chu established a checking account at the Citizens Bank of Washington with an initial cash deposit of $12,520.00. On that same day, Chu issued starter check number 90the first check ever written on that accountin the amount of $12,500 to the DNC in conjunction with the Hay Adams fund-raiser. That check cleared Chus account on February 26, 1996, and was the sole check written from that account during the period February 1996-July 1996.
f. J & M International
On February 22, 1996, Antonio Pan was introduced to Jack Ho, a New York businessman. This is the same day that Pan sent $25,000 in cashiers checks to Manlin Foung and Joseph Landon. At this meeting, Pan asked Ho to contribute $25,000 to the DNC, and assured Ho that he would be reimbursed for this contribution. Ho agreed, and Pan delivered to Ho 35 $1,000 Bank Central Asia travelers check totaling $35,000, all of which were purchased in Indonesia. Ho gave $10,000 cash over to Pan, and deposited the remainder in his bank account. Immediately after his deposit, Ho issued a check in the amount of $25,000 to the DNC in conjunction with the DNCs Asian Dinner fund-raiser at the Hay Adams Hotel, a fund-raiser that had been held three days prior. The fact that Trie and Pan received tens of thousands dollars in travelers checks from Indonesia raise questions about whether they received this money from the Lippo Group. As described earlier, both Trie and Pan had extensive ties with the Riadys dating to the 1980s.
2. Ernie Greens $6,000 Contribution
DNC documents indicate that Charlie Trie also solicited Ernie Green to give $6000 to the DNC in connection with this event. Green gave a contribution to the DNC on March 8, 1996, and DNC records credit Trie with soliciting this contribution, and credit the contribution itself to the February 19, 1996 dinner at the Hay-Adams. However, Green denies that it was solicited by Charlie Trie or had any connection to the February 19, 1996 dinner. Greens denials bear great similarity to his denials surrounding the February 6, 1996 White House coffee. Again, Green claims that his contribution was mistakenly credited to the wrong solicitor and the wrong event. Again, Greens denials are questionable. Not only do they appear to be contradicted by the documentary evidence regarding Greens contribution, but by Greens presence at the February 19, 1996 event.
Also of note, two days after the February 19 event, Green deposited $2,500 cash into his account at Riggs Bank. Two days later, he went back to Riggs and deposited another $3,500 in cash, making a total of $6,000 in cash deposits over the four days following the Hay Adams event. Green denies that he received this money from Charlie Trie or that he was reimbursed for his contribution. However, Green lacks any explanation for where he received the $6,000, or why he deposited it in two separate trips to the bank.
C. May 13, 1996 Event
In May 1996, Trie was centrally involved in another major DNC Asian-American fundraiser. Trie gave $10,000 for this event, and sat at the head table with President Clinton. Moreover, Trie raised over $330,000 for this event, almost all of it from Yogesh Gandhi. Shortly before the fundraiser, Gandhi had attempted to gain access to the Clinton White House to present the "Gandhi World Peace Award" to President Clinton. The White House staff rejected Gandhis offer, and decided not to admit him to the White House, in large part because of his questionable background. However, Trie told Gandhi that he could introduce him to the President, and give him the opportunity to present the Gandhi prize to the President. Trie asked Gandhi to give $325,000 to the DNC in exchange for the privilege of attending the meal and meeting the President. Gandhi was happy to oblige, in large part, because his contribution came not from his own money, but directly from Yoshio Tanaka, a Japanese industrialist. Gandhi had several tables at the May 13 event, and two members of his party sat at the head table with the President. One of these individuals, Teruyoshi Fukunaga was the head of a Japanese cult widely recognized as the source of widespread fraud in Japan. After the May 13 meal, Trie introduced Gandhi and his entourage to the President, and Gandhi presented the Gandhi Prize to the President.
It was during this event that the President recalled his long friendship with Trie:
Soon it will be twenty years that I had my first meal with Charlie Trie. Almost twenty years, huh? Twenty years in just a few months. At the time, neither of us could afford a ticket to this dinner, its fair to say.
However, at the time that Trie was raising massive funds for the DNC, and contributing $10,000 himself, Trie borrowed $5,000 from Mark Middleton for his personal use. He also was named in a complaint in District of Columbia court for failing to pay his rent. This contradictory evidence raises many questions regarding Tries finances, and helps confirms the fact that much of the money that Trie gave was not his own.
D. Tries Contributions to the Presidential Legal Expense Trust
Charlie Trie did not limit his illicit fundraising activities to his work on behalf of the DNC. Trie also raised substantial sums of money for the Presidential Legal Expense Trust ("PLET"). The PLET was established by the President and First Lady to cover their expenses related to the Whitewater and Paula Jones matters. While the PLET initially raised large amounts of money, by early 1996, its fundraising had slowed to a trickle. It was at this time that Charlie Trie decided to start raising money for the PLET. It is unknown why Trie began raising money for the PLET, or if anyone encouraged him to do so.
To raise money for the PLET, Trie sought the assistance of the Suma Ching Hai International Association, a Buddhist cult based in Taiwan. In March 1996, Trie met with the members of the Suma Ching Hai cult in New York City, and with the help of Suma Ching Hai, the leader of the cult, convinced many members to write checks to the PLET. All of them were reimbursed for their contributions by the cult.
Shortly thereafter, on March 21, 1996, Charlie Trie visited the offices of Michael Cardozo, the head of the PLET. Shortly after his meeting with Cardozo started, Trie opened a manila envelope stuffed with hundreds of small checks totaling $380,000. Cardozo developed an immediate suspicion of the money delivered by Trie, based on the manner of their delivery, the fact that many of the cashiers checks and money orders were sequentially numbered, and that there were misspellings on a number of the checks.
1. Taiwan Strait Letter
On March 21, 1996, after Trie delivered the checks to the PLET offices, he met with Mark Middleton and gave him a letter for delivery to the White House. The letter indicates that it was faxed first from "P.E.C. Co.," on March 20. The following day, after Middleton received it, he faxed it to the White House. The fact that the letter was faxed from "P.E.C. Co." the day before it was delivered by Trie to Middleton raises some question as to whether the letter was written by Trie or some other individual. However, one witness informed the Committee that Trie was "terribly concerned" over possible incidents between the United States and China over Taiwan. According to this witness, Trie spoke of having talked to "people in the White House and National Security Council about the danger of confronting China over Taiwan." Middleton faxed Tries letter to the White House, and on the cover page, informed the White House staff that "[a]s you likely know, Charlie is a personal friend of the President from L.R. He is also a major supporter. The President sat beside Charlie at the big Asian fundraiser several weeks ago. Thanks for your always good assistance."
The letter outlined a number of views regarding the Taiwan Strait crisis which was brewing at the time:
Regarding the current situation in the Taiwan Strait Crisis and also the U.S. aircraft carriers and cruisers involvement, I would like to propose some important points to you in order not to endanger the U.S. interest based on the followings [sic]:
1. Any negative outcomes of the U.S. decision in the China Issue will affect your administration position especially in this campaign year;
2. Why U.S. has to send the aircraft carriers and cruisers to give China a possible excuse of foreign intervention and hence launch a real war? And, if the U.S. recognized "one China" policy, dont [sic] such conduct will cause a conflict for "intervening Chinas internal affairs?" Therefore, wont the recent inconsistent talks by the captains and some governmental officials in the mass media cause problems for the U.S. policy of not [sic] interference of Chinas internal affairs?
7. Once the hard parties of the Chinese military inclined [sic] to grasp U.S. involvement as foreign intervention, is U.S. ready to face such challenge?
8. It is highly possible for China to launch real war, based on its past behavior in Sino-Vietnam War and Zhen Bao Tao war with Russia. . . .
Tries letter received a response from President Clinton just one month later. The response, in relevant part, stated that the U.S. action "was intended as a signal to both Taiwan and the PRC that the United States was concerned about maintaining stability in the Taiwan Strait region. It was not intended as a threat to the PRC." Tries letter and the Administrations response to it were handled by several high-level national security staffers, including National Security Advisor Anthony Lake and staffer Robert Suettinger.
Several aspects of this episode are not yet clear and are still under investigation. First, it is not clear who drafted the letter, and why they drafted it. However, it is clear that Tries status as a DNC supporter was helpful in having his letter read by top-level White House national security staff, and having it answered promptly.
2. Return of Tries PLET Contributions
After his receipt of Tries checks, Cardozo immediately launched an internal investigation of the funds. Cardozo also visited the White House to inform the President and First Lady, the beneficiaries of the trust, about the Trie contributions. On April 4, 1996, Cardozo met with Hillary Clinton and Harold Ickes, and informed them that a businessman named Charlie Trie had delivered $380,000 in contributions to the PLET:
I tried to get Mrs. Clinton to guess I said a substantial amount of money has been brought to the trust by someone who says he knows you. Would you like to try to guess who it is? And she said, well she tried. . . . And then I said, well, its someone from Arkansas. . . And then, you know, finally I told her. You know, she didnt drew a blank. I mean, she just did not recognize Charlie Tries name at all. And then after 30 seconds or a minute, she said Oh yeah, is he the guy that owns the Chinese restaurant near the Capitol?
During April 1996, private investigators hired by Cardozo investigated the contributions delivered by Trie to the PLET. On April 24, Trie returned to the PLET offices to contribute another $179,000 in checks from Suma Ching Hai devotees. By the end of the month, they had concluded that the contributions had been orchestrated by members of the Suma Ching Hai cult. Cardozo told the White House that he intended to return the Trie contributions at a meeting on May 9, 1996. This meeting was attended by high-level White House staffers including Bruce Lindsey, Harold Ickes, Cheryl Mills, and Maggie Williams. During this meeting, according to Cardozo, Bruce Lindsey stated that Trie was "involved with the Democratic Party."
However, no one in the White House took any action to stop Tries frequent visits to the White House or to warn the DNC about Tries troubling fundraising practices. Bruce Lindsey and Harold Ickes both had direct knowledge of Tries involvement in DNC fundraising activities. Both received a direct warning from Michael Cardozo about Tries fundraising activities on behalf of the PLET. Nevertheless, neither warned the DNC until the eve of the 1996 general election. In the interim, between May 9, 1996 and October 1996, Trie would raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the DNC, most of it illegal, and would visit the White House six times.
E. August 18, 1996 Fundraiser
On August 18, 1996, the DNC held a massive fundraiser in honor of President Clintons birthday. Charlie Trie and Ng Lap Seng attended this event, and Trie was also heavily involved in raising funds for the event as well. Trie raised at least $30,000 in conduit contributions for this event.
1. Manlin Foung
On or about August 15, 1996, Trie telephoned his sister, Manlin Foung, and requested that she contribute $10,000 to the DNC. Trie promised to reimburse her fully. On August 15, 1996, three days before President Clintons birthday party in New York City, Tries company, San Kin Yip, sent a $10,000 wire transfer to Manlin Foungs checking account at the Travis Federal Credit Union in Vacaville, California. On August 18, 1996, approximately one week later, Foung contributed $10,000 to the DNC Birthday Victory Fund from that same account.
2. David Wang and Daniel Wu
David Wang testified that on the morning of August 16, 1996, John Huang and Antonio Pan visited David Wang at his used car dealership in order to solicit a contribution to the DNC. Huang asked Wang if he knew of any friends who might like to contribute. Wang suggested Daniel Wu, a Taiwanese citizen who was living in Taiwan. Wang agreed to contribute $5,000 to the DNC and also agreed to contribute $5,000 in Wus name using Wus checking account. Huang or Pan then indicated that he might be able to reimburse both Wang and Wu for their contributions.
That same morning Wang and Wu each contributed $5,000 to the DNC totaling $10,000Wang contributed $5,000 from his personal checking account and $5,000 from Wus personal checking account over which Wang held power of attorney. DNC records indicate that the contributions were in conjunction with the DNCs birthday party fund-raiser held for President Clinton in New York City on August 18, 1996.
In the afternoon of August 16, 1996, Pan returned to Wangs car dealership unaccompanied by Huang and delivered $6,000 cash to Wang, $3,000 for Wang and $3,000 for Wu. Wang recorded the receipt of these funds in his personal journal. This delivery of cash by Pan partially reimbursed Wang and Wu. Wang deposited $3,000 into his personal checking account and $3,000 in Wus account. On August 20, 1996, Pan returned to Wangs car dealership unaccompanied by Huang and delivered $4,000 cash to Wang, $2,000 for Wang and $2,000 for Wu. Wang again recorded the receipt of these funds in his journal. Wang deposited $2,000 into his personal checking account and $2,000 in to Wus personal checking account. This delivery of cash by Pan completed the reimbursement of Wang and Wu. DNC records indicate that it received Wang and Wus contributions on August 20, 1996.
3. Kimmy Young
In August 1996, Antonio Pan solicited Kimmy Young, of Ohio, to contribute $10,000 to the DNC in connection with the Presidents birthday fundraiser. Young wrote a check for $10,000 to the DNC on August 16, 1996. Pan subsequently reimbursed Young in cash for her contribution.
Finally, in October 1996, shortly before the election, Harold Ickes warned the DNC about Charlie Trie. In mid-October, 1996, Thornberry called Ickes about her concerns regarding John Huangs fundraising activities. During that conversation, Ickes told Thornberry, "well, if youre concerned about Huang, you better look at Charlie Trie." While this warning represented the beginning of the end of Charlie Tries fundraising career, Trie would continue to visit the White House until mid-December. Trie visited the White House for a Christmas party in December 1996, and spoke with the President, apologizing to him for the embarrassment he had caused him. After his apology, Trie left the party. According to aide Bruce Lindsey, the President was saddened by Tries travails:
Question: And what was the Presidents reaction to that?
Lindsey: I think he felt sad, because I think, that Charlie Trie was sorry that he had caused the President the embarrassment; and the fact that he then left, you know, I think reflected on that, and I think he was sad about it.
Question: Was the President at all concerned that he was at the event or how he got there, given the situation at that time?
Lindsey: If he was, he didnt reflect that with me.
This report represents just one part of the story regarding Charlie Trie. While most of Tries actions are known, the motives behind them are not known. The full truth regarding Tries relationship with the Clinton White House will not be known until Trie cooperates with the Committee. Only then will the Committee know the reason he illegally gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the DNC, and solicited hundreds of thousands more in illegal contributions. Only then will it be known why the Clinton Administration appointed Trie to an Administration post, and gave him wide-ranging access to the White House.
The evidence collected by the Committee to date shows a disturbing pattern of conduct by the White House and the close associates of the President. This evidence demonstrates that political contributions were collected from Trie with little regard to their legality. It also demonstrates that the White House continued to allow the DNC to accept contributions from Trie, even though it knew that Trie was engaged in suspect fundraising practices with respect to the PLET. This evidence also shows that Trie received special treatment from the White House and DNC, culminating in an appointment to a Presidential commission, with little regard for Tries suspect background.
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