Senators Call for Investigation of Questionable Campaign Donations to President Clinton

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NBC Today Show
Jodie Applegate/Tim Russert
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NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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President Bill Clinton denies campaign contributions from the 1996 presidential election affected any government decisions he made. NBC's Tim Russert discusses the controversy, which includes allegations that the Chinese government tried to use donations to influence the presidential and congressional races. After an investigation, several fundraisers including John Huang, Johnny Chung and Charlie Trie were convicted of various offenses.



"Senators Call for Investigation of Questionable Campaign Donations to President Clinton." Tim Russert, correspondent. NBC Today Show. NBCUniversal Media. 9 Mar. 1997. NBC Learn. Web. 18 January 2015.


Russert, T. (Reporter), & Applegate, J. (Anchor). (1997, March 9). Senators Call for Investigation of Questionable Campaign Donations to President Clinton. [Television series episode]. NBC Today Show. Retrieved from


"Senators Call for Investigation of Questionable Campaign Donations to President Clinton" NBC Today Show, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 03/09/1997. Accessed Sun Jan 18 2015 from NBC Learn:


Senators Call for Investigation of Questionable Campaign Donations to President Clinton


In Washington, pressure continues to build for an independent investigation into the campaign finance controversy. President Clinton has defended fund-raising practices during the 1996 campaign. Mr. Clinton said no laws were violated, but he called the whole system "out of whack," and he denied that contributions ever affected his decisions.

President BILL CLINTON: I learn things when I listen to people. But I can tell you this. I don't believe you can find any evidence of the fact that--that I had changed government policy solely because of a contribution. It's just that I don't think I should...

APPLEGATE: And joining us this morning, our Washington Bureau chief and moderator of "Meet The Press," Tim Russert.

Good morning, Tim.

TIM RUSSERT reporting:

Good morning, Jodi.

APPLEGATE: I want to talk about the President in a second, but first, let's talk about this story on the front of this morning's Washington Post about the Chinese government possibly trying to influence US Congressional elections. What's the most important thing about this story in your mind?

RUSSERT: That the Chinese apparently tried to influence both the Presidential and Congressional race, and it it may be an answer to some of the questions that have been posed down here, Jodi, over the last few weeks. Three and a half million dollars was returned by the Democratic National Committee to various donors because they didn't know exactly where the money came from. In fact, it may have come from the Chinese government. If that is the case, and our national security was breached, this indeed is a very serious crisis.

APPLEGATE: Is there any evidence that they were successful in influencing some of these campaigns?

RUSSERT: The key question is John Huang. He was a Commerce Department official who moved to the Democratic National Committee as a fundraiser. He took his top-secret securance with him. No one knows quite why. On day he that went to see the Chinese Ambassador, he checked out top-secret files from the Commerce Department. That may be a mere coincidence. It may be more ominous. But that is the singular most unanswered question.

Point two, Jodi, a fellow named Charlie Trie who gave $647,000 to the President's Legal Defense Fund, which was later deter--determined not to be honest money and was returned, he brought a Chinese gun dealer and ranking Chinese official into the White House. Federal officials now know--now want to know why were these people admitted to the White House? Where did this money come from?

APPLEGATE: At the President's press conference on Friday, he answered a lot of questions from reporters. Do you think he did a good job of addressing people's concerns?

RUSSERT: Well, I think his demeanor was very confident and very smooth, but I think the logic was tortured. It came down to, `We did nothing wrong, but we won't do it again.' And that really does beg the question, `Why was money accepted on the White House property? Why were fund-raising phone calls made from the White House? Why did Johnny Chung and Charlie Trie and John Huang--why were they admitted to the White House 50 and 60 times each?" A lot of unanswered questions still.

APPLEGATE: To a layperson, a lot of these things do seem to violate the Federal statutes against accepting contributions on White House grounds and so forth. Why has none of this met Janet Reno's threshold for the appointment of an independent counsel?

RUSSERT: That is a very good question, and is now beyond laypeople. You have a whole variety of Democratic and Republican Senators all calling for an independent counsel. The threshold is, is there enough credible information? Many people believe so--that, in fact, there is. The New York Times today has a full-page editorial saying, "Now Is The Time." Most people in Washington, and even at White House, Jodi, now believe it's inevitable that there will be an independent counsel appointed.

APPLEGATE: All right. Tim Russert. Thank you very much for that, Tim.