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web posted March 20, 2000

Chat with John Ashcroft on Yahoo!

On Monday, March 20, 2000 at 4:15pm CST Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri will be taking your questions live on Yahoo! Chat.

Please make sure to log in and ask John about his work for Missouri values in the U.S. Senate at: http://chat.yahoo.com/c/events/info/2000/03/20/032000ashcroft.html

Gorbachev endorses Congressional Gold Medal for Ronald Reagan

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is supporting a move by lawmakers to award a Congressional Gold Medal to former President Ronald Reagan, who once referred to the Soviet Union as an "evil empire."

"The award of the Gold Medal of the U.S. Congress to Ronald Reagan is a fitting tribute," Gorbachev wrote in a letter released March 15. "Together with Ronald Reagan, we took the first, most important steps to end the Cold War and start real nuclear disarmament."

Gorbachev said Reagan engaged him in an "honest and respectful dialogue" from their first meeting in Geneva, and that their "human rapport" continued after both men had left government.

The letter was released before the House Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, which held a hearing on a bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nevada) to honor the former president and first lady, Nancy Reagan, with a Congressional Gold medal.

The bill praises the Reagans "for their distinguished records of public service and dedication to promoting national pride and bettering the quality of life in the United States and around the world."

A panel of longtime Reagan aides and friends also testified before the committee on March 15, including former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and Jean Kirkpatrick, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

About 125 people from all walks of life have received the Congressional Gold Medal since itÊwas first awarded in 1776, including former Presidents George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant, the Wright Brothers and Winston Churchill

Recently authorized Congressional medals include those for Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Frank Sinatra, and Rosa Parks.

Awarding the honor to the former president would be especially timely, as he recently celebrated his 89th birthday and suffers from Alzheimers' disease.

Independent Counsel: No 'substantial and credible' evidence of Clinton involvement in 'Filegate'

There is "no substantial and credible evidence" that President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton sought confidential Federal Bureau of Investigation background checks of former GOP White House personnel, according to a report filed on March 16 by Whitewater Independent Counsel Robert Ray's office.

In a statement, Ray's office said that no substantial and credible exists to implicate any other senior White House official in the FBI background files controversy that came to be known as "Filegate," and that no prosecutions would be pursued. It also said prosecution was not warranted after an investigation into whether former White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum testified falsely to Congress on the matter in 1996.

The report, first of several expected final reports to be submitted to the federal three-judge panel that oversees the counsel's operations, focuses on the "Filegate" controversy that swept over the Clinton White House.

The report was filed under seal and its contents may not be released for some weeks or months -- at least until many of those named in the document have had time to peruse the sections in which they are mentioned, and then file a statement that will be added to the report as an appendix prior to its public release.

According to a spokeswoman for Ray's office, the court could then choose to release that portion of the full Whitewater report, or wait until all portions have been submitted and run through the same process.

The president himself will have 30 days after he leaves office in January 2001 to respond to the report, according to Clinton attorney David Kendall.

"It will be up to the court to decide whether to hold on to (the Filegate portion) until they have everything, or even not release it at all," Independent Counsel spokeswoman Neille Russell said Wednesday.

"Filegate" grabbed the attention of official Washington in when it was revealed that a White House security officials had managed to acquire some 900 FBI files -- including those of several prominent Republicans who served in the Bush and Reagan administrations.

The files reportedly spent a significant amount of time at the White House security office, and foes of the Clinton Administration accused both the president and the first lady of ordering the acquisition of the documents for political purposes.

House Republicans launched an extensive probe prior to the 1996 election, which was spearheaded by the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, then chaired by former Rep. William Clinger (R-Pennsylvania).

Clinger and committee Republicans accused the Clinton Administration of taking vital information from the files and entering it into a political enemies computer database. The first lady was linked to the hiring of Craig Livingstone, one of the security officials involved in the files acquisition, with many reports circulating at the time that Livingstone's appointment was a priority for her.

Mrs. Clinton signed a sworn statement in July of 1999 that said she never ordered anyone to request any files from the FBI, nor did she order any background checks on any operatives from the previous administrations.

She also said she had nothing to do with Livingstone's hiring in the White House security office.

The Government Reform and Oversight Committee's report, released in the autumn of 1996, reached similar conclusions, though it blasted the Clinton White House for its "cavalier approach" to security. Livingstone resigned his post soon after the scandal broke.

The release of the report is just the tip of the iceberg for Ray, who signed on last fall to finish Starr's work.

In coming months, Ray's office will release reports on Mrs. Clinton's alleged role in the firing of several White House Travel Office employees, the Clinton's Arkansas Whitewater land dealings, and the long-awaited final report on the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Ray is actively investigating whether to pursue indictments against Clinton when he leaves office for his role in the Lewinsky case, as well as the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.

Those indictments could cover whether Clinton urged Lewinsky to lie about their relationship in her affidavit statement taken during court consideration of the Jones case.

Clinton was acquitted by the full Senate at the beginning of 1999, after the House impeached him for lying under oath about his relationship with the former intern while giving his sworn deposition in the Jones case.

Pro-independence party candidate voted Taiwan's president

Undeterred by China's threats of war, Taiwan voters on March 18 elected pro-independence party candidate Chen Shui-bian as their new president, ending more than half a century of Nationalist rule.

"The trend cannot be reversed. Chen Shui-bian has been elected," Yu Ming-hsien, director of the Central Election Commission, told reporters.

"This is Taiwan's step toward democracy and reform. Our dream will come true soon," Chen said after the election. He said he will work for a government that includes all parties and for "peace and security in the Taiwan state."

Chen's vice president will be Annette Lu, a pioneering feminist and former political prisoner who was a specialist in international affairs as a member of the legislature.

Tens of thousands of jubilant supporters gathered at Chen's campaign headquarters in central Taipei, setting off firecrackers and honking horns.

China, which has threatened to invade if Taiwan declares independence and has issued threats aimed at Chen's Democratic Progressive Party, said in a statement issued by state-run news media, that it will wait to see what Chen says and does.

Without mentioning Chen by name or betraying the fact his victory was the outcome Beijing feared most, China's cabinet said: "Taiwan's local leadership election and its results cannot change the fact that Taiwan is a part of China's territory."

"We are listening to the words and watching the actions of Taiwan's new leader and waiting expectantly to see which direction he will take cross-Straits relations," the statement by the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, carried by Xinhua news agency, said.

U.S. President Bill Clinton congratulated Chen and said the election "clearly demonstrates the strength and vitality of Taiwan's democracy." The same one he brush aside in a speech in China one year ago.

Clinton called it a "fresh opportunity for both sides to reach out and resolve their differences." He added the United States will stick with its one-China policy and conduct "close, unofficial ties with Taiwan" through the American Institute in Taipei.

Until now, Taiwan voters had been wary about letting Chen's 13-year-old party take control of state affairs because the party's platform calls for formal independence from China -- a step that Beijing says will lead to war.

Chen was coy about Taiwanese independence. In response to a reporter's question about the issue, he said, "In the beginning of my election speech, I said the results of the election of the 10th president and vice president of the Republic of China have been announced."

He was referring to the official name of the Nationalist government in exile, which retreated to Taiwan in 1949 after the Nationalists were routed by the communists in a civil war. "As the 10th president of the Republic of China, I insist that Taiwan's sovereignty should be eternally guaranteed."

In the days just before the vote, Chen soft-pedaled the independence issue, saying he did not plan a referendum on a separate state and that he would not change Taiwan's flag or constitution.

Nationalist candidate Lien Chan conceded defeat. With his head bowed and speaking in hushed tones, Lien apologized to supporters, saying "I've let down everybody's high hopes. I feel very sorry."

Independent candidate James Soong, who split from the Nationalists, conceded defeat earlier.

The final official tally showed Chen with 4.9 million votes, Soong with 4.6 million and Lien with 2.9 million.

Almost 83 percent of Taiwan's 15.46 million voters cast ballots to replace Lee Teng-hui, 77, who steps down in May after 12 years as president. The vote was Taiwan's second direct presidential election.

As Taiwan's Central Election Commission officials counted the ballots, China's nearly 2.5-million-member army stood on "high alert" pending final results. Meanwhile, Taiwan's military pledged to back the new president, regardless of which candidate won.

"On behalf of the armed forces, I hereby pledge to the would- be commander-in-chief that the armed forces will be loyal, make sacrifices and contributions and defend the national security of the Republic of China," Chief of Staff Tang Yao- ming said.

The people of Taiwan lined up under slightly overcast skies to vote, amid a new warning from Beijing against electing a pro-independence candidate.

Chinese newspaper Wei Wei Po reported that China's People's Liberation Army stood on "high alert" and "ready to deal with the existing situation."

"If Chen Shui-bian takes the seat, turbulence is inevitable," Wei Wei Po said. "It will increase the likelihood of our using force to solve the Taiwan question."

The newspaper report was the latest salvo from Beijing in a week of repeated threats, and rising tensions, that appeared to be aimed at intimidating Taiwan ahead of the vote. While some mainland newspapers reiterated China's warnings on the day of the vote, other media did not mention the poll.

Earlier in the week, China threatened to use force against the island, possibly within hours, if it elected a pro- independence candidate. On March 15, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji said that Beijing would never allow Taiwan to declare independence, and that the Chinese were willing to "shed blood" to prevent Taiwan's secession from the mainland.

China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province that must be reunified with the mainland, threatened last month in a policy white paper to attack Taiwan if it tried to drag its feet indefinitely over reunification negotiations. China had previously said it would attack the island if it declared independence, or if outside forces meddled in its affairs.

The initial results indicated Taiwan voters were refusing to buckle under Beijing's pressure, and were again thumbing their noses at the mainland. Voters ignored Beijing's rhetoric during the island's first direct presidential poll in 1996, even though China conducted war games off its coast, which led the United States to send forces into the region.

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