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web posted July 31, 2000

Clinton says he was unaware of $1 million campaign pledge allegedly made by Riady

U.S. President Bill Clinton has told federal investigators he did not recall a purported $1 million pledge to his 1992 presidential campaign said to have been made by Indonesian businessman James Riady during a limousine ride, according to testimony released by the White House late the night of July 24.

White House aides said that the 155-page transcript and exhibits from Clinton's four-hour, April 21 meeting with members of the Justice Department's Campaign Finance Task Force were made available to the public "so people not so friendly couldn't pick and choose what they wanted to release."

The Justice Department task force -- which also questioned Vice President Al Gore about alleged campaign finance abuses during the 1996 presidential campaign -- was looking into whether Riady, a foreign national, illegally funneled overseas donations into Clinton's 1992 campaign coffers.

According to an FBI report released last year, Democratic fund-raiser John Huang, a Riady employee, testified that Riady rode in a limousine with Clinton and told the then-Arkansas governor that he would like to raise $1 million for his Democratic presidential bid.

"I can't remember any specific thing. I know that I saw him sometime in '92 after I became the (Democratic presidential) nominee and I know he said he was going to help us," Clinton said during the April 21 interview. "If he said he was going to give us $1 million, which he might have done, I just don't remember it."

Huang said that in the weeks following the alleged meeting, employees of Riady's Indonesian conglomerate the Lippo Group donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democratic Party. He said he assumed the donors had been reimbursed by Riady, as he had been.

Clinton also denied taking Riady into the White House Situation Room in 1993. According to investigators, Riady used such anecdotes to give government ministers in Indonesia the impression that his family "had a direct pipeline to the Oval Office."

"I don't think I've ever taken anybody to the Situation Room," the president said. "I think that's highly unlikely."

Clinton acknowledged friendly relationships with James Riady and his father Mochtar Riady dating back to his days as Arkansas governor, but said they never asked for inappropriate favors and that he was not personally aware of any inappropriate fund-raising.

Clinton also said that he supported the Democratic National Committee's hiring of Huang as a fund-raiser when Huang worked at the Commerce Department, but said his recollection was vague as to whether party officials protested the idea, or exactly how Huang was given a major party fund-raising post.

Clinton, who made few references to Gore during the lengthy testimony, was also questioned about fund-raising efforts during the 1996 campaign, most notably his role in hosting a series of White House "coffees" allegedly aimed at attracting Democratic donors.

During his testimony, Gore hinted that the events were Clinton's idea, not his. "If he said that, I wouldn't disagree with that," Clinton told investigators.

He defended the coffees as an innocent activity, saying they were designed as issues-oriented meetings rather than fund-raising events.

"And I still do some of them, but mostly in the late afternoon, unrelated to the (Democratic National Committee)," Clinton said. "I liked them and they were easy on me."

Clinton also said he was not concerned about foreign nationals attending these events because he firmly believed that all guests were being screened by the Democratic National Committee.

"Maybe I should have been concerned, but I wasn't. I just thought that they would be vetted properly and that somebody was taking care of it," he said.

In his testimony, the president also denied ever asking Riady or anyone else to offer financial assistance to former Assistant Attorney General Webster Hubbell after his longtime Arkansas confidant resigned from the Justice Department to deal with the Whitewater investigation by the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.

The task force questioned him about a vacation he and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton took at Camp David, Maryland, during the July 4th holiday in 1993, approximately a week after Hubbell purportedly accepted $100,000 from a Riady entity. Clinton denied that Hubbell ever mentioned anything about working for Riady.

"The only thing I remember about that vacation was that I took a long walk with him (Hubbell) and I asked him if he was in trouble," Clinton said. "And he said no, he was having a billing dispute with a law firm and he would resolve it. That's the searing memory I have about that."

He hotly denied telling Riady of concerns about payments to Hubbell because Hubbell might end up as a witness in the Starr investigation. Such a conversation "would have made Mr. Starr happy," he said.

"Web Hubbell was persistently persecuted by the independent counsel because he would not lie about me or Hillary," Clinton said. "I never worried about what Web Hubbell would say. If he wanted to say something bad about me, he'd have to make it up."

Canadian conservative leader finally seeks seat

After nearly two years of dithering, the leader of Canada's Progressive Conservative Party, Joe Clark, announced on July 25 that he would seek election to Parliament.

Two decades ago, Clark served as prime minister, back when the Conservatives were one of the country's two top parties. But the party has subsequently slid to fifth place in the polls and Clark's electoral prospects have been so dim that he has declined repeated opportunities to run in the 20 months since regaining the helm of the party.

"The focus of debate in the next several months will be the House of Commons. I want to be there,'' the native Albertan told a news conference in the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia, where he plans to run.

Scott Brison, a Conservative member of Parliament from Nova Scotia, resigned his seat to force the by-election.

Clark is desperate to counter the appeal of a younger Stockwell Day, the newly elected leader of the upstart and right-wing Canadian Alliance party, which has been running well ahead of the Conservatives in the polls.

A split in the right-wing vote between the Alliance and the Conservatives has helped Prime Minister Jean Chretien's Liberals to win a majority in the last two elections -- in 1997 the Liberals had only 38 percent of the popular vote.

Within nine days of winning the leadership this month, Day announced he would seek a parliamentary seat in British Columbia.

But Clark declined to run there or in a by-election in May in Newfoundland, in a traditionally Conservative district, and he passed up five other opportunities in Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan in 1999.

He had challenged Day to a face-off in a Calgary district, but Day's chances were not rock-solid there, and the current Alliance member of Parliament there did not resign to allow for the contest.

Clark said he would position his party as a "modern, moderate, inclusive, national force.'' The party generally takes more liberal positions on social issues like abortion and homosexuality than the Alliance.

Clark constantly plays up the idea that his party is national, even though it has only one seat west of Quebec. All but four of the Conservatives' 17 seats are in Atlantic Canada. The western-based Alliance, which also espouses a national outlook, holds no seats east of Manitoba.

The date has not been set for either Clark's or Day's race, but Clark said Chretien assured him the day before he would call an election for those seats as quickly as possible.

Chretien is widely expected to call a general election in the first half of 2001, though he is entitled to wait until mid-2002, five years after his re-election to a second term.

Bush chooses Cheney as running mate

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, in his first public appearance with former defense secretary and newly minted running mate Dick Cheney, said July 25 that the completion of the Republican ticket provided the party with "an outstanding individual capable of serving as president of the United States."

"I believe you are looking at the next vice president of the United States," Bush said as he and Cheney appeared side by side. "The person most qualified to be the vice president has been working by my side," Bush said of Cheney, who helmed Bush's vice presidential search committee.

"I am proud to announce that Dick Cheney, a man of great integrity and sound judgement, is my choice to be the next vice president of the United States," a beaming Bush said.

Cheney agreed to Bush's offer to run for the vice presidency earlier that day, then flew from Dallas to Austin to meet up with the governor.

The full GOP presidential ticket for the 2000 election year was introduced at a rally in the Texas state capital, Austin. The event, held at a University of Texas meeting hall, was designed as a boisterous kick-off to a dual campaign that will got underway in earnest the next day, with an appearance by both in Wyoming.

According to campaign sources, Bush placed his call to Cheney at 6:22 a.m. EDT, and Cheney quickly responded that he would accept the Texas governor's invitation. Bush then began a series of telephone calls to those one-time vice presidential possibilities said to be on his so-called short list, with Sens. Bill Frist of Tennessee and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska confirming to reporters early on in the day that they had received courtesy calls.

Cheney emerged as the front-runner for the position quite suddenly on June 21, when it was learned that he changed his voter registration from Dallas, where he has served as CEO of the oil field services firm Halliburton Co., back to Wyoming -- which would eliminate a constitutional barrier to his serving as vice president.

Under the Constitution, one party's candidates for the nation's two highest offices may not reside in the same state.

The 59-year-old Cheney served as a Wyoming congressman and chief of staff to President Gerald Ford before becoming defense secretary to former President George Bush in 1989. He led the Defense Department during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, and had a collegial reputation among Republicans and Democrats alike in the House, as well as a solidly conservative voting record.

Clintons cleared in Filegate scandal

A report released July 28 revealed that the key figure in the FBI files controversy admitted lying to Congress and to a federal grand jury, but could not be prosecuted because he was granted immunity by former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.

A special federal appeals court issued the final report on the activities of Anthony Marceca, an Army detailee who as a temporary White House employee collected hundreds of FBI background files in 1993-94 based on an outdated Secret Service list.

Many of the files were those of ex-White House pass-holders from the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

When Marceca's actions were discovered in 1996, Republican critics alleged that the Clinton White House was waging a campaign to gather dirt on political enemies, a scandal dubbed "Filegate."

As Ray's predecessor, Starr began the Filegate investigation in 1996, looking into why Livingstone and his aide Anthony Marceca sought the confidential FBI background files of top Republicans, some of whom no longer worked at the White House.

Independent Counsel Robert Ray closed out his investigation of the FBI files issue in March without prosecuting anyone, concluding that none of the sensitive material had been misused.

The report concluded that certain White House personnel, including Security Chief Craig Livingstone, behaved inappropriately, but there is no evidence to back up claims that Hillary Rodham Clinton or the president ordered the acquisition of 900 FBI files on prominent Republicans in 1993 and 1994. Filegate was uncovered during the investigation of another Clinton administration scandal, "Travelgate," which investigated the firing of White House Travel Office employees.

The Clintons were cleared in that scandal in June.

But the final report released by the court reveals that under Starr's grant of immunity, Marceca admitted last September "that he had knowingly testified falsely" to a grand jury and twice to the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee in 1996 shortly after the controversy erupted.

In response to the report, Marceca's lawyers attributed "inconsistencies" in their client's statements primarily to "confusion" between Marceca and his interrogators concerning "the purport of the questions.

In his immunized testimony, Marceca admitted that in the midst of his gathering of FBI files, he realized that he was collecting data on some people who were no longer at the White House and didn't have passes anymore.

He also lied by telling congressional investigators in 1996 that "he didn't waste time" reading some of the background reports.

Marceca admitted testifying falsely in 1996 by having told Congress and a grand jury that it didn't occur to him that some people on the Secret Service list he was using were no longer pass-holders, according to Ray's final report.

Marceca testified that his superior, White House security director Craig Livingstone, "told him to review the reports for derogatory information that might reflect on suitability for White House employment," said the final report.

In his immunized testimony, Marceca said he reported derogatory information to Livingstone just three times.

Noting that Marceca's immunized testimony "could never be used to prosecute him," Ray's report stated that the "central issue" for the independent counsel was whether "Mr. Marceca's conduct reflected a conspiracy within the White House to compile derogatory information from confidential FBI background reports."

Ray said the independent counsel's probe did fingerprint testing and took testimony from a range of witnesses. That plus the immunity grant to Marceca led "to the independent counsel's conclusion that no senior White House official" or first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton "engaged in any criminal conduct related to Mr. Marceca's requests for FBI background reports," the final report stated.

Ray said the FBI lab examined bureau files for fingerprints of Marceca, Livingstone, then-White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum and associate White House counsel William Kennedy.

"The FBI's reports reflected that four fingerprints were developed on Secretary Baker's report folder, all of which belonged to Mr. Marceca," said Ray's report. Five fingerprints identified as those of a colleague of Marceca were on Scowcroft's report, the report said.

"Otherwise, there were no fingerprint matches with senior White House staff or Mrs. Clinton," it said. "No conspiracy existed."

The conclusion that the Clintons are free of blame will no doubt be met with much resistance from groups such as Judicial Watch, which has accused the OIC of conducting an "incomplete" investigation.

Gary Aldrich, former FBI agent and author of Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House, also believes that Hillary hired Livingstone, he told the Washington Times. In his book, Aldrich wrote that Livingstone was "clearly unqualified" for the security post, "traveled on Air Force One with the first family" and was "selected by the first lady and the president to handle arrangements for Vince Foster's funeral."

Ray also released a report clearing Nussbaum of allegations that he lied to Congress about his involvement in Filegate and Travelgate.

GOP committee completes work on party platform

The GOP platform committee began work July 28 on the document that will offer little surprises in the party's stand on such issues as abortion, taxes, limited government and defense. While the committee was seeking to incorporate Bush's "compassionate conservatism" optimism, the platform will be more a document of the party than a reflection of Bush's specific views.

The draft does not compromise the party's stand against abortion and against gays in the military. It calls for a withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the required six months notice if Russia does not agree to change it to permit a "robust" national defense system.

It states that the "central values of our party and our country" dictate a reduced role for government, more personal liberty, "economic freedom," reliance on the market and decentralized decision-making.

The draft does depart from the 1996 platform in several key areas — particularly in proposing a stronger federal role in education and the environment than Republican policy has favored in the past.

While the draft does not propose dramatic departures in a GOP environmental policy, it scales back criticism of the Endangered Species Act, celebrates advances in wetlands restoration and air and water quality, and states, "there should be a strong federal role in environmental protection."

It also favors cooperation with private interests and an emphasis on state regulation over mandates from Washington.

In a section platform committee leaders have highlighted as an example of Bush's "compassionate conservatism," the draft supports large increases in spending on behalf of women's health and medical research.

"We will promote a health care system that supports, not supplants, the private sector," the draft says.

In another significant departure, the draft drops language that opposed giving social services to illegal immigrants. The draft also modifies Republican support for making English the nation's "official language." The new platform supports English as "our common language," encouraging "respect for other languages and cultures throughout our society."

Though the draft also eliminated the 1996 call to shut down six federal departments — the current document does not recommend closing any particular government agency or department — it maintains the traditional Republican ideal that less government is best.

In 1996, the GOP platform frequently and aggressively attacked president Clinton, but the 2000 document mentions Clinton and Democratic candidate Al Gore only once or twice, casually.

"We want to be uplifting," Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, chairman of the platform committee, said. "We want to be visionary and progressive."

But the platform yields no ground to abortion rights, asserting as in the past that "the unborn child has a right to life which cannot be infringed," and proposing to ban abortion through a constitutional amendment and legislation.

It is a point that departs sharply from Bush's views that abortion be permitted in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman. These exceptions are not cited in the platform, and the party's position — as well as Bush's decision not to challenge the party's social conservatives on the issue — is expected to be a flashpoint for debate in the election.

With the exception of abortion, the draft is compatible with Bush's policies on deep tax cuts, partial privatization of Social Security and other major areas.

Platform committee members received the draft late July 27 for what is expected to be only minor fine tuning. The full Republican National Convention will ratify the platform this week.

Castro lashes out at American policies

Standing below a huge statue of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, President Fidel Castro said July 29 that the U.S. trade embargo and other American policies aimed at Cuba have only strengthened his socialist revolution.

"The revolution will not be destroyed, not by force nor by seduction," Castro told more than 200 000 people who came to commemorate the start of the revolution that brought him to power on New Year's Day 1959.

The sprawling crowd gathered around the monument dedicated to revolutionary hero Guevara in this central city. Participants, many of them wearing T-shirts bearing Guevara's image, waved tiny red, white and blue flags of stiff paper during the ceremony.

Just the day before, workers finished rehabilitation work on the main plaza here, which features a towering bronze statue of Guevara. The remains of the Argentine-born physician who fought in Cuba's revolution are entombed in a mausoleum behind the statue.

Among the foreign dignitaries in attendance was Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, a former California governor who the week before visited Oakland's sister city, Santiago, Cuba.

The speech was the second of three major national events to commemorate the anniversary of the July 26, 1953, attack by Castro and his followers on an army barracks.

The attack launched the Cuban Revolution against the dictatorship of then-President Fulgencio Batista. Although the attackers were all either killed or jailed, the movement later regained strength and triumphed in 1959 after Batista fled the country.

The first of this year's events, a march on July 26, drew a crowd in Havana that the government estimated at more than 1 million. Castro, wearing his olive green uniform and white athletic shoes, led the 31/2-mile march along Havana's Malecon coastal highway to the U.S. Interests Section, the American mission.

The latest string of large gatherings are part of a national campaign to keep up the pressure on the United States to change its policies toward Cuba in the wake of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez's return to the communist island a month ago.

Earlier in the week, marchers protested the 38-year old U.S. trade embargo. "Down with the blockade! Long live the homeland!" they chanted.

Usually, just one city is chosen for the anniversary celebration, which virtually always includes a major message from Castro. Last year, however, the southern coastal city of Cienfuegos and the northern coastal city of Matanzas shared the honor.

This evidently is the first year three cities have been chosen. The third event will be a gathering in the eastern city of Pinar del Rio on August 5.

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