Opinion, Inc. Editor Tom Fitton will offer political analysis during NET-Political NewsTalk Network's coverage of the Thompson Hearings. The hearings start up again on September 2. Be sure to tune in for the truth.
Brainwashed Clinton Donors
The fourth week of Senator Thompson Governmental Affairs Committee investigation into illegal and improper fundraising abuses during the 1996 election campaign will provide the grist for many an Opinion, Inc. piece. Focusing largely on the activities of Charlie Trie, the Little Rock Chinese restauranteur turned multi-million dollar Clinton donor, last week hearings exposed a motherlode of Clinton and Clintonite illegality.
We focus today on Trie's attempt to funnel at least $789,000 into Bill and Hillary Clinton's Presidential Legal Expense Trust. Testifying last week (July 30) was Michael H. Cardozo, the Trust's executive director.
This Trust, independent of Trie's contributions, is illegal in itself. Larry Klayman, of the legal watchdog group Judicial Watch, has noted that it is illegal for federal officials, including the president, to solicit or accept cash gifts. Klayman, who once served in the Justice Department, has also noted that the Clintons could have access to the Trust's funds for reasons other than legal expenses. Indeed, because the Trust has refused to make its financing and expenditures completely public, there is no way of knowing for what the monies collected are being used. (Larry Klayman, along with Opinion, Inc.'s Tom Fitton, has been providing commentary on the Senate proceedings on NET-Political NewsTalk Network.) The Justice Department's refusal to examine this issue is but one more example of Janet Reno giving a free pass to Clinton for in-your-face violations of federal law.
The mere existence of the Trust, an highly illegal way of the President of the United States to accept cash gifts for his personal use, is a significant legal issue that should have been the focus of the Senate inquiry.
In light of the failure of the Justice Department to tell Mr. Clinton that it is illegal to supplement his income in this way, it was especially disappointing to see the Senators on Thompson's committee accept the Trust as a legal entity. Not one senator questioned the legality of the Trust, an inexcusable dereliction of oversight duty. Is there anyone who will stand for the law in this city?
Keep the Trust's inherent illegality in mind as we dissect the additional criminality and impropriety associated with acceptance of foreign, laundered and forged contributions by the Trust.
On March 21, 1996, Trie visited Cardozo and presented poured about $460,000 in checks and money orders out of an envelope. Cardozo testified in a deposition that he had wished that the glass-enclosed office had had curtains. His instincts were right, since many of the contributions were obviously forged and laundered. Cardozo returned $70,000 outright to Trie because the checks and money orders did not meet the Trust's guidelines, such as no contributions over $1,000.
Cardozo warned Trie that the names and contributions would be made public and subject to press scrutiny. An interesting warning, for it indicates Cardozo immediately suspected that the contributions were simply more than kindhearted support for President Clinton. On the same day that the contributions were delivered by Trie, Cardozo was so concerned by this "unprecedented" event in the history of the Trust (the Trie contributions represented 40-60% of the total contributions raised by the Trust since its inception) that he called up some of his fellow trustees, who agreed with him that the contributions should be further investigated before they were accepted.
Cardozo deposited the remaining $380,000 in a lock box at NationsBank and met with Hillary Clinton, Harold Ickes, and other White House staffers five times over the next six months to discuss how to handle the contributions. The first meeting with Hillary occurred on April 4. Cardozo testified that Hillary need prompting to recall that Trie was a friend of Bill's from Little Rock. Hillary also told Cardozo to be "vigilant" about vetting the contributions.
As the Clintons faced $1.5 million in legal bills at the time, the $380,000 sitting in that lock box was a tempting gift for the Clinton gang. Despite almost immediately seeing that some of the checks and money orders were forged, the Trust continued to hold on to the contributions, eventually cashing the obviously forged checks, bank fraud be darned, and putting the funds in an interest-bearing account. Cardozo and Hillary had even discussed Watergate at that April 4 meeting, because "when people drop large sums of money off in a manilla envelope, you have to be very careful."
Memories of Watergate were on Cardozo's mind again when Trie showed up a second time on April 24 with a shopping bag laden down with $179,000 in additional contributions and inflatable advertising cushions. When Trie walked in with the "heavily-laden" shopping bag, Cardozo reported that he thought, "Oh my God, he's got another million dollars." Cardozo declined to accept the contributions, saying that he wouldn't accept anymore contributions from Trie until the first batch was found to be clean. Failing to understand that Cardozo smelled a rat, Trie tried unsuccessfully to push another $150,000 in contributions a month later. Though in Trie's defense -- if Cardozo and the Clintons were so concerned about the first batch of contributions, why did they cash the checks from the first batch of contributions?
Instead of immediately calling the FBI or other law enforcement authorities once they realized Trie's checks were forged, the trustees, the Clintons, and several White House staffers embarked on a criminal conspiracy to re-launder the money and to hide the contributions and their origin from public scrutiny. It turns out the money was raised among cult-followers of a self-styled god named Ching Hai and that at least $70,000 was directly funneled from the cult's Taiwan headquarters.
Cardozo repeatedly asserted that it was "principle, not politics" that guided his handling of the donations. But the record of an April 22, 1997 conference call makes it clear that China, MFN, and politics were on the minds of the "bipartisan group of prominent Americans" that served as the Clintons' trustees.
These trustees included Elliot Richardson, the attorney general who resigned from the Nixon Administration over the firing of special Watergate counsel Archibald Cox; Father Theodore Hesburgh, the former president of the University of Notre Dame; Ronald Olson, a prominent Los Angeles lawyer; Michael Sovern, former president of Columbia University; and Nicholas de B. Katzenbach, Attorney General during the Carter years.
What follows are excerpts from the trustees April 22 conference call about Trie's money:
Ron Olson: ...my strong suspicion would be that he [Trie] is the messenger but not the organizer, not the money behind it. Ah, my strong suspicion is that's somebody else probably someone in the California Asian community and I would think the Taiwanese would be very, very prominent in this...I think I would try to get beyond Mr. Trie...
Elliot Richardson:...I would think from a political point of view that we have a relatively desultory fund with only a trickle of money coming in and suddenly a big wave of Asian-American money comes in, in the wake of a number of fairly visible administration actions involving Asia in general and Taiwan in particular. What, if anything, could be made of those considerations? I would think from the President's point of view he might rather not have the money.
Ron Olson: That would be my guess as well Elliot, but isn't that really a judgement for the him and not for us?
Later in the conversation, Fr. Hesburgh devises a dishonest way to provide the President some protection from accepting the laundered contributions in the of the upcoming election:
Fr. Hesburgh:..It seems to me that with the political choice in the country and the upcoming election, it might be a good thing to have a letter from the President and his wife requesting us to look into this with all scrupulous care so that in the even that some blowup...
Michael Cardozo:..I think that's a good idea...
Fr. Hesburgh, rather than providing a moral center, advocates planting "orders" from the Clintons to cover their tracks in case these contributions "blowup."
The trustees decided in the end to cash the checks, but also hire a private investigator, Terry Lenzner, to investigate the funny cult money. But Lenzner was told specifically not to interview Trie, the bagman, for fear of offending a FOB (Friend of Bill).
Let's be clear here. As soon as those checks were cashed, a crime took place. One cannot knowingly accept checks or money orders that one has reason to believe are fraudulent. The trustees of the defense fund did this, with the "concurrence," as Cardozo put it, of the President and First Lady.
The Clinton gumshoe Lenzner's "preliminary" investigation, completed in May, 1997, found shocking information about Clinton's cult donor, Ching Hai. As we've commented upon before, Trie, in addition to funneling money to Clinton's DNC from a Chinese communist government adviser, is also a follower of the self-proclaimed "living Buddha" and "supreme master" Ching Hai. What's news is the corrupt nature of Ching Hai's practices, all uncovered by Clinton's investigator.
According to a source cited by the presidential investigator, "[Ching's] disciples are taught to meditate with blanket over their bodies....cult experts familiar with brainwashing techniques say the...point is to produce hyperventilation -- dizziness and lightheadedness -- so that followers feel 'high.' In such a state, disciples are highly suggestible."
So suggestible that some of Ching Hai's followers drink her bath water and "have sold all their possessions to finance her ministry." Instead of chanting the Buddha's name during meditation, as is traditional, "Ching Hai, who proclaims herself to be a 'living Buddha,' encourages her followers to chant her own name during meditation, tacitly persuading them to worship her."
Another cult expert familiar with Ching Hai's methods, Margaret Singer (a clinical psychologist at U.C. Berkeley), told Clinton investigators that she doubts that Ching Hai's followers contribute to causes voluntarily (emphasis theirs). "I would doubt that any contribution was truly voluntary," Singer said. "In these meetings, there is tremendous group pressure to conform and do what Ching Hai wants. A group leader will say, 'Master will bless us all, if we give money.'...people who do not contribute, are regarded as lesser beings at the bottom of the enlightenment pathway. The cult disperses enlightenment through the size of contribution."
A Ching Hai cult follower from New York described such a coercive fundraising event just a few days Trie showed up in Cardozo's office with an envelope chock full of checks and money orders.
Mr. Zhi Hai Dong testified on July 31 that he was ordered by Ching Hai to obtain $70,000 in money orders so as, according to Ching Hai, "to help President Clinton. He's in trouble and he needs defense money."
Dong, who compared Ching Hai to Jesus Christ, went on to describe a meeting at New York's Ritz Carlton with fellow cult members where Ching Hai "strongly" encouraged her followers to donate to the Clinton fund. Those who had no money or checks at the time simply borrowed the money orders. Dong was reimbursed later for these money orders by cult headquarters in Taiwan.
One cult member quit over the Ching Hai shakedown, writing in a letter to Dong that he was put off by her "fiery" demands to donate to the Clinton fund.
Once finding out that the donations to the defense fund were illegally forged and coerced from brainwashed cult followers, what did the Clinton gang do? Did they alert the authorities? Did they return the money and warn Charlie Trie never to set foot near Clinton, the White House, or the Trust again? No.
After consulting with White House staffers (illegal use of government resources) and the First Couple, the Trust returned the $380,000 and re-solicited the donors that they thought to be brainwashed and coerced. On June 26, the Trust sent out nearly 500 letters returning the donations, while noting that "this does not mean you cannot make a contribution if you meet the requirement described in the enclosed fact sheet. If you are eligible and wish to make a contribution, you should send your check or money order to the Trust at Presidential Legal Defense Trust, Department 70, Washington, DC 20055-0070."
The President or agents acting on his behalf are barred by federal law from soliciting gifts. The above quote sure seems like a solicitation to us. Despite concerns that these donors were victims of brainwashing, the Clintons went back and asked these donors to re-launder their contributions to cover the cult connection. Besides the bank and mail fraud felony violations, it was a horribly repugnant thing for the Clinton gang to do -- to shake down brainwashed cult donors.
The June 26 date is important, as it falls just four days before the twice yearly reporting deadline for the Trust. The June 30, 1996 Trust report omitted a line of information that read "less eligible receipts" that had been on previous Trust reports. By omitting that key line, the Clinton gang hid from public view the $380,000 that was returned to the cult donors.
The re-solicitation of the cult donors led to re-contributions from them over the next six months totaling about $122,000. The re-laundered cult money was only returned after a NBC reporter called the Trust with questions about the returned money in December. If it weren't for that one press phone call, and the likelihood that the cult money laundering scheme would be made public, the money would never have been returned and Clinton's cult connection could have been completely covered up. In deciding how to handle the return of the money, Cardozo admitted that he consulted with White House spokesman Mike McCurry and scandal disinformation specialist Lanny Davis.
And despite trying to launder nearly $800,000 into the Clintons' legal defense fund, Trie continued to have access to the White House -- including some personal time with Clinton in December, 1996, when Clinton and Trie discussed something of a "personal nature" during a White House Christmas party. Trie also raised an additional $400,000 for the DNC and engaged in correspondence with President Clinton about China policy and the deployment of U.S. ships to protect democratic Taiwan from communist Chinese military agression.
Unlike the DNC-related fundraising scandals, the Clintons' legal defense fund scandal goes right to the personal affairs of the First Couple. The laundered money and fraudulent checks went into the Clintons' personal account. It was Clinton-hired private investigator that verified the money laundering scheme. It was the Clintons' personal representatives who re-solicited cash from individuals they had reason to believe had been coerced and brainwashed into giving into the first place. And only under threat of press exposure were these funds finally returned.
Money laundering, bank fraud, mail and wire fraud, criminal conspiracy, obstruction of justice, misuse of government resources, etc. -- all for the personal benefit of Mr. and Mrs. Clinton.
Congressman Hyde, call your office. You have some impeaching to do.
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