Sometimes two or three times a week, John Huang crossed the street from his Commerce Department office to make calls and pick up faxes at an investment firm with ties to his former Indonesian employer, senators were told Thursday.
The testimony by a former secretary at the Washington office of Stephens Inc. brought a torrent of questions from senators about why Huang made frequent use of a spare office at the investment firm. But explanations were elusive.
Republicans trying to determine whether the former government official and Democratic Party fund-raiser was a spy tried to put a sinister cast on Huang’s visits. Democrats said the evidence proved nothing.
“These visits I find very curious, but I can’t conclude much more,” said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.
Huang’s activities as a Commerce Department deputy assistant secretary and later as a fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee are a major focus of the fund-raising hearings by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
Among the questions is whether he passed sensitive economic data to his former employer, the Lippo Group, an Indonesian-based conglomerate with extensive dealings in China. Huang denies that he did so.
Paula V. Greene, a soft-spoken former secretary for Stephens Inc., described Huang’s use of a back room office to make calls but offered no explanation for the purpose of his frequent visits.
Huang had unrestricted use of the telephone, copier and fax machine in the spare office when he stopped by “sometimes two, three times a week, perhaps not every week,” she said. But Greene said she did not know whom he called or whether Huang transmitted any faxes.
Ms. Greene said she was instructed by her boss Vernon Weaver to speak directly to Huang at the Commerce Department if there was a fax or an express-mail package for him to pick up.
But “if he was not there, I was just to leave a message to just call me,” Ms. Greene said.
A registered lobbyist, Weaver was unable to recall details of Huang’s visits to the Stephens Inc. office when he was questioned under oath by Senate investigators for a deposition, said a committee source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Compounding the mystery of Huang, who is refusing to testify without a limited grant of immunity, was the presentation of evidence of more than 400 telephone calls that he made to Lippo and some of its business representatives during the 18 months he was at Commerce.