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‘Key Witnesses’ Balk At Aiding Fund-Raising Probe Three Are Former Members Of The Clinton Administration

New York Times

Three former members of the Clinton administration and a Democratic Party fund-raiser have refused to cooperate with a House investigation into improper money-raising for the party, a congressional committee chairman disclosed Wednesday.

The chairman, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., who heads the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, said Wednesday night that he was disappointed at the responses of the four “key witnesses,” and that subpoenas would shortly be served on them.

The four are Webster Hubbell, a former associate attorney general; John Huang, a former Commerce Department official and fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee; Mark Middleton, a former aide to President Clinton; and Charles Yah Lin Trie, a former member of the Finance Board of the committee.

The committee has been investigating some of the contributions made to the committee in the 1996 campaign and the activities of prominent Democratic Party fund-raisers and administration officials in connection with the contributions.

The party has had to return more than a million dollars in donations, either because the source of the money could not be determined or was believed to be a foreign entity prohibited from making donations under the law.

“I am disappointed that these individuals, some of whom were high-ranking Clinton administration officials, have declined to cooperate with the committee,” Burton said Wednesday.

A spokesman for the committee, Mike Donohue, described the chairman as “somewhat surprised” as well as disappointed.

Donohue acknowledged that the four were within their rights to decline the requests for information, as they did in letters from their lawyers over the last few weeks. The four are being investigated by the Justice Department for possible criminal wrongdoing. In addition, a Senate committee is expected to issue dozens of subpoenas in its investigation into fund-raising.

Lawyers for the four have sent letters to the committee over the last few weeks declining to cooperate, Donohue said.

John Keeney Jr., the lawyer for Huang, told the panel that his client was frustrated by his inability, for now, to cooperate and thus correct “the multiple inaccuracies which have infested press accounts.”

Reid Weingarten, counsel for Trie, said he hoped his client would be able to cooperate “once Mr. Trie’s status in light of the criminal investigation is clarified.”

And John Nields Jr., Hubbell’s lawyer, hinted at Hubbell’s bitterness at having been accused of perjury for “alleged minor inconsistencies” in his earlier testimony before a Senate inquiry into the Whitewater affair, involving Arkansas investments by the Clintons.

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