10/15/97 - 01:05 AM ET - Click reload often for latest version
WASHINGTON - The White House on Tuesday night turned over to investigators video and audio tapes of more than 100 fund-raising events, including some of the most controversial contacts President Clinton had with donors during his first term.
According to individuals familiar with the tapes, they include footage of a February 1996 Asian-American fund-raising dinner at which investigators allege foreign money was laundered, a June 1996 luncheon with a campaign consultant convicted in the Teamsters controversy and a 1994 event inside the White House involving a controversial Thai business consultant.
In one piece of footage, Clinton can be seen praising controversial fund-raiser John Huang, who raised about half of the $3 million that the Democratic Party has returned because of suspicions about its origins.
"I have known John Huang for a very long time, at least as young as we are. And when he told me that this was going to come off, I doubted him. But I should have known, he has never told me anything that didn't happen," the president says at July 1996 fund-raiser at a hotel. The tape was obtained by ABC's Nightline and aired Tuesday night.
In another aired by Nightline, Clinton can be seen in June 1996 giving a tour of the White House Blue Room to a group of donors that includes Martin Davis, a political consultant convicted in the Teamsters election controversy.
In a third piece of footage, obtained by The Associated Press, a Democratic Party leader can be seen thanking donors as Clinton sits by at another event outside the White House.
"Your personal and political support is important," the official says.
In all, the White House turned over about 50 video tapes and 108 audio tapes Tuesday night covering about 120 to 130 Democratic fund-raising events in Clinton's first term, according to individuals familiar with the tapes and who spoke only on condition of anonymity.
More than a dozen additional tapes covering another 30 fund-raisers were expected to be released Wednesday.
Dozens of hours of video footage were on the tapes, and it was expected to take Republican investigators days to go through them. Before their release, however, President Clinton told reporters in Latin America he did not expect the tapes to contain any damaging evidence.
The production of the videotapes, the second this month, was spurred by the belated discovery that the White House had videotaped donor coffees with the president before the last election.
The discovery angered investigators in Congress and the Justice Department, who had subpoenaed such records months earlier as part of their far-reaching investigation into fund-raising abuses in the 1996 election. The White House has blamed a bureaucratic blunder for failing to find the tapes earlier.
The first tapes turned over 10 days ago showed Clinton mingling with donors at 44 coffees held inside the White House with donors.
The new tapes are mostly of fund-raising events outside the White House from 1993 through the end of 1996 - at hotels, ballrooms and other traditional fund-raising settings.
But they also that Clinton wasted little time before using the White House to aid Democrats. One of the first events listed on the roster of newly surrendered tapes was a March 15, 1993 breakfast for Democrats in the state dining room at the White House, individuals familiar with the tapes said.
A handful of other donor events at the White House also are covered by the videos, according to sources who estimated they numbered about 25. Among them was an Oct. 6, 1994 meeting with the U.S.-Thai Business Council, a group associated with controversial donor and consultant Pauline Kanchanalak.
The Democratic Party returned more than $200,000 in donations from Kanchanalak last year, claiming the money came improperly from a relative. Since then, investigators have probed whether some of Kanchanalak's donations were tied to efforts to gain her access to the White House, which she visited 26 times while Clinton was president.
Among the other White House events on the tapes are an August 1994 health care breakfast - one of about 10 such events the president has acknowledged hosting to help generate support for the Democratic Party fund used to pay for ads supporting his health care policy.
Last week, the White House admitted it had charged taxpayers for the fund-raising breakfasts, and it belatedly got the party to send a reimbursement check to the Treasury.
But the vast majority of the events covered on the new tapes occurred in one of the most traditional of fund-raising settings - a hotel ballroom.
Among those most likely to garner attention from investigators in the coming days is a Feb. 19, 1996 Asian-American fund-raising dinner at the Hay-Adams hotel in Washington.
Investigators have introduced evidence indicating several contributors to that event, which involved controversial fund-raiser Charlie Trie, were reimbursed shortly afterwards. Federal law prohibits disguising donations in the name of others. Investigators introduced bank records recently suggesting Trie may have used funds from foreign sources for the reimbursements
Huang and Kanchanalak have declined to assist the investigation, citing their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination; Trie has left the country.
By The Associated Press
Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.