07/10/97 - 01:41 AM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Ex-DNC official: White House urged Huang hire

WASHINGTON - The Democratic National Committee came under intense pressure from the White House to hire the man who's at the center of the political fund-raising scandal, a former DNC official said Wednesday on the second day of Senate hearings.

And President Clinton said Wednesday that he "may have said to someone" that the former Commerce Department official, John Huang, wanted to work at the DNC.

Republicans said Clinton called DNC finance chairman Marvin Rosen on Nov. 8, 1995. Huang was hired the next month.

Huang, who focused on Asian-Americans, ended up raising $3.4 million for the DNC. Half will be returned because it may have come from illegal foreign sources.

Former DNC finance director Richard Sullivan was the first witness before the Governmental Affairs Committee. He said the DNC had misgivings about hiring Huang despite the urging of Clinton and other administration officials.

The Justice Department said Wednesday that it opposes Huang's request for partial immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying.

The panel could immunize Huang anyway. Committee lawyers will discuss it with Huang's lawyer on Friday.

Sullivan also testified:

He was "never - I emphasize never - confronted" during Huang's DNC tenure with evidence of "willful misconduct, foreign government influence, sale of office."

The 103 coffees for political donors at the White House before last year's election were "not fund-raisers" even though $27 million was collected from those who attended.

Vice President Gore didn't know that a Buddhist temple event where monks and nuns donated was a fund-raiser.

Sullivan, who was quizzed for four hours, returns to the stand Thursday. Republicans plan to ask about new evidence of fund-raising calls by Clinton and Gore.

By Judy Keen and Judi Hasson, USA TODAY