07/30/97 - 08:27 PM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Asian businessman visited White House 10 times

WASHINGTON - Documents withheld from Senate investigators until this week show an Asian businessman who wired close to $1 million to Democratic fund raiser Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie visited the White House 10 times.

The documents disclosed Wednesday at Senate fund-raising hearings showed that Ng Lap Seng, a Macao businessman, once dined with President Clinton.

Another time he toured the White House along with a controversial Chinese arms dealer. He also visited five times with a top deputy to Mack McLarty, former White House chief of staff and currently a presidential adviser.

An angry Sen. Fred Thompson, chairman of the Senate committee investigating fund-raising abuses, chided presidential aides for belatedly providing the information. "We are not going to tolerate that," Thompson said.

The information was surrendered Tuesday night - after the committee presented evidence that Ng, also known as Mr. Wu, cabled Trie nearly $1 million.

Investigators allege Trie used the money to make more than $200,000 in Democratic donations or to reimburse donors.

The White House has been "trying to manipulate the press and us about waiting until testimony had happened before relevant documents would be produced," Thompson charged.

White House Counsel Charles F.C. Ruff denied foot dragging. "The timing of our production had absolutely nothing to do with politics or tactics," Ruff insisted.

He said committee investigators never indicated that records of Ng's visits were a high priority.

The records were disclosed as the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee heard testimony from the head of Clinton's legal defense fund about how Trie raised suspicions by delivering $640,000 in donations in manila envelopes and shopping bags to the fund last year.

The money ultimately was returned after the fund hired an investigative firm and discovered the funds had come from a Buddhist cult that Trie was involved with.

Michael Cardozo, the lawyer in charge of the defense fund, won accolades for his effort to return the suspicious money. But he left senators wondering when he acknowledged he instructed the investigative firm who traced the money not to interview Trie, a friend of the president.

"Mr. Trie represented himself as a friend of the president," Cardozo said. "I didn't want to launch a full-scale background investigation on him."

"Charlie Trie was not relevant to our considerations" in deciding whether the trust would accept the checks from members of the Ching Hai Buddhist sect, he said. "Mr. Trie appeared to be the messenger."

Ng's visits disclosed Wednesday included:

After Middleton left the president's staff, he made frequent visits to the White House, entertaining business associates in the basement staff dining room. One occasion was lunch with Ng and Trie, White House spokesman Lanny Davis said. He said the three were cleared into the White House by an aide to Maggie Williams, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's chief of staff.