07/09/97 - 12:43 AM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Huang wants to tell truth, lawyer says

WASHINGTON - John Huang's lawyer says his client wants to describe his fund-raising activities "truthfully, to the best of his knowledge and recollection" to a Senate committee.

If that happens, Huang would be in a position to answer the most serious questions being asked by the Governmental Affairs Committee in its hearings on fund-raising abuses in the 1996 campaign.

Huang's lawyer, Ty Cobb, wrote to Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, offering Huang's testimony if he is granted partial immunity from prosecution. Committee Republicans are unlikely to agree, but if the request is granted, the former Democratic National Committee (DNC) fund-raiser would be asked:

If Huang "wants to give the committee full, complete and truthful information we are very much interested, but if he has hatched a plot to absolve himself while at the same time covering for his friends, we are not interested in that," said Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., the committee chairman.

Huang is so central to the committee's investigation that many of the witnesses it has summoned are being asked to testify about his activities. Witnesses include employees of the Lippo Bank in Los Angeles, where he was president, Commerce Department and DNC officials who worked with him and even the CIA agent who briefed Huang 37 times at Commerce.

Today, former DNC national finance director Richard Sullivan will testify about the circumstances surrounding Huang's hiring by the DNC.

Huang has insisted that he was not an agent for any foreign country. "I don't know if foreign governments have" given money, Huang said on June 15. "If there is money, I haven't seen it."

But until Tuesday, Huang said he would not testify without immunity. And Cobb's letter to Glenn noted that Huang wants to acknowledge any mistakes and "respond to the concededly legitimate questions which pertain to his conduct."

The portrait that has emerged of Huang, 52, is one of great ambition, deep connections in the Asian-American community and extraordinary access to the White House.

Huang visited the White House 94 times between 1992 and 1996 and saw Clinton 15 times.

Huang was born in China and grew up in Taiwan. He became a U.S. citizen in 1976. He met Mochtar Riady, head of Indonesia's Lippo Group, at a 1980 financial seminar in Little Rock. Then-Gov. Clinton was the featured speaker.

Huang worked for the Riady family in Arkansas, then moved to Los Angeles to run Lippo's bank in 1990. When Clinton ran for president in 1992, Huang raised money for him.

After the election, Huang wrote to the transition team saying he wanted a job. In 1993, Clinton named him deputy assistant secretary for international affairs at Commerce. Lippo gave him an $800,000 bonus when he left.

Huang received top-secret security clearance six months before he began his government job without a full security background check. Huang's Commerce phone records show he called Lippo Bank on three dates on which his calendars list meetings with the intelligence officer.

Senate investigators say testimony later in the hearings will prove that Huang left his Commerce office for weekly trips to the Washington office of Stephens Inc., an investment-banking firm based in Little Rock, to make phone calls and receive fax transmissions and express mail packages. The company's telephone records have been subpoenaed.

Last week, Rep. Gerald Solomon, R-N.Y., said House investigators have evidence that Huang passed classified information to the Lippo Group, which has substantial dealings with China.

"Mr. Riady, the head of Lippo Group, referred to Mr. Huang while he was at the Commerce Department as 'my man in the American government,' ", Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, said Tuesday.

In December 1995, Clinton recommended that Huang be given a job at the DNC. He ultimately collected $3.4 million. More than half will be returned by the DNC because of questions about its origin. While he worked at the DNC, Huang visited the Chinese embassy and Chinese ambassador's residence.

When Huang spoke last month to Taiwanese military veterans, he said Chinese-Americans "don't have the numbers" to wield much influence. "But we can participate by giving money," he said. "Money is the milk of politics."

By Judy Keen and Judi Hasson, USA TODAY



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