09/17/97 - 11:42 PM ET - Click reload often for latest version
WASHINGTON - A former national security aideWednesday disputed testimony of the former Democratic Party chairman and told senators that an Energy Department official invoked President Clinton's name in seeking to pressure her to help a donor.
Former National Security Council aide Sheila Heslin detailed in Senate hearings her conversations with then-DNC Chairman Donald L. Fowler and energy official Jack Carter concerning oil man and donor Roger Tamraz.
Heslin testifed that Fowler called her on Dec. 19, 1995, to tell her that a CIA official named Bob would forward a report clearing the name of Tamraz, who was seeking a White House meeting.
Fowler told senators last week that he couldn't recall contacting any CIA official to get help persuading the NSC to drop its opposition to White House visits by Tamraz.
Heslin said Fowler called her and said "'Bob of the CIA will be sending you a report on Roger Tamraz so you will understand about his background and won't have any concerns about him going into the White House.'"
"He clearly knew who the individual (Bob) was, he knew his last name," Heslin said.
The testimony came a day after Attorney General Janet Reno shook up the Justice Department's campaign fund-raising probe by replacing the lead prosecutor and top FBI agent.
Heslin said that Bob called her three or four times between June and October of 1995 to lobby her to drop the NSC's opposition to Tamraz visits.
She said the phone calls "can only be described as lobbying" on behalf of Tamraz, who was a longtime CIA informant but no longer had a relationship with the agency by 1995.
Heslin also said an Energy Department official later pressured her to drop her opposition to Tamraz's visits, saying top presidential aide Thomas F. McLarty Jr. had "really liked his proposal" for an oil pipeline across Turkey.
Energy Department official Jack Carter told her that "Mack McLarty really liked him and wanted him to have a meeting with the president," Heslin said.
Carter told her that such a meeting "would mean a lot of money for the DNC," because Tamraz had already had given $200,000 to Democrats and would give an additional $400,000 if he could meet President Clinton to discuss the pipeline, she said.
Heslin quoted Carter as telling her McLarty said "the president wanted him to do this. I told him I don't believe him."
Carter grew very angry. "He told me not to be such a Girl Scout," Heslin said.
"I never had a conversation with Jack like that because he is a gentleman and he was not very gentlemanly in that talk," Heslin said. "It was a very aggressive conversation, one which I wish I never had."
McLarty issued a statement to the committee saying Clinton "did not ask me to support Mr. Tamraz's project or to direct others in the administration to do it."
McLarty said he never directed the Energy Department to review the plan "or give it a 'second look.' I requested only information."
Heslin has notes of her conversation with Carter, who denies pressuring the NSC official but acknowledges mentioning the donation figures, said Senate aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The NSC had recommended against allowing Tamraz into the White House because his background contained "significant financial and ethical troubles." Tamraz is wanted in Lebanon on a decade-old embezzlement charge, which he denies.
Despite NSC opposition, Tamraz visited the White House frequently in 1995 and 1996 while he was giving $300,000 to the Democratic National Committee and state parties.
McLarty and Clinton met Tamraz at an April 1, 1996, White House coffee at which the oil man briefly mentioned his pipeline proposal. The president instructed McLarty to follow up. McLarty met with Tamraz four days later and reported in a note to Clinton that he "had a good visit" with Tamraz, aides said.
McLarty asked Assistant Energy Secretary Kyle Simpson for information about the pipeline proposal. Simpson, who denies identifying Tamraz as having made a big DNC donation, passed the assignment to Carter, aides said.
At the Justice Department, Reno announced in a brief statement that she was appointing a new head of the task force on campaign fund raising to replace Laura Ingersoll. A senior FBI executive was being assigned to be the task force's new lead FBI investigator.
Reno ordered the shakeup because she was "not satisfied with the pace of the investigation," said one Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The attorney general was angry that the task force had not thoroughly investigated fund-raising calls made by Vice President Al Gore and that she "had to read the Gore stuff in the newspapers," the official said.
The new prosecutor is Charles La Bella , a veteran white-collar prosecutor who was the top assistant U.S. attorney in San Diego. Reno said she and FBI Director Louis Freeh would assign more prosecutors and agents to the case.
By The Associated Press
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