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Four key figures in fund-raising controversy refuse to cooperate

February 12, 1997 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Three former Clinton administration appointees and a fund-raiser have refused to cooperate with a House investigation into Democratic fund-raising irregularities, prompting formal subpoenas.

Disgraced Justice Department official Webster Hubbell, Arkansas restaurateur Charles Yah Lin Trie, ex-White House aide Mark Middleton and former Commerce Department appointee John Huang declined to produce documents requested by congressional investigators, a House committee announced.

The disclosure comes just two weeks after President Clinton announced he had ordered all aides to cooperate with congressional inquiries into the growing fund-raising controversy.

The chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee expressed dismay at the decision, and promised subpoenas to compel them to produce the documents.

``I am disappointed that these individuals, some of whom were high-ranking Clinton administration officials, have declined to cooperate with the committee,″ Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., said.

``The president has pledged full cooperation in this matter, and I would hope that the president’s appointees and friends would honor this commitment,″ he said.

Hubbell, the former associate attorney general and a golfing buddy of the president, on Wednesday finished a prison term he was serving on Whitewater-related charges and spent his first day of freedom in two years at his home.

In recent weeks, he has come under increased scrutiny for payments he received from the Indonesian-based Lippo Group after he stepped down from his Justice Department job and before he pleaded guilty to the charges.

Congressional investigators want to know whether the money in any way affected Hubbell’s cooperation with Whitewater prosecutors, who have been frustrated by his inability to recall key events.

Hubbell has refused to say how much he was paid or what he did for Lippo, whose top officials were large donors and fund-raisers for the Democrats.

Huang, former head of Lippo’s U.S. operations, worked for 18 months in a top political job at the Commerce Department before leaving there in 1996 to raise money for the Democratic Party.

He emerged as one of the earliest figures in the fund-raising controversy after hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations he collected were returned by the Democratic National Committee because of suspicions they came from prohibited foreign sources.

Huang has broadly denied wrongdoing. But the Commerce Department recently asked its internal watchdog to investigate his conduct there. Congressional investigators want to know whether Huang did anything in his government job to assist Lippo.

Their interest was prompted by revelations he had numerous contacts with his former employee, including some around the time he had received classified intelligence briefings on Asia, where Lippo’s primary operations are located.

Trie, a longtime friend of Clinton, operated a restaurant in Arkansas that Clinton used to frequent and began an international consulting firm after the president took office in Washington.

He has come under scrutiny following disclosures that he:

_Helped arrange for a Chinese arms dealer with ties to the Communist regime and whose company was accused of smuggling guns into the United States to meet with Clinton at a White House coffee.

_Delivered $640,000 in contributions to the president’s legal defense fund last spring, all of which was returned because of concerns about the source of some of the money.

Middleton, who used to work for Clinton adviser Mack McLarty at an Arkansas utility, worked at the White House for the first two years of Clinton’s presidency before beginning his own consulting business.

After leaving the administration, Middleton returned to the White House 65 more times. He used a private White House restaurant and may have brought clients there, presidential aides have said.