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Religious Leader Felt Sorry For Clinton

suma ching hai

By Brooks Jackson and John Gilmore/CNN

WASHINGTON (Jan. 9) -- A Taiwan-based religious leader who raised thousands of dollars for President Bill Clinton's legal defense fund says she felt sorry for the president.

In an interview with CNN, Suma Ching Hai, leader of a worldwide religious sect, talked at length for the first time about why she and her followers raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help pay Clinton's massive legal bills.

"I can help the homeless on the street with five thousand or hundred thousand dollars," Ching Hai said. "Why couldn't I help a president of the United States when he's in trouble? He's more poor than the homeless and he has only $200,000 a year. He earns less than I earn."(96K AIFF or WAV sound)


She says it was early last year in Taiwan when she got her first and only visit from Charlie Trie. Trie is an old friend of the president from Little Rock, Ark., and a political fund-raiser.

Ching Hai says Trie came to her seeking spiritual guidance. But they also discussed money and he also offered to set up a meeting with the president. "So he thinks I should meet Mr. Clinton," Ching Hai recalled. "So I say that's not the purpose of our work. We like to do it quietly."

She said other followers already had asked her if they should help the president. "And I say to them you are Americans; you have to do as American citizen should do. And if your president is good and you think by helping him you can help your country and help the world, then do it!"(128K AIFF or WAV sound)


"He's a man of peace and dignity," Ching Hai said. "I think he deserves the help of anyone who can help him. He's innocent, you know; he's not proven guilty."

Though Ching Hai denied Trie came looking for money, it was Trie who later delivered nearly $640,000 in manila envelopes to the Clinton legal trust, money the trust eventually rejected because of suspicious-looking checks and too many questions.

Ching Hai said she did not even know how much was raised until she read about it in the newspapers.

"I don't know why people make so much fuss," she said. "If we give him something and if the thing is not appropriate, the president does not accept it...all right, that suits me."

This story originally appeared on CNN's "Inside Politics."

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