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Republicans Seek Immunity For 18 Funds Witnesses

Justice has a few objections, and Senate minority leader hints Democrats may not cooperate

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 11) -- Despite Justice Department objections, Senate Republicans want to give limited immunity to 18 low-level witnesses in the campaign fund-raising probe. But it's unclear whether GOP lawmakers can get the two Democratic votes they need to make that happen.

Led by Tennessee Republican Fred Thompson, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee will vote Thursday on whether to shield 18 witnesses from further criminal prosecution in exchange for their testimony. Justice attorneys are reviewing the proposed names and oppose some of the grants, according to anonymous congressional aides.

They include Keshi Zhan, who worked for controversial Democratic fund-raiser Charlie Trie, who has refused to cooperate with investigators and is believed to be in China. Zhan, a low-level employee in the Arlington, Va., government, gave $12,500 to the Democratic Party and is believed to be a "straw donor."

At least two Democrats on the 16-member Senate panel must join all nine Republicans to approve the immunity motion. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) told reporters that since "there are so many unanswered questions, I don't really expect Democrats are going to be in a position to be very helpful."

In recent weeks, Thompson's probe has been beset by partisan sniping, with both sides accusing the other of obstruction.

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