Justice Department Won't Endorse Thompson's China Conclusion
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, July 13) -- A high-ranking Justice Department official has sent a letter to Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) saying the department does not necessarily agree with his conclusion that the Chinese government deliberately tried to influence the American political process.
Last week, during the opening session of Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearings into campaign finance abuses, Thompson, the chairman, said "the committee believes that high-level Chinese government officials crafted a plan to increase China's influence over the U.S. political process."
The Washington Post reported Sunday that the FBI, CIA and the National Security Agency cleared the statement and that FBI Director Louis Freeh was involved in the clearance process.
But a letter written by Assistant U.S. Attorney General Andrew Fois, revealed on Sunday's "This Week" broadcast on ABC, said the review of Thompson's statement "was only for the purpose of protecting classified information and the integrity of the pending criminal investigation."
"You neither requested nor received assessments of the accuracy of any conclusions you drew from information available to the committee," Fois wrote. "Those conclusions, of course, are your own."
Democrats take issue
Democrats on Thompson's Governmental Affairs Committee have taken issue with the chairman's conclusions that there is a definite link between the Chinese government and improper campaign contributions.
"He swung a broader loop on some of the conclusions than I would swing," said Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) on "This Week."
Glenn, the committee's ranking Democrat, also reiterated his position that the partisan nature of the probe is obscuring the larger issue; namely, the entire system under which American political campaigns are financed.
"Can't we build a case this year to get on with what the American people want and that is real, honest campaign finance reform?" Glenn said.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) said he doesn't agree with Thompson's analysis and has asked for an FBI briefing to clarify the Justice Department's understanding of the classified documents Thompson used to arrive at his conclusion.
Thompson: Conclusion came from review of data
But Thompson told the Post that his statement was the result of hundreds of hours of staff review of sensitive information. He said he felt the information was of sufficient gravity that a summary of it should be made public.
"We couldn't sit on it," Thompson told the Post. "If it came out in a year or six months that China was doing all this with all the issues with regard to China on the table, ranging from trade status to defense issues, the committee would rightly be subject to intense criticism."
Speaking on NBC's "Meet The Press" Sunday, Thompson also said his opening statement made the point that nothing suggests the Chinese government targeted one party more than the other.
He also discounted news reports that the first week of his hearings, during which only one witness testified, produced little of consequence.
"It's a building block approach," he said. "These things are designed for the most part to be boring, and people are just going to have to learn to live with it."
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