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Sen. Thompson: No Immunity For Huang

Proving the China connection may be tough, senator says

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, July 14) -- Sen. Fred Thompson said he opposes granting immunity to ex-Democratic fund-raiser John Huang in exchange for his testimony, saying the committee needs to hear from other witnesses first "so we know better what the truth is."

Thompson (R-Tenn.), who appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, again questioned whether it's even possible for the Senate committee to grant partial immunity. "There is no such thing as partial immunity," Thompson said. "You either have to give total and complete immunity or not."

Thompson opened the Senate's campaign finance hearings last week with a bold statement about a Chinese plan to influence U.S. elections. But on Sunday, he said it may prove difficult to actually prove the China connection.

Thompson said there was no hard evidence yet of a link between Chinese money and illegal individual contributions from overseas. "I don't know if we'll ever have the answer to that question," he said.

Meanwhile, it was reported that Huang had funnelled illegal overseas contributions to the Democrats as early as 1992. A story in Newsweek magazine said, "The paper trail dates back to Aug. 18, 1992, just a few weeks after Bill Clinton was first nominated for president."

Senate investigators have uncovered documents, Newsweek said, showing that on the same day a California real estate company called Hip Hing Holdings made a $50,000 contribution to the Democratic National Committee, a similar amount was wired to company's U.S. bank account from the Jakarta headquarters of the Lippo Group.

Newsweek also reported that Huang is "nearly destitute, wracking up legal bills he can't pay" and is "very depressed."

Huang's attorney, Ty Cobb, has said is client is eager to testify that he was not guilty of economic espionage, an accusation raised by several senators, but will not testify without immunity for any possible election law prosecutions.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican, has suggested letting Huang testify on espionage and passing documents first. "Then we can grant him immunity on the election law matters," Specter told CBS.

The Senate hearings are due to resume at 10 a.m. Tuesday, with a witness lineup that includes executives from the Lippo Group, the Indonesia conglomerate that had employed Huang.

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