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Clinton Fund Raiser To Testify

A congressional committee cleared the way Wednesday for presidential friend Charlie Trie to testify in public about his fund-raising activities for the Clintons' legal defense fund and the Democratic Party.

Democrats joined Republicans on the House Government Reform Committee in voting for a limited grant of immunity from prosecution for Trie, a former Little Rock, Ark., restaurant owner.

Trie is among three central figures who entered guilty pleas and are cooperating in the Justice Department probe of Democratic fund raising in the 1996 presidential campaign.

Fund-raiser Johnny Chung appeared before the panel earlier this year while former Democratic National Committee fund-raiser John Huang probably will testify next month.

The committee chairman, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., said that in response to an agreement with the Justice Department, the congressional panel will refrain from asking Trie about two individuals who are under criminal investigation in the fund-raising probe. Burton did not identify the two.

The committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman of California, said he is frustrated because the Republican-controlled committee refuses to investigate GOP fund-raising abuses.

Trie was sentenced last week in Little Rock to four months of home detention and three years of probation after pleading guilty to violating campaign finance laws.

Trie had been accused of arranging illegal campaign donations to the Democratic National Committee from Chinese business people and of attempting to obstruct a Senate investigation.

Trie's lawyer, Reid Weingarten, said in court that his client has given the Justice Department information that links political donations and private business deals.

Amid questions about the origin of money from Trie, Clinton's legal defense fund in 1996 returned hundreds of thousands of dollars the businessman delivered in manila envelopes stuffed with sequentially numbered money orders. Much of the money apparently came from a Buddhist group.

The Clinton White House and the legal defense fund kept Trie's activities under wraps for more than six months, revealing it only after the presidential election.