Many Americans, more predominantly those who lean left, have become enthralled by the Trump/Russia investigation. It’s easy to see why. The media has been fixated on publishing any circumstantial finding as if it was a world-altering bombshell. There’s been a litany of breaking news headlines, several connections drawn out, a few possibly nefarious meetings and potentially some quid pro quo in there—but there no smoking gun as of yet. So, despite many believing this will undoubtedly conclude with Trump out of the White House, the end result of this whole affair is still very much up in the air.
In 1997, the Justice Department investigated the Clinton campaign and the DNC’s ties to China in order to determine if the Chinese government was attempting to influence the presidential and congressional elections. It was discovered that donations from entities in the Chinese government made their way, through various connections, to the Clinton legal defense fund and the DNC.
Here’s the gist:
It started in 1996 when GOP lawmakers began to question a series of suspicious donations made to the DNC from executives of the Indonesia-based Lippo Group. The person at the center of the controversy was John Huang, an employee of Lippo Group, turned serious DNC fundraiser. As the investigation progressed, it was revealed that much of Huang’s money came from China’s People’s Liberation Army. Later, Huang ditched work to avoid being served a subpoena and then didn’t show up in court. This was followed by the DNC refusing to release their spending report to the FEC—a decision that was predictably met with outrage from the GOP. Much like the Trump/Russia situation, things started out on a rather shady foot.
Secret Service reports found that Huang visited the white house 78 times between July 1995 and October 1996. John McCain and other lawmakers then asked for an independent council to oversee the case, citing a conflict of interest, but Attorney General Janet Reno, controversially, denied their requests.
Then there was Yah Lin “Charlie” Trie, a man who donated $122,000 (subsequently returned) to the Clinton legal defense fund, and later allegedly helped to secure a white house meeting for Wang Jun, a Chinese weapons dealer. President Clinton denied knowing exactly who Jun was saying, “[w]e have to do a better job of screening people who come in and out of here[.]” The Washington Post found that Trie was responsible for procuring over $600k in illegal donations to the DNC that were later returned.
The controversy shifted to Al Gore for a time when news hit that he received $55k for a lunch at a Buddhist temple set up by Maria Hsia, a Chinese intelligence agent. After that, a few other questionable donors entered the fray, hundreds of thousands of dollars were sent back to where they came from, and all donors were sentenced to either probation or short jail sentences. No charges were filed against any white house staff members.
In the end, despite the investigation revealing “many connections between Chinese interests and various Democratic donors and fund-raisers,” we were unable to prove that China had intentionally interfered in our presidential or congressional elections.
There were times in the Chinagate investigation when it felt like a smoking gun was right around the corner—and a lot of information did end up coming out. This CNN timeline has a nice breakdown if you’re interested. But the bombshell never came. That could’ve been because there was never a bombshell to find, or it could’ve been because an independent prosecutor was never assigned, or something else entirely.
While the Trump/Russia situation surely feels more like Watergate, it could really still go either way. It could change the course of history, or it could be a forgotten footnote.
by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.