This Week

Issue: "Foster or faster?," June 6, 1998

The 'N' word

The word is out. President Clinton has carefully tried to avoid drawing parallels between his administration's misdeeds and those that brought down the Nixon White House. Too late for that anymore. Last week, Judge Norma Holloway Johnson released the details of her 34-page ruling-issued May 4-that denied President Clinton's executive privilege claim to prevent two top aides from testifying in Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's probe. "[Judge] Johnson's opinion is absolutely consistent with Nixon," law professor Kathleen Clark told The Washington Post. The judge relied heavily on the precedents set in the Nixon vs. U.S. rulings, holding that the president does have the right to executive privilege, but that Mr. Starr's need to gather evidence trumped it in Mr. Clinton's case.

The politics of brinkmanship

Last week, President Clinton's connections to Chinese financiers and high-tech U.S. firms wielding cachet in Beijing moved from compromising the integrity of the Lincoln Bedroom to trading away national security. Americans, weary of the compound-complex sentences needed to make sense of White House ties to Chinese arms dealers, suddenly found the implications made plain in a May 28 nuclear explosion in western Pakistan (story, page 19). Both the Pakistani and Indian nuclear programs have been underwritten with nuclear materials and technology made in China. The promise of both countries to load long-range missiles with nuclear devices is a response to China's unchecked military build-up. "It is fair to say that India feels the fierce regional threat from the growing hegemonistic power of China, and we have helped China to become that," Tom Moore, deputy director of foreign policy and defense studies at the Heritage Foundation, told WORLD. Because of persistent allegations that U.S. firms provided missile technology to China, a Senate panel released portions of a classified CIA briefing last week on China's satellite launchers and its long-range nuclear missiles. The CIA told lawmakers that 13 of China's intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are targeted at U.S. cities. The technology for launching and guiding those missiles, according to the CIA, is almost identical to commercial satellite technology Mr. Clinton approved for export to China earlier this year. In February, Loral Corp., a U.S.-based aerospace firm, received a waiver from the White House to provide China with sensitive technology to improve its missile guidance systems. Technology transfers to China with a potential military application are illegal, a restriction enacted after the 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square. Loral Corp. was given permission to go ahead with another satellite launch in China, even though the Justice Department was in the midst of a criminal investigation of the firm for unlawful technology transfer. It did not require a rocket scientist to wonder if a Friend of Bill figured into this equation. Loral Corp.'s CEO, Bernard L. Schwartz, was the largest individual donor to the Democratic Party during the 1996 election campaign cycle. He gave $632,000 to the party. Democratic Party officials are describing Mr. Schwartz as the "perfect donor"-someone who just wanted to attend the party but never asked to dance. His 70th birthday was celebrated at a White House dinner, and he was invited twice to sleep over in the Lincoln Bedroom but wasn't able to make it. A statement issued by Loral Corp. last week said the firm received "no political favors or benefits of any kind" in exchange for the campaign contributions. Nevertheless, Washington investigators are broadening their probes of Loral to include both the campaign finance and national-security questions. The Justice Department's campaign finance task force put the firm on its docket last week. House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced the formation of a select committee to investigate the technology transfers. The aerospace allegations don't stop with Loral. Johnny Chung, the Democratic fundraiser who pled guilty last March to illegal campaign contributions, has told federal investigators he received $300,000 from an executive in one of China's state-run aerospace firms. The money, he said, was to be used to make contributions to the Democratic Party. The executive, Liu Chao-Ying, is a military officer and the daughter of an influential retired army general. She accompanied Mr. Chung to a July 1996 fundraiser in Los Angeles, where she was photographed with President Clinton. Her firm, China Aerospace Corp., launches commercial satellites for firms in the United States and other countries, but officials said they had no evidence of a link between Ms. Liu and Loral Corp.

Dooby dooby don't

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When California legalized medical marijuana last year, a cottage industry of around 30 pot clubs sprang up to supply "patients." The Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Club lets members select from 15 different grades of pot displayed in glass cases, ranging in price from $5 to $16 a gram. There are marijuana-laced brownies, banana muffins, and cereal treats for those who don't like to smoke. The Justice Department says selling marijuana is still illegal, referendum or not. The feds sued six clubs and won. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ordered six Northern California medical marijuana clubs to close their doors for violating laws against distributing drugs. He rejected arguments that the clubs should be entitled to furnish the drug because their customers, many of whom suffer from AIDS or cancer, cannot survive without marijuana to ease the pain and side effects of therapy. A "medical necessity" defense might be available in individual cases, but it can't be used by a club that distributes marijuana to a large number of patients with different diseases.

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