Chinagate Is a Figment of Imaginations

Bill Press is cohost of CNN's "Crossfire."

Can’t find anything exciting at the box office?

Relax, movie fans, the Dreamteam comes to the rescue. Hollywood’s dynamite new production team of Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich are back with a summer blockbuster guaranteed to shock, outrage, anger and entertain you.

It’s bigger than “Godzilla.” It’s scarier than “Deep Impact.” It’s sleazier than Monicagate. It’s . . . Chinagate! The horrifying tale of how Commie agent Johnny Chung delivered Commie cash to Bill Clinton; how, in return, Clinton sold U.S. missile technology to China; how, in revenge, India exploded five nuclear bombs; and how, in retaliation, Pakistan developed its own nuclear bombs.

In brief, it’s the story of how Johnny Chung started nuclear war.


As usual, the Dreamteamsters spin a marvelous, frightening and conspiratorial web. U.S. foreign policy for sale? If true, that’s enough to make Americans run out of movie theaters shouting: Impeach him!

But, as is the case with every Lott-Gingrich production, their exaggerated, made-for-big-screen scenario far exceeds reality. The facts just don’t support their case.

First, consider the timing. President Clinton made his decision in March 1996, allowing two American firms to assist China with the launch of telecommunications satellites, continuing a policy started by President Bush. Chung did not meet his Chinese cash cow--military officer and aerospace executive Liu Chao-ying--until June 1996. His contributions of her money to the Democratic National Committee were made in July and August 1996.

Suggesting that contributions made in August influenced a presidential decision made the previous March is like accusing someone of murdering a person who had already died a peaceful death five months earlier. Easy to charge, impossible to prove.

Then, consider the evidence. For Lott-Gingrich’s conspiracy theory to hold, two connections must be established: that Chung lobbied the Clinton administration for favorable treatment to China and that Clinton knew where the money was coming from and made a deal. There is no evidence those connections can be made, ample evidence they cannot.

Even if it could be shown that Liu was acting on behalf of the Chinese government, China Aerospace, owned by the Chinese government, insists that she was acting on her own and gave Chung $300,000 of her personal wealth. The Justice Department says there is no evidence that Chung ever discussed missile technology transfer with any member of the Clinton administration. Both the DNC and the White House contend that they were unaware of the source of Chung’s contributions and in fact returned every penny he had contributed, once the fund-raising scandal broke in October 1996.

And, Justice investigators have concluded that there is no evidence linking alleged illegal campaign contributions to the DNC with earlier decisions made by the administration on transfer of missile technology.

Consider the amount of money we are talking about. Of the $300,000 he received from Liu, Chung contributed to the DNC only $80,000--less than 1/10th of 1% of the total $194 million raised by the DNC in 1996. Even if we’re inclined to believe the worst, it’s hard to imagine Chinese leaders were so naive that they thought they could influence an American presidential campaign with only $80,000. Or that Clinton was so starved for campaign cash that he would sell out American security for less than most major donors contribute with one check.


There is zero evidence that American foreign policy was ever for sale; zero evidence of any quid pro quo; zero evidence that India’s nuclear tests were in any way Chung-related.

Joining the world’s nuclear club has been the policy of India’s Hindu nationalist party for 20 years. It was the party’s promise made in last November’s elections. It was the party’s promise delivered in last week’s tests. To suggest that Chung and Clinton goaded India into nuclear testing is simply absurd.

Far from a global conspiracy, what the evidence shows is simply this: Johnny Chung was a hustler. He hustled Liu Chao-ying out of $300,000. He hustled the White House staff out of 49 invitations to social functions. And he probably broke the law. Johnny Chung did. He alone. No more, no less.