Quizzing of Democratic Fund-Raiser Halted Over Making The Testimony Public
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The closed-door questioning of Democratic Party fund-raiser John Huang in a civil suit was halted today when his lawyer objected to public showing of a videotape of the testimony.
A federal court hearing was hastily arranged to determine whether the videotape of Huang, criticized by Republicans for soliciting foreign-linked political contributions, could be aired.
Huang was giving a deposition in a suit against the Commerce Department by Judicial Watch, a conservative activist group.
Larry Klayman, a lawyer for Judicial Watch, suggested to reporters that with a week to go before the presidential election Huang’s lawyers were trying to delay the potentially embarrassing deposition.
``It’s pretty transparent what is going on here,″ Klayman said.
He also said Huang was being evasive. ``I don’t want to characterize what is on the tape, but I don’t find the answers forthcoming.″
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Hegyi, representing the Commerce Department, said Huang was responding to almost all the questions. ``There were one or two he declined to answer,″ Hegyi said.
Stepping out of a taxicab, Huang was engulfed by reporters shouting questions as he arrived at an office building to give the deposition.
``No comment, thank you,″ he said, making his way into the building.
On Monday, a federal judge denied Huang’s request that the closed-door questioning of him in the lawsuit be limited in scope.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that Huang ``has not shown good cause for any particular limits on the questions that may be asked.″
In a written order, Lamberth also ruled that videotapes of Huang’s deposition may be provided to the press and public.
Huang’s attorney, John C. Keeney Jr., had asked Lamberth to restrict questions in the deposition to Huang’s previous work at the Commerce Department.
After several days of failing to locate Huang, U.S. marshals finally served a subpoena on his attorney Sunday for Huang to give a deposition in the suit against the department.
The question of Huang’s whereabouts did not arise in Monday’s hearing, but Keeney had told Lamberth on Friday: ``Our client will be in the District of Columbia on Monday morning.″
Huang’s deposition has been sought in connection with a suit brought by the conservative advocacy group Judicial Watch Inc. seeking to discover whether the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown used departmental trade missions to raise money for the Democrats. Huang was a high-ranking Commerce Department official before leaving in January to raise money for the Democratic National Committee.
Today’s deposition took place at Judicial Watch headquarters.
Commerce officials have said that as a deputy assistant secretary at Commerce, Huang disqualified himself from any matters involving Indonesia because he had been employed by a billionaire businessman in that country.
Newly released documents, however, show that shortly after joining the department, Huang attended two meetings in July and August 1994 at which officials from several federal agencies discussed strengthening trade relations with Indonesia, The New York Times reported in today’s editions.
The newspaper said Commerce spokeswoman Anne Luzzatto confirmed Huang’s apparent attendance at the meeting but quoted her as saying ``there is no indication that he had any involvement in or impact on policy toward Indonesia.″
The Times also said Huang kept in touch with former Indonesian business colleagues while a government official.
The DNC has returned some of the contested donations solicited by Huang, who raised an estimated $4 million to $5 million for the Democrats from Asian-Americans this year. The committee also stripped Huang of his fund-raising duties on Oct. 18.
Previously, Huang headed the U.S. affiliate of Indonesia’s Lippo banking and real estate conglomerate. The flap over campaign money erupted recently when news reports surfaced of hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to President Clinton and the Democrats from a network of people and companies related to Lippo and its owners, the Riady family.