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Clinton's new 'bagman'
Posted By Jack Cashill On 04/30/2004 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
Editor’s note: This column is the fourth segment of a new 11-part exclusive WorldNetDaily series excerpted from Jack Cashill’s shocking new book, “Ron Brown’s Body.” “At the end of day,” says Cashill who began the project a skeptic, “it is not irresponsible to talk about murder.” Today, Cashill shows how the Clintons got Brown off the hook from the Vietnam scandal and turned him into their “bagman.”
In 1973, the year Ron Brown came to Washington, D.C., Ly Thanh Binh came to America. He left his native South Vietnam to finish his schooling. When his government fell in 1975, he made the best of it, getting a degree in economics from Tulane in 1978 and becoming an American citizen soon after. He was looking for a new opportunity when, in 1992, he met an older Vietnamese gentleman adrift in America, Nguyen Van Hao.
Hao had quite a history himself. In 1975, as a deputy prime minister of South Vietnam, he proved his cunning – perhaps his treachery – by securing a position in the incoming communist administration, the only high-ranking South Vietnamese official to have made the switch.
At the time Binh and Hao met, Hao was running a convenience store in south Florida. Hao showed Binh a set of jumbled plans for stimulating investment in Vietnam once the trade embargo was lifted. Binh liked what he saw. Hao had the connections, and Binh had the language and business skills to put the plans in order. It seemed a good fit.
In November 1992, Brown flew to Florida to meet with Lillian Madsen, his Haitian mistress, and her friend, Nguyen Van Hao. Not yet nominated to Clinton’s Cabinet but fully expecting to be, Brown listened to Hao’s plans and told him he wanted to be “the exclusive lobbyist” for Vietnam.
Hao had one specific goal – lifting the trade embargo against Vietnam. Brown had one specific goal, too. He wanted money.
So confident was Hao of Brown’s interest, he flew back to Vietnam and took his new partner with him. Once in Vietnam, the American Binh could see his Vietnamese partner had not oversold his connections. Hao and Binh met with the prime minister and returned with a letter from him to Brown, urging Brown to continue discussions with the pair.
By the time Hao and Binh arrived home in December, Brown had already been nominated secretary of Commerce. To keep up his lifestyle, Brown knew he would need more money than government work paid. Hao obliged. He returned to Washington without Binh and met Brown. At this second meeting, according to Binh, Brown made a specific and telling request: $700,000 in cash – the same amount he received in a recent buyout that pained him to put in annuities.
The money was to be placed in a Singapore bank account. If Hao was unfazed, Binh was getting queasy. Said the American Binh: “My guts turned upside down.” The two men were no longer hiring a lobbyist. They were bribing a public official.
By the time of the third meeting in February, the Senate had already confirmed Brown as secretary. This time, Brown met Hao alone in his Commerce Department office, a fact later verified by his own staff.
Binh was sufficiently upset that he began telling his story to the media and federal officials. The media blew him off, but the FBI took him seriously. In late February 1993, the Miami office of the FBI launched a probe.
For six months, no news of the investigation made its way into the media. When it did, Brown was emphatic in his denials. Through a spokesman, he told the Washington Times that he “never had any contact with any of the people named, not Mr. Hao or Mr. Birth [sic], and never had any business dealings with the company.”
Soon after, the Miami Herald reported that despite all the denials, Brown and Hao had met three times, just as Binh had been alleging. Brown’s attorney, Reid Weingarten, finally acknowledged the meetings, but dismissed any bribe allegations. Left unsaid was why the secretary of Commerce would host a convenience store manager he barely knew.
Binh had the answers, and his credibility was further strengthened when the New York Times reported that authorities “had found evidence that suggested the Vietnamese were preparing to establish a bank account in Singapore.”
But Brown got lucky. As the Vietnam crisis was heating up, President Clinton was abandoning his appointment of the controversial Lani Guinier to head up the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department. Clinton’s approval rating among blacks, which had been 87 percent a few months earlier, fell precipitously to 53 percent.
Bill Clinton was in no position to abandon Brown. Jesse Jackson adviser Ron Walters defined Clinton’s dilemma: “You’ve got a very popular figure in the black community and the black business establishment. If he doesn’t stick by Ron Brown, it will be politically untenable for Bill Clinton.”
Despite the evidence, Janet Reno turned down the request made by Republican House leadership to appoint a special prosecutor in the Vietnam affair. And so the investigation was thrown back to a federal grand jury in Janet Reno’s Dade County. Insiders believe it was then-Deputy Attorney General Webster Hubbell who spiked it. The prosecutor never even called Ron Brown to testify.
By early 1994, Brown would once again be the subject of flattering profiles like the one in the New York Times, headlined: “Ron Brown Re-emerges in Halls of Power, and Thrives.” As to the grand-jury investigation, that was a mere “detour.”
Fate was not as kind to Guinier, at least in the short run. Although Vernon Jordan promised his and the president’s lasting support, that quickly evaporated. The Black Caucus refused to meet with the president for over a month, but then its members also began to back away from Guinier. Guinier was seeing for herself how the civil-rights community had “withered because of this instinct to insider politics.”
As to Brown, he would never experience this kind of betrayal at the hands of this community. That betrayal would not occur until nearly two years after his death.
Tomorrow: Part 5 – Second ‘black president’ likely to build on legacy of first
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