A CHANGE IN FOCUS
September 19, 1997
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SEN. FRED THOMPSON, Chairman, Governmental Affairs Committee: The committee will come to order.
KWAME HOLMAN: When the committee came into public session, the witness was Florida businessman R. Warren Meddoff. Late last year Meddoff was on a mission to make a political contribution on behalf of a man he frequently worked with but has never met in person. The man, whose name is Morgan, wanted Meddoff to offer President Clinton a $5 million campaign contribution. Meddoff testified he got his chance to pass a business card to the President last October 22nd at a $1500 a plate fund-raiser in Miami's Biltmore Hotel.
MICHAEL MADIGAN, Republican Counsel: Is that what you wrote on the back of your business card that says I have an associate that is interested in donating $5 million to your campaign?
WARREN MEDDOFF, Businessman: It is close to what I wrote.
MICHAEL MADIGAN: Tell the committee, if you would, what happened.
WARREN MEDDOFF: After the President had made remarks to the gathered individuals, I attempted to reach the President as the crush of people came to the President. As the President came by I was able to present to him the business card that Mr. Morgan had suggested. The President took two steps, looked at it, came back, and we then had a brief conversation.
MICHAEL MADIGAN: And what did you say, and what did he say, to the best of your recollection?
WARREN MEDDOFF: To the best of my recollection the President asked if he could have another one of those cards for his staff and that somebody would get in touch with me in a few days.
MICHAEL MADIGAN: A couple of days later, on the 24th, which was a Saturday, did you receive any contact from anybody in the White House?
WARREN MEDDOFF: Yes. A message was left on the answering machine at my company from a Mr. Harold Ickes, saying that he was calling on behalf of the President from the White House and would I please contact him.
KWAME HOLMAN: Harold Ickes was deputy White House chief of staff and President Clinton's chief political operative. Meddoff said his associate was expecting a large cash infusion and was willing to make a series of $5 million donations, up to $55 million, if the donations could be made tax exempt.
WARREN MEDDOFF: Mr. Ickes called me. And even though we had made it clear we were not expecting funds for quite a few days, he said, "We have an immediate need for $1 ½ million within the next 24 hours. Do you think you could get it to us?" And I said, "I don't believe 24 hours, perhaps within 48." And I said, "We don't even know where you need us to send the money or what it's for." And he says, "I'll get back to you." And at that time, I believe, he was on Air Force One. And, if I'm not mistaken, he was in Texas at that time.
MICHAEL MADIGAN: And did he send you a fax outlining where you could send the money to?
WARREN MEDDOFF: Yes. He sent me a very detailed fax. It came to me the next morning at my office.
MICHAEL MADIGAN: Now, we've received testimony from Mr. Ickes and from Karen Hancock that Mr. Ickes was on Air Force One, that he called--dictated this fax and Karen Hancock sent it to you. The second page Mr. Ickes suggested that some $250,000 be wired to something called "Vote Now '96," a 501-C3 organization, is that right?
WARREN MEDDOFF: That is correct.
MICHAEL MADIGAN: Did you have in something called "Vote Now '96," a 501-C3 organization, is that right?
WARREN MEDDOFF: That is correct.
KWAME HOLMAN: In all, Meddoff said, Ickes' fax directed $1.5 million be sent to three groups with ties to the Democratic Party. Two of them had tax-exempt status.
WARREN MEDDOFF: They were to get back to us by the end of the banking day to alert us as to where funds were to be sent and in what forms. And prior to them returning the call I received the call from Mr. Ickes.
MICHAEL MADIGAN: Tell us what Mr. Ickes said in this telephone call.
WARREN MEDDOFF: He called me and very nicely said, "I sent you that fax in error. I shouldn't have sent it. Would you please shred it."
MICHAEL MADIGAN: And what did you say to Mr. Ickes?
WARREN MEDDOFF: I said, "Sure, Harold. I'll go right back and shred it."
MICHAEL MADIGAN: And I understood from your deposition testimony that you were saying this facetiously or sarcastically.
WARREN MEDDOFF: Absolutely. There is no way that I was going to shred a document at the request of a White House official.
MICHAEL MADIGAN: Now, Mr. Ickes has testified before the committee and deposition saying he had no recollection of telling you to shred the document; in fact, finds that inconceivable and thinks perhaps that you and Mr. Morgan were trying to set up him. Do you have a response to that?
WARREN MEDDOFF: I was so shocked at the fact that Mr. Ickes had made that statement--
KWAME HOLMAN: Meddoff's story originally was reported in a Newsweek Magazine article in February. It said the donations never were made because the Democratic National Committee became suspicious of Meddoff's offer. Today, committee Democrats attacked Meddoff's personal history and credibility.
SEN. ROBERT TORRICELLI, (D) New Jersey: Mr. Meddoff, this committee has heard serious charges against leaders of the United States Government, Democrat and Republican. We have taken many on faith because of the seriousness of the charges, despite the credibility of some. We have listened patiently, believed some, probably had questions of others. But I, for one, will not be a member of this committee, have you come before this committee and make claims against people I've known much of my life, people who've been trusted in leadership of the United States of America, considering aspects of your own credibility, and what on their face clearly are inaccurate statements. You don't know Mr. Morgan. Mr. Morgan clearly did not have $5 million to offer. And, what's more, I don't believe he did. You are not individual, given your criminal, personal, and financial exposure, to be making these charges. I would strongly suggest that you not proceed with this unless you have other very strong evidence.
SEN. JOHN GLENN, (D) Ohio: Did you ever see that movie, "The Sting," Robert Redford?
WARREN MEDDOFF: Well, I--
SEN. JOHN GLENN: It's better than "The Sting" because this involves a president and presidential advisers and all sorts of things. And even "The Sting" didn't do that.
WARREN MEDDOFF: Well, I'm unemployed, sir. I'm open to all offers.
SEN. JOHN GLENN: Well, you worked for seven years for this fellah.
WARREN MEDDOFF: No, sir. I did not work for him at any time.
SEN. JOHN GLENN: Well, you were in deals with him for seven years; you haven't received a penny; and he comes--he calls you and wants you to go and offer $5 million and another $5 million every month--up to $55 million--and you didn't question this. You thought it was credible? This is the same person here that we have information on who just paid off a lean of fourteen thousand and something and another one--that was in '96--and another one in '94 that was a twelve thousand one--'99. He's got the IRS after him and fairly small amounts of money, compared to what you're talking about here. Did you check all that out, or do a Lexis/Nexis, or did you have any private investigator look at this fella and see what he's about?
WARREN MEDDOFF: No. I haven't done that, sir.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON: It's been suggested that Mr. Morgan is a mysterious character, to say the least, somewhat bizarre, somewhat questionable, and some implications have been made even along those lines about yourself here this morning. The only problem is the worst it looks for you and Mr. Morgan, the worst it looks for those who are dealing with you. You know, the question is whether or not we're going to be concerned about the motivations and the eccentricities of some unknown individual, Mr. Morgan, or yourself, who's an unemployed gentleman in Florida, or whether or not we're concerned about the activities of those in the White House. I'm interested in you as an individual somewhat, but I'm a whole lot more interested in the people who are running the country and who are trying to raise these large sums of money.
KWAME HOLMAN: The committee adjourned this afternoon and will reconvene with its new focus next week.