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White House, FBI Remain at Odds OVer Campaign Funding Questions

By Elizabeth Shogren and Marc Lacey
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

In an open display of discord within the Clinton administration over the latest campaign finance controversy, the White House and the FBI clashed Monday over whether national security officials told of alleged Chinese involvement in U.S. politics were advised not to pass on the information.

White House spokesman Mike McCurry said FBI agents briefed two mid-level staff members of the president's National Security Council on June 3 about suspicions that China was trying to funnel money to members of Congress. But, according to McCurry, the FBI agents specified that the "information not be disseminated or briefed higher up the chain of command."

Directly contradicting McCurry, the FBI issued a statement Monday night saying its agents "placed no restriction whatsoever on the dissemination up the chain of command" of the information provided the NSC officials, one of whom was an FBI agent on loan to the White House.

The highly unusual public battle between different parts of Clinton's own administration shows how complicated and divisive the unfolding campaign finance controversy has become for the White House.

Addressing the subject of the FBI briefing to NSC officials earlier in the day, Clinton said he was seeking answers as to why he and other senior White House officials were kept in the dark about the alleged attempts by the Chinese government to meddle in U.S. politics.

"I believe I should have known," Clinton said.

Clinton also said if he had known about the briefing, the aggressive fund-raising efforts by officials helping orchestrate the president's re-election might have been conducted with more caution.

"It would have provoked a red flag on my part," Clinton said.

The Chinese government is discounting the allegations that it sought to direct donations to U.S. politicians through foreign corporations.

"The older I get, the more I become aware of the fact that there's some things there's no point of expending a lot of energy on," Clinton said. "It didn't happen. It should have happened. It was a mistake," he said.