Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie dominated yesterday's hearings. FBI agent Jerry Campane told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee that Trie laundered about $220,000 in donations to the DNC from Asian millionaire Wu Lap Seng. Two other witnesses testified that Trie's associate Keshi Zhan approached them to donate thousands of dollars for which they were reimbursed. CNN and MSNBC covered a few hours of live testimony from 10 am to 1 pm ET, and all three networks covered the story Tuesday night, even if it arrived late in the newscasts. The morning shows continued to ignore the hearings Tuesday.
Morning shows, July 29:
CBS This Morning ignored the hearings for the 14th weekday morning in a row, but had time for a Mark Phillips report on Great Britain extraditing one of the robbers in the 1963 "Great Train Robbery." Lincoln Diaz-Balart interviewed O.J. Simpson trial celebrity Fred Goldman about his new radio show.
ABC's Good Morning America had several budget-deal segments, but nothing on the hearings. They also aired an interview with Fred Goldman.
NBC's Today had two interviews on the budget deal, a story on the North Korean famine, and a story on Fred Goldman, but nothing on the hearings.
Evening shows, July 29:
On ABC's World News Tonight, reporter Linda Douglass appeared 20 minutes into the show with interview footage of Wu Lap Seng, and uniquely noted: "ABC News has learned Mr. Wu visited the White House at least six times."
CBS Evening News aired the earliest report (13 minutes in), but Bob Schieffer threw cold water on the day's revelations: "Money-laundering is clearly illegal, but investigators are having a hard time proving what some Republicans see as a larger issue, that all this is somehow tied to a Chinese plot to influence American elections. So far, no evidence of that."
NBC Nightly News arrived on the story 20 minutes in (after an "In Depth" segment on Bill Cosby and paternity testing). Lisa Myers summed up less dismissively than Schieffer: "Today a quarter of million dollars was traced back to mysterious Mr. Wu...Still unknown tonight is whether any of Wu's money actually came from the Chinese government."
Johnny Chung's Charge:
Sunday's Los Angeles Times carried a bombshell by William Rempel and Alan Miller: "Contradicting accounts by the Clinton administration, one of the Democratic Party's biggest donors says he gave a $50,000 check to the first lady's chief of staff on White House grounds in 1995 in direct response to solicitations by aides of Hillary Rodham Clinton."
On World News Tonight, ABC's Bob Zelnick called it "a potentially explosive development," but only gave it 38 seconds in a larger story on GOP attacks on Janet Reno. On CBS's Face the Nation, reporter Rita Braver called it a "potentially explosive" story, but that night, the CBS anchorman gave it 62 words. (See box.) Only NBC Nightly News devoted a full story (its lead story) to the Chung scoop. But by the next morning, the "explosive" story was totally forgotten by all the morning shows. - Tim Graham & Brent Baker