Clinton's financial, political clout takes center stage following journalists release

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Washington, Aug.6 (ANI): Bill Clinton's central role in facilitating the return of two female American journalists detained by North Korea has once again cast a spotlight on his vast web of financial and political contacts, a network that has troubled senators in the recent past.

Clinton is said to have tapped wealthy business people to execute a mission that, without a special federal waiver for the aircraft to travel to North Korea, would have been illegal, reports the Washington Post.

The former president procured aircraft and crews by tapping companies and contacts that have previously underwritten his endeavors. With some assistance from the Obama administration, he handpicked the team that would accompany him, according to sources involved in the planning.

Dow Chemical provided the plane that ferried the former president from his home in Westchester County, New York to Burbank, California. There, he boarded an all-business-class Boeing 737 jet provided by wealthy Hollywood producer Steve Bing.

A team that included John D. Podesta, who was his White House chief of staff, and a former State Department expert on North Korea, accompanied Clinton.

Bing, who is one of the biggest donors to the Clinton Foundation, with gifts totaling 10 million to 25 million dollars, will foot an estimated 200,000 dollar bill for the fuel, the crew and other incidental expenses for the trip.

Clinton is said to have agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il two days after North Korea called his wife a "primary schoolgirl" because she had likened the country to an unruly child.

The Obama administration, however, took pains to distance itself from the mission, though officials conceded they had repeated contact with North Korean officials in the days leading up to the trip to confirm the journalists would be released if the former president traveled to Pyongyang.

The administration had wanted to send former vice president Al Gore to North Korea instead of Clinton.

Gore is a co-founder of Current TV, which employs the journalists who were detained. But North Korean officials hinted that they wanted an envoy of Clinton's stature, sources said.

The breakthrough in the standoff over the journalists-who were sentenced in June to 12 months of hard labor after being seized near the Chinese border in March-came on July 18, when the women told their families in a phone call that North Korean officials had clearly stated that they would be released if Clinton came to Pyongyang.

U.S. officials immediately began to verify that statement with North Korean counterparts, and on July 24 national security adviser James L. Jones asked Clinton to consider making the trip.

One senior administration official said full assurances from Pyongyang were not secured until Sunday, the day the former president left Burbank on Bing's jet. At the time of departure, U.S. officials knew that Clinton was scheduled to have a rare meeting with Kim. (ANI)

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