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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Republicans Attack Clinton on Russia

WASHINGTON -- Congressional Republicans ratcheted up their attack on President Bill Clinton's Russia policy Tuesday, expanding the scope of hearings into the Russian banking scandal and Washington's dealings with Moscow.

The House International Relations and Senate Foreign Relations committees announced that they would hold separate, wide-ranging hearings later this month about U.S. policy toward Russia. The House Banking Committee said hearings it had previously announced would begin Sept. 21 to examine allegations of Russian corruption and money laundering, possibly including the diversion of billions of dollars in international aid.

The Joint Economic Committee, a leading critic of the International Monetary Fund's lending practices, especially to Russia, announced it would review the Fund's plan to create a financial mechanism to derive income from gold it owns.

The volleys fired from Capitol Hill left no doubt that Republican leaders intend to use the economic turmoil and widening reports of corruption in Russia as a campaign issue against Democrats through the 2000 elections.

"The Clinton administration's Russia policy is the greatest U.S. foreign policy failure since Vietnam," declared Republican Representative Dick Armey, the majority leader. "The stated purpose of the Clinton-Gore policy was to help Russia become a peaceful and productive free-market democracy. Instead, Russia has become a looted and bankrupt zone of nuclearized anarchy."

Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the Republican whip, accused the administration of blocking a domestic tax-cut bill at the same time U.S. aid to Russia was being "stolen by Russian thieves."

Armey, DeLay and other House Republicans spoke to reporters moments after the House approved a measure, 419-0, to punish foreign enterprises or institutions, especially from Russia, that provide sensitive missile technology or expertise to Iran.

Congress has expressed growing alarm at Iran's drive to build long-range missiles that could hit American troops and allies, and frustration with Russia for failing to curb the export of missile know-how. Clinton, who vetoed a similar bill last year, has said the legislation could further strain relat ions with Russia.

Democrats counterattacked throughout the day, accusing Republicans of political opportunism for trying to link Vice President Al Gore to the failure of economic reform in Russia.

"I'm sure there have been some mistakes made," said Representative Dick Gephardt of Missouri, the House Democratic leader. "But we've been trying to help Russia get through the extremely difficult transition from communism to capitalism. If the alternative is to stand to one side, do nothing and hope Russia figures it out on its own, then that is a mistake."

A spokesman for the National Security Council, David Leavy, defended the administration's Russia policy, citing advances in individual liberties for Russians, nuclear arms reductions and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Central and Eastern Europe.

Frank Luntz, a leading pollster, criticized the congressional Republican strategy. He said the Russian banking scandal does not yet affect "Americans in their day-to-day lives." He added, "If Republicans are trying to draw a political connection now, it ain't there."

No evidence has surfaced so far of the laundering of siphoned aid provided by the United States or the IMF, but the administration remains politically vulnerable on the issue. Administration officials are likely to be grilled on what they knew of a Justice Department inquiry into Russian corruption before the investigation became public, and what steps they took to pressure Moscow to combat corruption.

Russian and U.S. investigators met Tuesday in Washington, largely to discuss the money-laundering accusations, a Justice Department official said.