Unsung Hero Of Ling And Lee’s Freedom: The Clinton Rolodex
It was the vast network of Bill Clinton’s friends and associates that accounted for much of logistical plans necessary to bring Laura Ling and Euna Lee home. A federal waiver was needed for the aircraft, provided by Clinton donor Steve Bing, to land in North Korea.
No taxpayer money was used to fund the trip, with the exception of the salaries of the Secret Service agents traveling with Clinton. But 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, which has contributed as much as $50,000 to the William J. Clinton Foundation, provided the plane that ferried the former president from his home in Westchester County, N.Y., to Burbank, Calif. There, he boarded an all-business-class Boeing 737 jet provided by wealthy Hollywood producer Steve Bing. Clinton was accompanied by a team that included John D. Podesta, who was his White House chief of staff, and a former State Department expert on North Korea.
Ling and Lee told their families in a July 18 phone call that North Korean officials told them they’d be released if former President Clinton made the trip. US officials then worked to verify that.
One senior administration official said full assurances from Pyongyang were not secured until Monday, 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.
And from that, it is hoped, may come a better relationship with what has been a difficult global partner.Click here for reuse options!
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