Prime Time Live, ABC news June 18, 1997 Mystery Woman HTTP://www.abcnews.com/onair/ptl/html_files/transcripts/ptl0618a.html Nolanda Hill On Her Relationship With Ron Brown June 18, 1997 SAM DONALDSON Good evening. Diane is on assignment. We begin with the story of one woman in the middle of controversy and scandal in official Washington. Her name is Nolanda Hill, a businesswoman from Texas whose never worked in the White House and never held a government job. But her close relationship with a member of President Clinton's Cabinet, the late Ron Brown, put her in a position to see and hear a lot. She may tell her story to Congress and to prosecutors before long. But first, she's telling her story tonight to chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross. ("Taps" playing) PRES. BILL CLINTON Ron Brown -- a trail blazer, a builder, a patriot. BRIAN ROSS, ABC NEWS (VO) At the funeral last year of Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, she was described by some as the mystery woman, the woman who wasn't supposed to be there. Her name is Nolanda Hill. LARRY CLAYMAN (PH), JUDICIAL WATCH Nolanda Hill is one of the people who was the closest to Ron Brown. BRIAN ROSS (VO) And now, more than a year after the death of Ron Brown, a lot of people in Washington are very worried about what Nolanda Hill may know and be willing to talk about. WILLIAM CLINGER, FORMER CONGRESSMAN She clearly was in a position to know a number of things that, frankly, we never got answers to. BRIAN ROSS (VO) A former Democratic Party chairman, Ron Brown at first was seen as one of the rising stars of the Clinton administration. RON BROWN, FORMER SECRETARY OF COMMERCE It is, indeed, an honor and a privilege to be named Secretary of Commerce. BRIAN ROSS (VO) But Brown soon became perhaps the most investigated member of the Clinton administration, surrounded by questions of bribery and influence peddling, the target of a federal grand jury and a special prosecutor. And behind the scenes through it all was the so - called "mystery woman," Brown's little - known business partner, Nolanda Hill. NOLANDA HILL, BUSINESSWOMAN I was a friend, a close friend. We loved each other. BRIAN ROSS (VO) Now coming forward to tell her story, Nolanda Hill describes what she says was a seven - year long business and personal relationship that put her in the middle of Ron Brown's Washington. NOLANDA HILL I talked to him at least once a day. BRIAN ROSS (VO) His dealings with President Clinton. NOLANDA HILL Ron often referred to as "Bubba." BRIAN ROSS (VO) Taking orders from Hillary Clinton. NOLANDA HILL No, he was not happy about it. BRIAN ROSS (VO) The Democratic fund - raising scandal. NOLANDA HILL The White House wanted him to meet with some damn Chinaman. BRIAN ROSS (VO) And the pressures that she says made Brown, as Secretary of Commerce, vulnerable to corruption and susceptible to illegal drugs, which, if true, would be very risky behavior for a government official at the center of power. NOLANDA HILL He came up in the era of drugs are OK. I mean, you know, he was a '60s child. BRIAN ROSS (on camera) As Secretary of Commerce, did he use drugs? NOLANDA HILL Um, yes. BRIAN ROSS Were you there? NOLANDA HILL Yes. BRIAN ROSS (VO) It happened, she said, frequently at her Washington apartment, where Brown would come to relax after work. NOLANDA HILL He smoked pot, and he once did a line of cocaine. BRIAN ROSS (on camera) And you didn't smoke pot with him? NOLANDA HILL I've smoked pot. BRIAN ROSS With him? NOLANDA HILL Mm - hmm. BRIAN ROSS Wasn't he afraid that if it was -- if he was ever caught with that, his career would be ruined? NOLANDA HILL He was reckless a lot. BRIAN ROSS (VO) In fact, Hill now blames Brown for all the legal troubles that she says eventually cost her her business and led her into a clinical depression. But Brown's friends and family are outraged that Hill is going public and making what they consider to be unfair and uncorroborated allegations, such as the charges about illegal drugs. REID WEINGARTEN, RON BROWN'S ATTORNEY Preposterous. I mean, I guess anything's possible. There may be a tyrannosaurus rex outside when we leave this building. It sounds preposterous to me. BRIAN ROSS (VO) Reid Weingarten was Ron Brown's lawyer. REID WEINGARTEN I never had the slightest indication that Ron ever used drugs. I have no idea why she's saying what she's saying. BRIAN ROSS (on camera) Is it not true, though, that she did have a close relationship with Ron Brown for many years? REID WEINGARTEN I think that's true. NOLANDA HILL (FROM VIDEO) I'm Nolanda Hill. I own my own business, and so can you. BRIAN ROSS (VO) Nolanda Hill was the millionaire owner of two television stations when she first met Brown, whose high - powered Washington law firm did work for Hill's company. She soon took him in as a business partner. WILLIAM CLINGER She was really a mover and a shaker. And I think the two of them were a pretty formidable team. BRIAN ROSS (VO) Former Republican congressman Bill Clinger led an investigation of Ron Brown's finances, focusing on hundreds of thousands of dollars Hill paid Brown for his interest in their business which had cost him nothing. WILLIAM CLINGER Everybody would like to have a deal where you don't make any investment and then a few years later you make a half million dollars profit. NOLANDA HILL Well, Ron really wanted money, period. I mean, he was not one to leave a nickel on the table, you know? So ... BRIAN ROSS (on camera) This is the man you're talking about who you say you loved? NOLANDA HILL Sure. BRIAN ROSS (VO) Trouble with money began, she says, as soon as President Clinton asked Brown to serve as Secretary of Commerce. NOLANDA HILL We sat down and we looked at what his monthly expenses were versus what his known income was going to be, and he was, you know, $7,000 in the hole when he woke up on day one of any month. BRIAN ROSS (VO) Which Nolanda Hill says would twice lead Brown into schemes involving under - the - table money. The first, an offer from the group claiming to represent the government of Vietnam, seeking to get American trade restrictions lifted. Hill says Brown met with them both before and, more significantly, after his selection as Secretary of Commerce. NOLANDA HILL And he said, "Do you think it would be worth a million dollars?" And I said, "Ron, this is crazy. I mean, it's nuts." BRIAN ROSS (on camera) But he was trying anyway? NOLANDA HILL He was considering it. He saw it as an opportunity to afford to be Commerce Secretary. BRIAN ROSS And were bank accounts set up overseas? NOLANDA HILL There was a bank account set up, as I understand it. BRIAN ROSS (VO) In the middle of it, one of the men allegedly involved -- a Vietnamese - American named Binh Ly -- went to the FBI telling of a plan to funnel some $700,000 to Brown through a secret bank account in Singapore. REPORTER Mr. Secretary, what can you tell us about this report that says you received money in exchange for helping lift the trade restrictions on Vietnam? BRIAN ROSS (VO) It was big news when the investigation broke in 1993, and, at the time, Brown denied everything. RON BROWN An absolutely ridiculous report, has no validity to it. I have never been involved with any such thing. BRIAN ROSS (on camera) Is that truthful? NOLANDA HILL No. BRIAN ROSS He lied? NOLANDA HILL Yes. BRIAN ROSS (VO) But Hill says no money ever changed hands, and the bank account was not used because Brown got a tip the FBI was on to him, something FBI agents on the case have told ABC News they always suspected. NOLANDA HILL We knew that the FBI investigation was going on. BRIAN ROSS (on camera) It was known? NOLANDA HILL We knew. BRIAN ROSS How did you know? NOLANDA HILL Ron told me. REID WEINGARTEN The Justice Department completely exonerated Ron Brown. BRIAN ROSS For lack of evidence? REID WEINGARTEN Lack of evidence. There was no evidence. There was no evidence to support the allegation whatsoever. BRIAN ROSS Nolanda Hill did not testify. REID WEINGARTEN She had no connection with the investigation. She had no direct information except this bald lie about what Ron Brown may or may not have said. BRIAN ROSS (VO) The most serious charge Hill makes is that two big Democratic contributors, Nora and Gene Lum, shown here at Brown's funeral, actually did pass money to Ron Brown when he was Secretary of Commerce. NOLANDA HILL The first number was $60,000. We discussed $60,000. BRIAN ROSS (VO) The Lums, who just this month pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, have been under investigation by federal prosecutors for several years over their relationship with Ron Brown and the Democratic party. In 1993, the Lums took over an Oklahoma gas company called Dynamic Energy Resources that sought special government contracts as minority - owned business. Then, the Lums hired Brown's 28 - year - old son, Michael, and made him a well - paid officer of the company - - a convenient way, Hill says, to move money to the father. NOLANDA HILL I know that Ron received money that had been paid to Michael. BRIAN ROSS (on camera) From the Lums at Dynamic Energy? NOLANDA HILL Yes. BRIAN ROSS Why would the son give the father money? NOLANDA HILL Well, the official version from Reid Weingarten is to pay back some of his law school fees, which I fought with Ron about and told him that was the dumbest thing I ever heard. And I even told Reid that that was stupid to say that. BRIAN ROSS What did Ron tell you was going on? NOLANDA HILL Ron needed money to pay his taxes. REID WEINGARTEN Let's start with the facts. It's always a good place to start. The Lums never paid off Ron Brown. And Ron Brown never did anything for the Lums. BRIAN ROSS (VO) When pressed, Weingarten said just what Nolanda Hill predicted he would. REID WEINGARTEN Ron was an incredibly generous dad. When Michael came of age -- when Michael started kicking in professionally, Michael would be in a position to repay some of the responsibilities that Ron assumed. BRIAN ROSS (VO) Hill says she tried to get Brown to use a different story. NOLANDA HILL I talked to Ron about this, and I said, you know, "Why don't you say, 'There's nothing I can do for the Lums as Secretary of Commerce'"? And he said, "But that's not true. I don't want to say that, because that's not true." And I said, "Well, it's not true that this all of a sudden is to pay you back for college either." He said, "Well, nobody can prove that." BRIAN ROSS (VO) Michael Brown, now a lawyer at his father's old firm, declined to talk with PrimeTime about the allegations. In addition to talking about Ron Brown, congressional investigators also hope Nolanda Hill can, in a way, talk for Ron Brown, particularly about the role Brown and his Commerce Department may have played in the Democratic fund - raising scandal. LARRY CLAYMAN, JUDICIAL WATCH The Commerce Department was an opportunity for the Clinton administration, if it wished to do something illegal, to have it done there. BRIAN ROSS (VO) Many of the revelations involving the fund - raising scandal have come from this Larry Clayman, who heads a conservative group called Judicial Watch. LARRY CLAYMAN Nolanda Hill is someone who would be in a position to know, directly >from the horse's mouth, what Ron Brown and the Commerce Department were doing. BRIAN ROSS (VO) One question many want answered is how the man now at the center of the FBI's investigation of illegal fund - raising -- John Huang -- how did he get a top - level job at Ron Brown's Commerce Department? Nolanda Hill says she knows. NOLANDA HILL Ron told me that the White House put him there, and it was Ron's opinion the White House meant Hillary in this instance. BRIAN ROSS (on camera) That she put him there. NOLANDA HILL He believed that she was the person that had made the call. BRIAN ROSS (VO) The White House denies that, but Hill says it was also the White House that sent Brown on this 1994 trip to China ... RON BROWN Mr. President. BRIAN ROSS (VO) ... to urge government officials to approve a billion - dollar power plant project involving the Indonesian Lippo Bank, a bank owned by a family that has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Bill Clinton's various campaigns. NOLANDA HILL He said the White House -- this is the one the White House wants him to do. BRIAN ROSS (VO) That allegation is also denied by White House. The day after the plane crash that killed Secretary Brown in Bosnia, the special prosecutor shut down his investigation of Brown. But the investigation into those around him continues. And going public now is a risky move for Nolanda Hill, as she, herself, remains one of the subjects of a grand jury looking into how and why she paid Ron Brown so much money just before he became the Secretary of Commerce. (on camera) Did he ever help you in his official position as Secretary of Commerce? NOLANDA HILL Never, ever, never. I didn't need to buy influence with money. I had all I needed. REID WEINGARTEN I think there's perhaps a likelihood that she's going to be indicted and charged with serious felonies. BRIAN ROSS If she is indicted, will it not be essentially also an indictment of Ron Brown? REID WEINGARTEN I believe not. Absolutely not. BRIAN ROSS A posthumous indictment? REID WEINGARTEN I believe not. NOLANDA HILL Ron's dead. They can't indict him. I mean, maybe I'm sitting here indicting him, and I'm sure I am. I have. But the other side of this is that I believed what he did was wrong. I have to put that chapter of my life -- that part, that 10 years -- away. And to do that, I have to close the book. SAM DONALDSON We may be seeing a lot more of Nolanda Hill this summer. Congressional investigators are currently negotiating with her lawyer so that she can testify in connection with the Democratic fund - raising scandal. You can get more information on Nolanda Hill and other breaking stories from our new 24 - hour on line service, abcnews.com. ANNOUNCER Could you say this to someone you didn't want to go out with? GAVIN DE BECKER "I have decided that I don't want to have a relationship with you, and I am certain I will not change my mind. And having come to this conclusion, I hope you'll pursue other avenues because that's what I'm going to do."
Back To The Crash Page.