- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Former Bush administration official David Safavian testified yesterday that he gave advice and some “nonpublic information” about federal properties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff but denied trying to conceal that from government investigators.

The defense concluded its case after a second day of cross-examination in U.S. District Court, during which the former General Services Administration chief of staff made some concessions about his judgment and memory when questioned by prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg.

Still, Mr. Safavian insisted that he hadn’t intentionally misled GSA and Senate officials about his dealings with Abramoff, who earlier this year pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials.

Mr. Safavian also said he told an FBI agent that he had advised Abramoff on two GSA properties in fall 2002, rather than — as it actually happened — in the weeks before he took a luxury-filled golf trip to Scotland that Abramoff arranged in August 2002.

“I was just mistaken about the time frame,” Mr. Safavian testified.

Mr. Zeidenberg asked whether Mr. Safavian had forgotten that Abramoff first asked about one of the properties eight days after Mr. Safavian joined GSA. The prosecutor also asked whether Mr. Safavian had forgotten two dozen e-mails exchanged with Abramoff about the properties in July 2002 and forgotten arranging and attending a meeting with Abramoff’s representatives and GSA officials the day before he left on the trip.

Each time, Mr. Safavian insisted he had forgotten the dates and was not trying to conceal information from the agent.

Mr. Safavian acknowledged that he did not know that the FBI agent had copies of the July 2002 e-mails at the time of the interview.

Mr. Safavian, a former chief federal procurement officer in the Bush White House, is charged with concealing from GSA ethics officials, GSA inspector-general investigators and Senate investigators that he aided Abramoff on GSA properties the lobbyist wanted to buy, lease or redevelop.

The defense introduced pictures of 10 U.S. hotels, mostly Marriotts, that Mr. Safavian had stayed in as a government worker for discounted government rates of $91 through $200 a night to rebut the contention that he should have known the Scottish hotels cost up to $500 a night.

Mr. Safavian acknowledged that none of these hotels was located beside a world-famous golf course.

Mr. Safavian said he told GSA ethics officials and the Senate that Abramoff was not doing or seeking business, with GSA because he thought that to be seeking business someone had to be bidding on a contract and that GSA had not decided in 2002 whether to redevelop one of the properties — a post office.

Mr. Safavian acknowledged that “there were some e-mails I sent him that contained nonpublic information.” He blamed his inexperience and expressed regret over sending e-mails describing another federal official’s opposition to the post office project.

Mr. Safavian also testified that he wouldn’t have taken the golfing trip “if I had known what I know now.”


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