- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Prosecutors said yesterday that former White House procurement chief David Safavian gave away his office to Jack Abramoff. The official’s attorney said he was prosecuted simply because he was friends with the convicted lobbyist.

At the start of the first trial in the Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg said Mr. Safavian “worked first and foremost for a rich, powerful” lobbyist and personal friend and then he “lied and concealed in order to keep the truth from the public.”

“The government is stretching the facts. … David Safavian was not in Jack Abramoff’s pocket, but he was his friend,” Safavian attorney Barbara Van Gelder told a jury of 10 women and two men.

Mr. Zeidenberg said Abramoff “constantly dangled” the prospect that Mr. Safavian could return to the private sector and join Abramoff’s lobbying operation, “where he would make a great deal of money and he would play a great deal of golf.”

Before becoming the White House procurement chief, Mr. Safavian was deputy chief of staff, then chief of staff to the administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA).

A five-count grand jury indictment says Mr. Safavian lied when he told a GSA ethics officer and the GSA inspector general that Abramoff had no business pending at GSA, and when he later sent records to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, stating the same thing.

Abramoff wanted to acquire part of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Silver Spring for a private school he had founded, and he wanted to arrange a lease for his clients at the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue.


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