Where Did Safavian Work Again?
Wednesday, June 21, 2006; 11:10 AM
You wouldn't know it from the coverage of David H. Safavian's conviction yesterday for lying and obstructing justice, but some of his criminal activity actually took place while he was working at the White House.
Safavian managed to avoid being frog-marched out of the White House by resigning three days before his arrest.
And it's true that the underlying acts in his case -- helping to assist corrupt super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff in acquiring some properties and accepting a lavish weeklong overseas golf trip -- took place while Safavian was the Bush-appointed chief of staff at the General Services Administration.
But as so many others in Washington have learned before him, it's not the crime, it's the cover-up. And for Safavian, some of that cover-up was carried out from his White House office.
Oddly, Safavian's White House connection is barely mentioned in most of the coverage today, even though one of the pieces of evidence introduced against him was actually a note he wrote out on White House stationery.
Astonishingly, in fact, the words "White House" are missing entirely from at least two widely-published stories: The Associated Press article by Pete Yost and the Knight Ridder Newspapers article by Marisa Taylor .
By contrast, Jeffrey H. Birnbaum writes in The Washington Post: "A federal jury found former White House aide David H. Safavian guilty yesterday of lying and obstructing justice, making him the highest-ranking government official to be convicted in the spreading scandal involving disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff."
What exactly did Safavian do? Birnbaum writes: "The jury found him guilty of obstructing an inquiry by the inspector general's office of the GSA and of lying to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, a GSA ethics officer and the GSA inspector general. He was acquitted of obstructing the Senate's probe. He faces up to 20 years in jail and $1 million in fines; sentencing was set for Oct. 12."
It doesn't look like any of the reporters covering the story, however, made the timetable very clear.
As R. Jeffrey Smith and Susan Schmidt noted in The Washington Post in September -- when Safavian resigned from the White House on a Friday and was arrested the following Monday -- the criminal complaint against him alleged "that Safavian lied about his contacts with Abramoff on three occasions after his initial false pledge to the GSA ethics officer. The first was during a 2003 investigation by GSA's inspector general, who was responding to an anonymous tipster's hotline complaint; the second was in a March 17, 2005, letter to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; and the third was during an FBI interview on May 26, 2005."
Safavian started work at the White House, as its chief procurement officer, in November 2004.
As Michael J. Sniffen wrote for the Associated Press on June 1, prosecutors at trial even went so far as to introduce a copy of a handwritten note on White House stationery that Safavian attached to the letter and packet of documents he sent the Senate panel in March.