Several members of Congress, including House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. and majority whip John Brademas, may be called to testify in the federal bribery trial of former Rep. Richard T. Hanna (D-Calif.), a federal prosecutor indicated yesterday.
In arguments before the chief U.S. District Court Judge William B. Bryant, Justice Department attorney Jeffrey S. White said that the members could be called to testify about actions Hanna took while he was, in effect, "on retainer" to the South Korean government.
In some cases, the government said in a brief filed earlier, Hanna made false claims in letters to Korean officials to bolster his standing. Both O'Neill (D-Mass.) and Brademas (D-Ind.) could testify, for example, that Hanna lied when he wrote about contacts with them in an August, 1974 letter to Korean President Park Chung Hee, the brief said.
Hanna solicited five other House members to insert pro-Korean statements into a 1974 hearing record, the brief noted, saying they, too, could be called to testify.
Judge Bryant delayed ruling on defense motions that the 40-count indictment be dismissed and set a new trial date for March 20. He also denied a surprise request by Hanna's attorney, Charles A. McNeils, that he be sent to Seoul to participate in the questioning of Tongsun Park, accused of being a Korean agent.
Park and Hanna have both been accused of conspiring with Korean Central Intelligence Agency officials to influence members of Congress.
"Mr. Hanna was their congressman in residence" White said. The indictment claims Hanna received more than $100,000 from Park for his aid to Korea.
A "major share" of the government's evidence in the case would be a series of more than 30 letters Hanna wrote to Park, Korean officials including President Park Chung Hee and three KCIA directors, and other congressmen and U.S. executive branch officials, White said.
Judge Bryant seemed to agree with White contention that such letters would not come under the protection of the constitutional "speech or debate" clause.
McNelis claimed that the clause - which says members "shall not be questioned in any other place" for any speech or debate on the House floor - shielded Hanna from criminal liability for his actions.
But Bryant said, "I don't think that umbrella [speech or debate protection] is quite as big as you think it is."
The judge seemed quite sympathetic to McNelis claims that the bribery counts failed to say when Hanna had committed specific acts for Korea or received money from Park.
But after a long huddle at his bench, Bryant said that he could not grant McNelis' request that he be sent at government's expense to take part in the Justice Department questioning of Park, which is scheduled to begin this week in Seoul.
Hanna has pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying the money he received from Park was the result of a business relationship, not bribery. His activities in support of Korea were based on long-standing conviction, not money, he contends.
"Tongsun Park is either going to exonerate my cliend or bury him," McNelis told the judge."I'd like to find out which."
Hanna acknowledged the authenticity of the letters in still-secret testimony before the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, the prosecution brief said.
"I have been guilty of puffing up to Tongsun Park and that is what all of these letters are going to demonstrate," Hanna was quoted as saying.
Hanna had declined to answer questions when called before the federal grand jury investigation the matter, citing his constitutional protection against self-incrimination.