Billy Carter apparently made a flurry of previously undisclosed telephone calls to the Libyan Embassy and to the Charter Oil Co. last Dec. 6, the same day President Carter met at the White House with the chief Libyan diplomat here.
The Senate subcommittee investigating Billy Carter's Libyan activities released a summary of the phone records yesterday as it took testimony from White House appointments secretary Phillip J. Wise Jr.
Subcommittee counsel Philip Tone told reporters that fresh depositions would have to be taken from a number of witnesses about the calls before any conclusions could be drawn about their significance.
Senate investigators are known to believe, however that Billy Carter and his associate Henry R. (Randy) Coleman stepped up their efforts to obtain a loan and broker an oil deal with the Libyans last winter after Billy Carter successfully arranged a Nov. 27 meeting at the White House between the president's national security affairs adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Ali Houderi, the head of the Libyan delegation here.
The president met with Houderi in the Oval Office in Brzezinski's presence at another meeting from 11:02 to 11:12 a.m. Dec. 6. In a statement to the subcommittee last month, the president said the principal purpose of this meeting was to underscore U.S. protests about an attack on the American Embassy in Tripoli a few days earlier.
Brzezinski has said the president also made it clear that "the U.S. would like to have a better relationship with Libya, since that was clearly in the interest of both countries."
Billy Carter, meanwhile, appears to have been busy on the telephone through most of the day. The calls made public yesterday were all made from the office of the Best Western Motel in Americus, Ga., which Tone noted "was used regularly by Billy Carter and Randy Coleman" along with others such as motel manager Jimmy Murray.
In any case, the records show three brief calls to the Libyan Embassy from the Best Western Motel office on Dec. 6, one at 10:06 a.m., another at 10:39 a.m. and a third at 2:22 p.m. (houderi had been told by Brzezinski sometime that morning to be at the White House at 11 a.m.)
Billy Carter also called the White House once from the same motel telephone, for a five-minute conversation starting at 10:08 a.m.
Wise acknowledged yesterday that he spoke with the president's brother by telephone that day, although he insisted in a deposition last week that it could have been any one of "a number of Billys" that he talked to. His telephone log says only "10:10 Billy."
Wise said yesterday that his recollection had been refreshed by some correspondence he found this week. He told the subcommittee that he and Billy talked about a hospital project in Warm Spring, Ga., not matters involving Libya.
Under questioning by Tone, Wise said he didn't believe he had even mentioned to Billy Carter the president's upcoming meeting with Houderi. "That is not the type of information I would be passing on to anyone not involved in it," Wise said.
Libya, however, seems to have been very much on Billy Carter's mind that day. The telephone records also show two calls from the Best Western during the day to the Jacksonville, Fla., offices of Charter Oil, at 2:27 p.m. and 3:20 p.m., and two others to the office of Jack McGregor in Bedford Village, N.Y., at 10:36 a.m. and 2:47 p.m.
McGregor is a former executive of Charter Oil and an old Marine Corps buddy of Billy Carter. It was McGregor who suggested to Billy Carter in the spring of 1979 that Charter Oil might be interested in obtaining a bigger allocation of Libyan crude oil through Billy's influence. Company executives agreed in August 1979 to pay the president's brother a multimillion-dollar commission if the deal went through.
The oil deal never went through, but Billy Carter did get $220,000 from the Libyans in two installments. The first, a $20,000 check, was picked up by Randy Coleman at the Libyan People's Bureau, formerly the Libyan Embassy, in Washington Dec. 27. Justice Department investigators have said they are convinced that the payments stemmed directly from Billy Carter's work the previous month as an intermediary between the Libyans and the White House.
Aside from the Dec. 6 telephone conversation with Billy Carter, Wise said he was unable to recall virtually every other conversation that has been attributed to him concerning the president's brother and the Libyans.
The 29-year-old appointments secretary said, for instance, that he had "no recollection" of requesting any briefings for Billy Carter or for Coleman on the subject of Libya, despite the testimony of two former National Security Council staffers on that point.
William B. Quandt, former Middle East specialist for the NSC, said he briefed Coleman by telephone -- and spoke with Billy Carter briefly at one point -- before a 1978 trip they made to Libya. Quandt said he was asked to do this by NSC staffer Karl F. Inderfurth and, as Quandt recalled it, Inderfurth told him the request had come from Wise.
Inderfurth, who was then a special assistant to Brzezinski, confirmed that Wise also had asked him to talk to Coleman before Quandt did. "Phil advised me that Mr. Coleman and Mr. Carter were planning a trip to Libya," Inderfurth told the subcommittee.
By contrast, Wise suggested that all he ever knew about Billy's visit to Libya in late September and early October of 1978 was what he read in the newspapers. "My recollection of the matter is that I simply learned of Billy's trip after the press had reported the event," he told the subcommittee.
Tone reminded Wise that his White House telephone logs show he talked with Coleman directly on Sept. 18, 1978, before the Libyan trip.
"I don't recall the substance of that conversation," Wise replied. As for the testimony of Inderfurth and Quandt, he added:
"I don't dispute their testimony, but I don't recall."
Similarly, Wise, who grew up in Plains and has known the Carter family since boyhood, testified that he had no recollection of arranging a State Department briefing for Randy Coleman in January 1979 on the status of C130 military aircraft sought by the Libyans. Billy Carter told government investigators last January that he called Wise about the matter.
Wise combined his professions of poor memory with a burst of indignation about published suggestions that he might have tipped off Billy Carter in some fashion last June that government investigators were breathing down his neck. Billy Carter went to the Justice Department on June 11 and acknowledged getting the $220,000 after government lawyers told him they knew he had received some money.
Wise flatly denied furnishing any inside information about the Justice Department investigation to Billy Carter, Randy Coleman or to Billy's Georgia lawyer, John Parks.
"It has been most disillusioning and disheartening to have my reputation questioned in the national media in this cavalier and irresponsible manner," Wise said.
He also expressed chagrin over statements by Joel Lisker the head of the Justice Department's foreign agents registration unit. Lisker said he had called Wise's secretary in early June to warn that Wise might be called before a grand jury if he wouldn't make himself available to the FBI. cA few days later, lawyer Parks called Lisker from Georgia and asked whether the case involving Billy Carter's failure to register as a foreign agent "was going to a grand jury."
In his testimony before the subcommittee, Lisker said he felt it "a fair inference" that Wise had somehow transmitted the talk about a grand jury to Billy Carter.
Subcommittee Chairman Birch Bayh (D-Ind.) and Vice Chairman Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), like other panel members expressed some frustration of their own at Wise's inability to recall details of his activities at a desk just outside the Oval Office.
Bayh said he sympathized with Wise's annoyance at speculation that he had tipped off Billy.But, Bayh continued, "Your 'don't recalls' are red flags to all are looking for the truth."
By the end of several hours of questioning. Bayh had gone from frustration to seeming amazement. Bayh couldn't understand why an aide as close to the president as Wise might not have cautioned the chief executive about Billy Carter's Libyan activities.
"I've known the president all my life. I do not get involved in family matters of his." Wise said in response to a Bayh question about his "protection" of the president. "Not normally would I report to the president what Billy Carter was doing."
"Suppose he was going to blow up the Washington Monument?" Bayh asked in exasperation. "Would you still be hesitant to bring it to the president's attention?"
"I don't think it is something I would necessarily mention to the president," Wise said.
Indeed, if the entire Billy Carter-Libya story were only beginning today, Wise added, he most likely would refer whatever he might learn to the White House chief of staff -- not the president. "That's the role of the chief of staff -- I would assume they [sic] would tell the president," Wise said.