In a secretly videotaped June 1979 meeting, Sen. Harrison A. Williams Jr. (D-N.J.) told an FBI undercover agent posing as an Arab shiek that it would be no problem to get government contracts for a titanium mine in which he would hold a hidden interest.
Williams boasted on the videotape of his connections with Cabinet officials and the president and vice president. He said he would talk to the president "in a personal way and get him as enthusiastic and excited because we know what our country needs."
He added that the vice president at the time, Walter F. Mondale, "used to work for me on the committee." Williams, 61, was chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee until the Republicans took control of the Senate in January.
The half-hour videotape, the first played for the jury at Williams' Abscam bribery trial, shows the senator at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel in Arlington talking with agents Richard Farhart, the kaffiyeh-clad "sheik," and Anthony Amoroso, who has played a key role in the Abscam convictions of six House members.
Farhart never speaks during the meeting, but it seems clear that the senator believes he is authentic.
Later in the afternoon, prosecurtor Thomas Puccio played an audio tape from Kennedy International Airport in August in New York, where Williams accepted his hidden shares of stock in the mining venture.
Puccio also introduced as evidence a 1 1/4-hour September videotape from a Kennedy Airport hotel room, in which the group discussed selling the mine for a $70 million profit. Williams agreed to continue using his influence on behalf of the buyers after the mine had been sold.
Williams and a co-defendant are charged with conspiracy and bribery, accused of using the senator's influence in return for a $100 million loan from the "sheik" to finance the titanium venture.
Williams begins the June meeting with the "sheik" with a short speech about the nation's need for titanium because the Soviets were using it in fast new submarines.
"The Soviets are doing it, we're not. We are behind in this respect," he said. Later in the meeting he adds, "And with our situation with the Soviets any advantage they get, you know, is a weakness that we can't, we can't tolerate."
Though it wasn't mentioned before the playing of the videotape, Williams was told by undercover informer Mel Weinberg what he should say to the sheik at the meeting.
Weinberg encouraged Williams to exaggerate his importance and mention a lot of names to impress the Arab. "It's all talk. You should be out of there in 20 minutes," Weinberg had said.
Some federal prosecutors said they felt Weinberg's actions were so objectionable in that coaching session that Williams' constitutional rights were violated.
After Williams' recital of his powerful connections in Washington, Amoroso said, "Well, then . . . with you being in that position and contracts and the like would not be as problem?"
"No problem," the senator replied. "No. In a situation where we can just sit around and describe, they'll see, it will come to pass."
At the meeting Williams also agreed with Amoroso's suggestion that his 18 percent share of the mining venture be concealed by having the stock made out to his attorney and codefendant, Alexander Feinberg.
"I would work my arrangement with Alex. . . . I'm not gonna be in this situation [apparently meaning the Senate] forever, and I want to have, you know, foundations which give me that independence when I, later time [inaudible]."
Amoroso repeated the understanding that Feinberg would hold the shares. The senator replied, "That's the way to do it. Yeah."
At the Sept. 11 meeting at the Kennedy Airport Hilton, Weinberg told the senator and his partners that another group of Arabs was interested in buying their venture for what would be a $70 million profit. Williams was told by Feinberg that his share of the sale would be $12.6 million.
Weinberg said, however, that the new group wanted to be assured that Williams would continue to used his influence to get government contracts.
When the matter was first raised, the senator said, "Yeah, I got ya there, but I have a continuing relationship. You fellows are off on the Rivera, and I'm using my expertise for, uh, sponge. I'm for titanium sponge."
Later, though, Williams agreed: "We got this all together on certain premises and they will, they will continue." Feinberg chimed in: In other words, you're saying continue the same entity of effort."
Williams: "Right." He then made the motion to accept the potential sale offer, and noted, amid laughter, "We haven't got a secretary here.We got a recording device?"
Later in the meeting Weinberg says that the sale would take place overseas and the partner's profits would be put into Swiss bank accounts so there would be no tax liability. Williams, however, said he was inclined to pay the taxes on his profits so he could reinvest the money in the United States.
The rest of the meeting revolved around a discussion among the partners on whether the titanium from the venture could be sold easier as an ingredient for paint or for its more lucrative use in defense-related products such as planes and submarines.