White House officials acknowledged yesterday that they were mistaken in saying that two Secret Service agents were among the federal employes who purchased luxury autos at a discount on an official trip to West Germany last year.
Spokesman Anson Franklin said that the White House "got some information that wasn't totally on the mark" and that only seven employes, not nine, had used diplomatic passports to buy the BMWs.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes announced Monday that an internal review found nothing unethical or illegal about the BMW purchases by deputy chief of staff Michael K. Deaver and some associates.
Speakes said the review by White House counsel Fred F. Fielding found that four White House officials, three U.S. Embassy employes and two Secret Service agents bought the cars at discounts up to 25 percent. Speakes said the agents canceled their contracts because the purchases violated Secret Service rules.
"That's a misstatement," Secret Service spokesman Michael Tarr said yesterday. "It's wrong."
Tarr said the two agents considered buying BMWs and checked the prices, but "decided not to buy the cars." He said the agents paid no money and signed no contracts. Also, Tarr said that "there are no rules prohibiting Secret Service agents from purchasing a car overseas," and that he had called Speakes about the errors.
Franklin said that the White House now agrees with the Secret Service and that he did not know the source of the misstatements.
Speakes said Fielding found the diplomatic discounts were not gifts as long as they were available to all government employes or to a special group. BMW officials said that they provide only 75 such discounts a year and that very few are given to administration officials.