Former White House deputy chief of staff Michael K. Deaver said yesterday that he has given up key symbols of his special relationship with President Reagan but he denied ever using that special relationship to help foreign or domestic clients of his consulting business.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Deaver said he sent back his White House pass, no longer receives a copy of Reagan's daily schedule and no longer plays on the White House tennis courts.
Deaver also confirmed that Fred Doucet, a senior adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, had raised the question of working for Canada on Feb. 28, 1985, more than two months before Deaver left the White House. Deaver said it was an "off-the-cuff" remark as they were walking out of a planning meeting for an Ottawa summit session, in which Doucet said, "You know, you're a helluva guy, a guy the Canadians ought to be thinking about."
Deaver said he replied, "For God's sake, don't talk to me about that."
In the interview, in which he defended his role as a lobbyist for the Canadian government on acid rain after participating in discussions on the issue as a White House official, Deaver maintained that he had never used his 20-year relationship with the president and Nancy Reagan "on behalf of any client" since he left the White House on May 10, 1985.
Deaver said in a subsequent telephone conversation that he had returned his White House pass yesterday morning with a personal note of thanks to Reagan, which also said he wanted to spare the president any "embarrassment."
Deaver's detailed defense of his actions as a lobbyist came the day after the General Accounting Office issued a report suggesting that he may have violated federal conflict-of-interest laws in his dealings on the acid rain issue and referring the matter to the Justice Department for further investigation.
On Jan. 8, special envoys Drew Lewis, for the United States, and William Davis, for Canada, issued a joint report, subsequently endorsed by Reagan, which recommended a five-year, $5 billion program, funded half by government and half by private industry, for reducing acid rain.
The interview was limited by Deaver to the acid rain issue and general questions about the propriety of serving as a lobbyist for foreign governments. Deaver is scheduled to testify Friday on other alleged conflicts before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations at a hearing that has been closed by Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Mich.).
Deaver disputed the GAO report, which he called "a mouse," on a number of particulars but acknowledged that he had participated in five meetings on the acid rain issue while still a White House official. However, he denied that the subject had come up in at least 15 discussions in the White House, as James F. Hinchman, deputy general counsel of the GAO, testified before the House subcommittee on Monday.
Hinchman's report listed the five meetings in which Deaver participated and stated that the subject of appointing a special U.S. envoy to Canada for acid rain "is said to have been discussed on an ongoing basis during the 8 a.m. White House senior staff meetings that occurred almost daily over the two-week period prior to the March 17-18 summit meeting." Deaver said he had no recollection of the issue being discussed then.
Deaver also denied that in the course of his discussions on acid rain as a White House official he had participated "personally and substantially" in a "particular matter involving specific parties," the prohibition in one section of the conflict-of-interest statute. He based this on his lack of substantive knowledge of the issue, saying, "I couldn't even tell you what acid rain means."
When it was pointed out that the law did not require a scientific knowledge of acid rain as a test of substantial involvement, he repeated, "I don't believe that I was personally and substantially involved in the acid rain issue."
Deaver also objected to the GAO for issuing the report on the basis of interviews with 10 people without having sought his side of the story. In response to this complaint, Hinchman essentially repeated what he had told the House subcommittee the day before. "Once we decided that a referral to Justice was warranted, we concluded that it would be more appropriate for any interview of Mr. Deaver to occur within the normal law enforcement process," Hinchman said.
In discussing the White House privileges he said he had given up, Deaver said he had stopped receiving a copy of the president's daily schedule two weeks ago, shortly after an account of the practice appeared in The Washington Times. He said he had not played tennis on the White House courts for some time.
Deaver said that Reagan had told him in the Rose Garden on the day he left the White House that he could keep his White House pass. A senior White House official said yesterday that five or six other former officials, whom he did not identify, currently hold such passes.
In the interview Deaver said he also had terminated discussions for an $18 million buyout by Saatchi and Saatchi, a London advertising agency which on Monday was reported to be in the process of acquiring Ted Bates Worldwide, the third largest U.S. advertising agency.
The tape-recorded interview was conducted in Deaver's Georgetown offices in the presence of his attorney, Herbert J. Miller, and an associate of the Deaver firm, former White House official Pamela G. Bailey. Deaver repeatedly defended the legality of his actions, but acknowledged that "the media perception, the public perception at this point is not good, there's no question about that."
However, he said there was nothing wrong in his representation of foreign governments, which include South Korea and Saudi Arabia as well as Canada. "I don't think it's wrong for a senior White House official to represent a foreign government," Deaver said. "I really don't. I believe that that experience can provide a real service, not only to that government or any client, and also serve the best interests of the United States.