Former White House counsel Fred F. Fielding will testify in closed session Tuesday before the House subcommittee investigating the lobbying activities of Michael K. Deaver, the panel said yesterday.
Deaver, the former White House deputy chief of staff, appeared last month before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations and is scheduled to testify a second time, although no date has been set. Both Deaver and Fielding told the panel, chaired by Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), that they preferred to appear in closed session.
Questions were raised about Fielding's role in the Deaver probe at a public subcommittee hearing May 12. Some members questioned whether Fielding should have disqualified himself earlier than he did from an administration probe of Deaver because he discussed a possible job with Deaver's multimillion-dollar consulting firm.
Fielding, now a Washington attorney, could not be reached for comment, but he has called these questions "a misunderstanding of the facts and the law."
Fielding signed a White House memo Feb. 28 to the Office of Government Ethics, which was examining whether Deaver had violated conflict-of-interest laws in representing Canada on the acid rain controversy. The day before, William Sittman, vice president of Michael K. Deaver & Associates, had asked Fielding over lunch to consider joining Deaver's firm.
Fielding has said he never seriously considered joining Deaver's firm and that he disqualified himself from the Deaver probe "out of an abundance of caution" in early March, after arranging a meeting with Deaver to discuss the job feeler.
Fielding's memo dealt with the status of Drew Lewis, a special presidential envoy on acid rain who met with Deaver last October. If Lewis was considered a White House official, it would have been illegal for Deaver, who handled the acid-rain issue before leaving the White House last spring, to meet with him on Canada's behalf.
Fielding's memo said that Lewis was not a White House official because he received no administrative support from the White House. But the General Accounting Office told Dingell's panel that Lewis reported to the White House and should be considered a White House official. Fielding has said the memo was prepared by his staff.
A three-judge panel last week named Whitney North Seymour Jr., a former U.S. attorney in Manhattan, as an independent counsel to investigate whether Deaver's representation of Canada and other clients violated conflict-of-interest laws.