Sen. David L. Boren (D-Okla.) yesterday disputed statements by President Reagan and Secretary of State George P. Shultz that Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams had voluntarily admitted misleading the Senate Intelligence Committee last year on foreign donations to the contras.
The admission, Boren said, came only after intense prodding from "outraged" senators and an apology was "wrung out" of Abrams only after he was urged to offer it.
Abrams, the assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs who has been the administration's point man on the contra program, has come under fire in Congress for his failure to disclose to the Senate intelligence committee last Nov. 25 that he had solicited a $10 million donation for the Nicaraguan rebels from the sultan of Brunei. Abrams testified about the solicitation when he reappeared before the committee on Dec. 8.
In supporting Abrams, Shultz this week cited Abrams' Dec. 8 appearance before the committee to amend his earlier testimony. "He went back and corrected that mistake long before" the congressional Iran-contra hearings began, Shultz said. Yesterday, Reagan repeated that defense.
However, Boren said, when Abrams reappeared last Dec. 8 he at first tried to argue that he had not misled the committee. "When he came back, he came through the door in a totally combative mood," Boren said. "He defended what he did at length and he was still trying to say he had not misled us. The whole committee got outraged."
After Abrams agreed that he had not been forthcoming in his earlier testimony, Boren said, Abrams still did not apologize until Boren urged him to do so during a break. "It was an apology wrung out of him," the senator said.
An Abrams aide said yesterday that whether Abrams apologized soon enough is secondary to the fact that Abrams went back and "set the record straight."
According to a transcript of the Dec. 8 hearing, Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) told Abrams that at the Nov. 25 session he had created the impression he was unaware of contra fund-raising activities. Bradley said that when Abrams had been asked whether he discussed contra fund-raising with the National Security Council staff, Abrams had replied: "No, I can't remember."
Abrams then attempted to defend himself by telling Bradley that his solicitation of Brunei "was not fund-raising by the contras; it was fund-raising by me."