Former presidential aide Lyn Nofziger contacted then-presidential counselor Edwin Meese III and other White House officials about the A10 aircraft in 1982, a defense witness testified yesterday at Nofziger's conflict-of-interest trial.
Stanton D. Anderson, a lawyer who represented Nofziger's consulting firm and the A10's manufacturer, Fairchild Republic Corp., said Nofziger was retained for his political advice because "the airplane was somewhat controversial."
"There was a lot of resistance in the Air Force as well as areas of Congress to continued funding," Anderson said.
The defense called Anderson to suggest that Nofziger did not break the law because he acted with the blessing of his attorney. Anderson said Nofziger contacted Thomas Reed, a National Security Council (NSC) official, and Meese. "We tried to generate interest at the White House to influence the Pentagon to make the right decision," he said.
Meese testified that he wrote a memorandum April 1, 1982, to top State and Defense Department officials urging continued A10 production.
Anderson said he accompanied Nofziger to a meeting Sept. 24, 1982, with NSC officials that prosecutors charge violated restrictions on lobbying by former government officials.
Nofziger is charged with illegally lobbying former White House colleagues.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas A. Flannery refused to allow the defense to ask Anderson about his advice to Nofziger on the propriety of his lobbying, saying that advice of counsel was no defense.
Anderson confirmed that Nofziger urged President Reagan to keep a promise to a New York congressman about continuing A10 production. Nofziger had argued that failure to intervene with the Pentagon "could be perceived as the president not living up to his commitments," Anderson recalled.
Anderson also supported the defense's contention that the A10 was not of "direct and substantial interest" to the White House, an element prosecutors must prove to convict Nofziger.
"It was not an issue they were really interested in," he said.
Nofziger was retained as a consultant a month after he resigned as White House political director to advise "on what steps we should be taking" to win continued production of the A10, Anderson said.