David H. Safavian, former chief of White House procurement policy, was indicted yesterday on five counts of lying about his dealings with former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and impeding a Senate investigation of him.
The indictment accuses Safavian, who previously served as former chief of staff for the General Services Administration, of falsely telling GSA officials that Abramoff had no dealings with the agency at a time in 2002, the government alleges, that Abramoff was seeking to obtain use of two GSA properties with Safavian's assistance.
It also accuses Safavian of repeatedly making false statements to investigators about a golf trip he took with Abramoff to Scotland the same year. GSA ethics rules prohibited receiving gifts from anyone seeking an official action by the agency.
Safavian was arrested Sept. 19 on the similar charges, the first criminal allegations levied in the ongoing corruption investigation of Abramoff's activities in Washington. Safavian had resigned as top administrator at the federal procurement office in the White House Office of Management and Budget three days earlier.
The indictment alleges that "from May 16, 2002 until January 2004, Safavian made false statements and obstructed investigations into his relationship with a Washington, D.C., lobbyist," who has been identified as Abramoff. The indictment refers to him only as "Lobbyist A."
Safavian's attorney, Barbara Van Gelder, said the charges are "an attempt to prove guilt by association." She said, "If this case did not involve Mr. Abramoff, the government would never have indicted Mr. Safavian on these charges."
Van Gelder said Safavian "will plead not guilty, and he will request a speedy trial." She added, "We believe that after all the evidence is aired, Mr. Safavian will be acquitted of all charges."
Abramoff has been indicted in Florida on bank fraud charges, and is under investigation in connection with at least $82 million he and an associate received from Indian tribes that operate gambling casinos, and for fees from other clients.
Federal investigators are known to be looking at trips to Scotland that Abramoff arranged for members of Congress and others, including former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and House Administration Committee Chairman Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition and now a candidate for lieutenant governor in Georgia.
Safavian, Ney and Reed all went on the 2002 trip to Scotland, which cost an estimated $100,000.
If convicted, Safavian, who worked as a lobbyist with Abramoff in the 1990s, faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the counts.
Staff writer Susan Schmidt contributed to this report.