WASHINGTON — Chief Justice nominee William H. Rehnquist was accused today of having a "convenient loss of memory" by a witness who charged that he saw Rehnquist challenge black voters at the polls in the 1960s.
Meanwhile, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee remained locked in a struggle over Democratic efforts to obtain confidential memos Rehnquist wrote as an assistant attorney general during the Nixon Administration.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) threatened to throw out an agreement to vote on Rehnquist's nomination Aug. 14 if the documents are not produced. President Reagan late Thursday invoked executive privilege, and Administration officials refused to turn over the memos.
The memos, written by Rehnquist between 1969 and 1971, purportedly concern domestic wiretapping and the Nixon Administration's plans for dealing with Vietnam War protesters.
Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) said that he had considered the matter closed but that if there are still questions he will take up the issue Tuesday morning.
Charles Pine, a former state Democratic chairman in Arizona, testified today that he personally saw Rehnquist challenge voters.
"I am quite aware of the fact that Justice Rehnquist has denied he has ever challenged or attempted to harass or intimidate qualified voters," he said.
"All I can say in response to that based on my personal experience is that the justice is obviously currently suffering from a convenient lapse of memory. I say that because I saw him in person challenge individuals and do it personally."
Tells of Complaints
Earlier, James Brosnahan, a lawyer now living in Berkeley, Calif., testified that as an assistant U.S. attorney in Phoenix in 1962 he saw Rehnquist working as a Republican challenger of voters at a predominantly minority voting precinct.
Brosnahan said he had gone to the precinct with an FBI agent after receiving complaints about Rehnquist's conduct.