WASHINGTON — In a dramatic bipartisan move, Republicans and Democrats on a House subcommittee condemned lobbyist Michael K. Deaver's conduct Tuesday and voted unanimously to refer evidence that he may have committed perjury to the independent counsel investigating his activities.
By a vote of 17 to 0, the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on investigations adopted a staff report charging that Deaver, former deputy White House chief of staff and one of President Reagan's closest personal advisers during his first term, apparently lied during five hours of testimony to the subcommittee last May.
Cites Deaver Responses
The subcommittee staff cited Deaver's responses to questions about top Reagan Administration officials whom he had contacted on behalf of his business clients shortly after leaving the White House. The Administration officials include Robert C. McFarlane, then Reagan's national security adviser, Budget Director James C. Miller III and two U.S. ambassadors.
Republicans were fully as critical as Democrats of the credibility of Reagan's former close aide. No one spoke in Deaver's defense at a press briefing conducted by all members of the panel after they had voted in closed session.
But Reagan, in Illinois for an appearance at the Illinois State Fair, reasserted his support of his former aide. When asked by reporters if he still had confidence in Deaver, the President replied: "I've always said I have full confidence in him."
The subcommittee heard from Deaver and some Reagan Administration officials as part of its investigation of charges that Deaver, shortly after leaving the White House last year, violated prohibitions against contacting former high-ranking government colleagues on behalf of his business clients.
Rep. Norman F. Lent of New York, the senior Republican on the subcommittee, said that Deaver's testimony in May had been "unfortunate" because "he failed to provide full and accurate information on matters of interest."
Rep. Fred J. Eckert (R-N.Y.) agreed with Lent but added that any criminal charges against Deaver "must be determined by the special counsel," Whitney North Seymour Jr., who was chosen by a panel of three federal judges in May to investigate charges that Deaver violated conflict-of-interest rules.
Rep. Gerry Sikorski (D-Minn.), a subcommittee member, told reporters that, aside from a perjury charge, Seymour should consider whether Deaver's testimony amounted to obstruction of a congressional investigation.
In response to the subcommittee report, Randall J. Turk, an attorney for Deaver, said in a statement: "We are confident that, after a full and impartial investigation, Mr. Deaver will be cleared of any wrongdoing, including the suggestion that he may possibly have committed perjury."
Lent said that Republicans on the subcommittee "voiced our concern" over news leaks and subsequent statements last week by Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) about the staff report on Deaver. But, despite protests by Deaver's lawyers, "we are satisfied that all witnesses have been treated fairly," Lent said.
He added: "Mr. Deaver's lack of candor in no way reflects on those in the Reagan Administration with whom he had contact. The Administration's conduct in this case has been ethically and legally correct."
The subcommittee's report said that Deaver, in his only appearance before the panel on May 16 in closed session, told of a contact by his business associate, William Sittmann, with a staff member of the President's National Security Council. But, when asked if he had any further contacts within the Executive Office of the President or the National Security Council, "Mr. Deaver responded that he had not," the report said.
Subsequently, the subcommittee said, it received information that Deaver "had a significant telephone conversation" with McFarlane, then the director of the National Security Council staff, in the summer of 1985 to discuss tax credits for business clients investing in Puerto Rico. At that time, Deaver had just left his White House post.
"The staff concludes that Mr. Deaver knowingly and willfully testified falsely with regard to his contact with Mr. McFarlane and that his false testimony was material," Dingell said in a memo attached to the report.
Didn't Disclose Contacts
The staff report charged also that Deaver willfully misled the subcommittee by failing to disclose "significant contacts" he had had with U.S. Ambassadors Richard Burt (Germany) and Mike Mansfield (Japan), even though he had been asked to name all ambassadors with whom he had talks about his business clients.
The staff report, identifying a possible motive for Deaver's alleged failure to tell the committee about all his contacts with government officials, said that complete testimony by Deaver would have provided the panel with more leads in investigating violations of conflict-of-interest laws.
The subcommittee concluded also that Deaver "knowingly and willfully testified falsely" when he described a meeting last February with Budget Director Miller in which Deaver sought to promote production of the B-1 bomber manufactured by a client, Rockwell International Corp.
"Mr. Deaver testified that he told Rockwell that he was going to call on Mr. Miller and that he reported back to them subsequent to the meeting," the report said. But, it added that Rockwell executives, who apparently received less information from Deaver than Deaver contended he had delivered, said they learned of the meeting only when it was reported in the press.