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'No Wholesale Firings,' Baker Promises His Staff

March 02, 1987|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — Former Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. took over today as President Reagan's White House chief of staff, promising "no wholesale firings, no wholesale requests for resignations," a spokesman said.

Marlin Fitzwater told reporters, however, that White House counsel J. Peter Wallison has indicated a desire to leave and that Wallison will be replaced by A. V. Culvahouse, a partner with Baker in the Washington law firm of Vinson & Elkins.

Wallison had been involved in coordinating Reagan's responses to various investigations into the Iran- contra affair.

With Reagan preparing to address the nation this week on the Iran-contra arms affair, Baker conducted his first staff meeting, which Fitzwater described as "humorous, but to the point."

Fitzwater said that while Baker assured White House staff members that there would be no shake-up, Baker "would have private consultations later if there was any need to discuss a job change."

'Openness and Candor'

Fitzwater also said Frank Donatelli would be joining the staff as political director and John Koehler as communications director--as had been planned before Donald T. Regan's resignation as chief of staff and Baker's decision to take the job.

Fitzwater said that Baker had presided with humor and that he displayed a "refreshing openness and candor."

Fitzwater said the former senator at one point during the staff meeting asked Budget Director James C. Miller III "to discuss the budget--if he had the courage."

Later in the day, Baker held his first meeting with President Reagan since becoming his chief of staff.

Baker was expected to lose no time in helping Reagan draft the speech he will give, probably Wednesday evening, responding to the Tower Commission report that criticized his loose management style and lack of attention to risky foreign policy operations.

Fitzwater said Baker "expects a warm and productive relationship" with national security adviser Frank Carlucci, and anticipates no problems there.

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