WASHINGTON — The court-appointed prosecutor of former White House aide Michael K. Deaver provoked the ire of Canadian diplomats Wednesday by insisting that Canada's ambassador to Washington testify as "a key prosecution witness" in Deaver's upcoming perjury trial.
Refusing to accept a subpoena naming Ambassador Allan E. Gotlieb, Canadian Embassy officials filed a formal protest with the State Department claiming that the action by prosecutor Whitney North Seymour Jr. is "a violation of the ambassador's diplomatic immunity."
Officials threatened to ignore the subpoena as invalid even if U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson grants Seymour's request to enforce it.
Seymour, in a motion to compel Gotlieb's testimony, bluntly accused the Canadian government of "duplicitous behavior" in refusing to accept the subpoena from an FBI agent who visited the embassy Tuesday.
Seymour told Jackson that Gotlieb's testimony is "essential" to prove that Deaver lied about his lobbying activities on behalf of Canada after leaving the White House in May, 1985. Seymour apparently wants Gotlieb to testify about meetings he had with Deaver before Deaver resigned as deputy White House chief of staff and signed a $105,000-a-year lobbying contract with the Canadian government.
Indicted Last March
Seymour last March obtained a grand jury indictment charging Deaver with five counts of lying under oath about his lobbying activities for Canada and other clients. The perjury allegedly occurred during a conflict-of-interest investigation of Deaver by Congress and Seymour's office.
Former government officials like Deaver are prohibited from contacting their former agencies on behalf of a business client for 12 months after leaving federal service. One of Deaver's tasks was to help the Canadians reach agreement with the Reagan Administration on a joint program to reduce acid rain pollution.
In his motion Wednesday, Seymour charged that the embassy's action "appears calculated to conceal the duplicitous behavior of the Canadian government in seeking to put itself in a position where it can tell critics of Canada that it has cooperated fully with our investigation, while it has actually taken a position to block the prosecution of Deaver for perjury concerning his dealings with Canadian representatives."
Deaver's trial is scheduled to begin June 8 but may be delayed by preliminary legal maneuvers.
'We Are Disturbed'
A Canadian embassy official said "we are disturbed" by an FBI agent's attempt to serve the subpoena because "the premises of a diplomatic mission are inviolable."
"The testimony sought by the independent counsel (Seymour) does not relate to events external to the embassy, such as a street crime," the official said. "Rather, it relates to official communications from the government of Canada to officials in the White House. This, of course, goes to the very heart of the concept of diplomatic immunity."
Canada's protest won prompt support at the State Department. Spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley told reporters that under the 1961 Vienna Convention, Gotlieb is entitled "to complete immunity from being obligated to give evidence as a witness" unless Canada formally waives that privilege.
Seymour's subpoena of Gotlieb apparently represents a change of heart on the part of the prosecutor. Canadian officials said that Seymour wrote them last June 25 to request an informal interview with Gotlieb. In the letter, Seymour said in part: "We are prepared to commit ourselves not to quote you in any public proceeding without your prior permission."