WASHINGTON — The Justice Department urged a federal judge Friday to reject an independent counsel's efforts to compel the Canadian ambassador to testify against former White House aide Michael K. Deaver.
The department's 13-page brief said that Canadian Ambassador Allan E. Gotlieb and his wife are entitled to diplomatic immunity from testifying at Deaver's upcoming perjury trial.
Independent counsel Whitney North Seymour dispatched an FBI agent with subpoenas for the Gotliebs to the Canadian Embassy on May 26, but officials turned away the agent.
Seymour "disregards the well-established law of diplomatic immunity" and attempts to compel the Gotliebs' testimony "based on irrelevant legal principles and mischaracterized facts," the Justice Department brief said. It was filed by Assistant Atty. Gen. Richard K. Willard, head of the department's civil division.
Canada cooperated informally with Seymour's criminal investigation, but "the facts unequivocally demonstrate that Canada has in fact refused to waive, and carefully preserved the immunity of Ambassador and Mrs. Gotlieb from testifying," the Justice Department said.
"The original diplomatic note, in which Canada agreed informally to cooperate with the investigation of certain activities of Michael Deaver, places strict limitations on Canada's participation," it added.
The indictment of Deaver alleges that the former White House deputy chief of staff who turned lobbyist testified falsely when he said he did not recall a January, 1985, luncheon with Gotlieb. Sources have said that Mrs. Gotlieb and Mrs. Deaver also attended the lunch.
Envoy on Acid Rain
Deaver also lied, the indictment said, when he said he did not recall telling Gotlieb that Secretary of State George P. Shultz had assured Deaver that he did not object to naming a special envoy on acid rain.
Seymour's subpoenas prompted a diplomatic protest from Canada, and the State Department sided with the Canadians.
Seymour contends in a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Washington that Gotlieb waived diplomatic immunity when the Canadian government agreed last year to provide written answers to questions from the prosecutors.