The top procurement official for a former Bush administration official arrested this week says authorities are using the charges to pressure her client to aid their investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
David Safavian was arrested Monday and charged with making false statements and obstructing a federal investigation relating to a 2002 golf outing to Scotland with Abramoff, former Christian Coalition executive Ralph Reed, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and others.
Safavian hid from investigators that Abramoff had business before the General Services Administration, where Safavian was chief of staff in 2002, when they took their Scotland trip, according to federal authorities.
Barbara Van Gelder, Safavian's lawyer, said her client would fight the charges. He accurately reported that Abramoff was not doing business with GSA at the time of the trip, Van Gelder said.
"This is a creative use of the criminal code to secure his cooperation against someone else," Van Gelder said in an interview Wednesday, reports Washington Post.
According to Bloomberg, some Republicans acknowledge they are nervous. "Sure there's a concern," said former Representative Jack Quinn of New York, who's now president of Cassidy & Associates, a Washington lobbying firm. "But like everyone else, we have to wait and see where the investigation goes."
Abramoff, 46, a top fund-raiser for Bush's re-election campaign, is under investigation by a government task force consisting of the Justice Department's public integrity section, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the Interior Department's inspector general. The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is conducting another inquiry.
Safavian, 38, who in the 1990s worked with Abramoff at the Washington-based lobbying firm of Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, was charged Sept. 19 by the Justice Department with making false statements about whether he had any dealings with the lobbyist in the course of Abramoff's attempts to obtain government land. He was also charged with obstructing an investigation. His lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, told the Washington Post he would vigorously contest the charges.
Safavian took the Scotland trip three years ago aboard a chartered jet. Abramoff was paying for the plane, Safavian said in an e-mail to the ethics office of his employer at the time, the U.S. General Services Administration.