The Bush administration’s former chief procurement official was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on charges of making false statements and obstructing investigations into high-powered Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The five felony counts in the indictment charge David H. Safavian with obstructing Senate and executive branch investigations into whether he aided Abramoff in efforts to acquire property controlled by the General Services Administration around the nation’s capital.
Both probes looked into an August 2002 golf outing that Safavian took to Scotland with Abramoff, former Christian Coalition executive Ralph Reed, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and others.
Safavian, a former lobbying associate of Abramoff, is the first person beyond Abramoff himself to face charges arising out of the probe of the lobbyist, who is a major Republican fundraiser with close ties to GOP leaders in Congress.
The indictment covers May 16, 2002, until January 2004, when Safavian was chief of staff at the General Services Administration, the government housekeeping agency. From November 2004 until late last month when he resigned three days before his arrest, he was the government’s top procurement officer in the Office of Management and Budget.
The indictment said Safavian falsely told a GSA ethics officer, a GSA inspector general’s agent and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that Abramoff had no business with GSA at the time the Scotland trip was being planned. It said Safavian concealed that Abramoff did have business with GSA before the trip and that Safavian was aiding him in dealing with GSA.
Barbara Van Gelder, Safavian’s lawyer, has said that Safavian accurately reported Abramoff was not doing business with GSA at the time of the trip, and she said Safavian would fight the charges.
Each count carries a potential top penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.