Sunday, April 16, 2006

E-Mails Tie Former GSA Official to Abramoff; Safavian Attorney Objects to Disclosure
E-Mails Tie Former GSA Official to Abramoff
Safavian Attorney Objects to Disclosure
By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer

Federal prosecutors last night released hundreds of e-mails documenting the business and personal ties between former White House aide David H. Safavian, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and a network of congressional representatives and staffers.

Within days after becoming chief of staff at the General Services Administration, for example, Safavian began discussions of government property opportunities with Abramoff. In other e-mails, Abramoff suggested that then-GSA Administrator Steve Perry join them on a $130,000 golfing trip to Scotland.

Safavian's attorney, Barbara Van Gelder, reacted angrily to the Justice Department's decision to make the documents publicly available in a filing in U.S. District Court. Safavian has been charged with obstructing justice by telling investigators that Abramoff had no business dealings with the GSA.

"This is not a pleading, it is a press release that allows the Government to place inadmissible hearsay documents into the public record right before trial," Van Gelder said in an e-mail to reporters.

Regardless of their admissibility, the documents provide a rare and detailed look at the intersection between government officials and lobbyists, where business deals, racquetball, golf and expensive meals are part of daily discussion.

In April 2002, when Safavian was chief of staff to Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), he and Abramoff exchanged e-mails about Safavian's interest in working for Abramoff's law firm, Greenberg Traurig. Then, on April 17, Safavian e-mailed: "you and I need to talk. I was just offered the chief of staff job for GSA."

Thirty-one minutes later, Abramoff replied: "Oy vey! Where/when should I call u?"

On May 14, Abramoff wrote: "Can I host a party for you at Sigs [Signatures, a restaurant Abramoff owned]? Something like cocktails? Let me know if that is allowed. I really want to do it."

Safavian replied: "No, but you can join me for a drink at the happy hour being thrown for me on Monday night at Bullfeathers on the Hill."

Abramoff: "Bullfeathers?! What?! Can you move it to my restaurant?"

The e-mails suggest that the Signatures party never occurred, but 10 days later, on May 24, Abramoff got down to business: "I have a gsa question. There is a facility which is under the control of the GSA in silver Spring Maryland . . . I was wondering if it is possible to get some of the property for a school. Do you know if that is doable and how? Thanks."

Abramoff's numerous inquiries about the Silver Spring property and possible uses of the Old Post Office Pavilion in downtown Washington are key elements of the government's charges against Safavian.

On Jan. 22, 2004, President Bush appointed Safavian chief administrator of the White House Office of Federal Procurement Policy. On Sept. 16, 2005, Safavian resigned; he was arrested three days later.

Research editor Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.