Accusing Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams of "deliberately" misleading Congress in the Iran- contra scandal, 129 Democratic House members demanded Abrams' ouster in a letter to his boss Friday.
The letter was sent to Secretary of State George P. Shultz, who already has expressed his support for Abrams. President Reagan said in his Venice, Italy, news conference Thursday that he backs Shultz's decision.
The letter, written by Reps. Jim Moody (D-Wis.) and Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) and circulated among House Democrats for additional signatures, said Abrams' testimony before the committees investigating the sale of arms to Iran and the diversion of funds to the Nicaraguan rebels showed "Assistant Secretary Abrams knowingly and deliberately misled Congress on several occasions."
"He said, for example, that neither he nor the State Department were 'in the fund-raising business' when, in fact, he had personally solicited funding for the contras from the Sultan of Brunei two months earlier," the Democrats said.
Abrams told the investigating committees he was not authorized to reveal the solicitation when he testified to congressional committees late last year.
The Democrats' letter said: "We have reached a dangerous impasse when the Administration's key spokesman for inter-American affairs is not authorized to answer congressional inquiries truthfully and completely.
"Given Assistant Secretary Abrams' various deceptions and his clear contempt for the constitutional role of Congress in conducting foreign policy, we believe that he can no longer function effectively. We ask for the immediate resignation or replacement of Mr. Abrams as assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs," the letter said.
New Vote of Confidence
Meanwhile, Abrams got a new vote of confidence from Shultz on Friday, hours after the assistant secretary said he was "delighted with the support the secretary and the President are giving."
Abrams' remarks were made after he addressed Citizens for America, a conservative group, in Washington.
"I have no plans to go anywhere," he said when asked if he would resign.
Some news accounts had said that Reagan gave Abrams only lukewarm support Thursday when he merely referred to Shultz's statements rather than adding personal words of praise.
Shultz, however, in remarks to reporters flying back from the economic summit on Friday, said: "It's your statement that the President's support was lukewarm. The President told me he fully supports Elliott Abrams.
Admirer of Abrams
"He is an admirer of Elliott Abrams," Shultz added.
When asked whether Abrams has become a liability for the Administration in its hopes of winning support in Congress for new contra aid, Shultz said: "Insofar as congressional sentiment is concerned, there is a rebuilding job to do."
But he made it clear he expected Abrams to stay in his job.
"He is a combative person. That's his way. But he's a good man--a patriotic man," Shultz said.