The White House on Monday sent the Senate Armed Services Committee the final results of an investigation which Bush Administration officials said turned up no evidence to derail the nomination of Defense Secretary-designate John Tower.
The delivery of the FBI's 140-page report is expected to clear the way for a Senate floor showdown on Tower's confirmation, possibly before the end of this week. The FBI report was delivered to the White House on Monday afternoon.
President Bush, returning by helicopter from his presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., gave a vigorous "thumbs-up" gesture Monday when asked by reporters how Tower, a former senator from Texas, had fared in the latest FBI background check. After being briefed on the report's contents, Bush sent White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray to deliver the report to the Senate panel.
"The report shows no reason why Sen. Tower should not be confirmed, in our judgment," White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said. "The President urges that Sen. Tower be confirmed as soon as possible."
The report is known to include the results of detailed questioning on allegations that defense contractors' funds ended up in Tower's last Senate campaign, but there was no indication that Tower had any knowledge of the contributions.
Also covered in the report were so-called "life style" aspects of Tower's career. Among those interviewed, an Administration source said, was Kenneth L. Adelman, former director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, who alleged last week that Tower's indiscretions while heading the U.S. strategic arms negotiations in Geneva raised questions about his overall judgment. However, it was learned, Adelman was unable to provide many specifics to support his overall criticism.
And as the Senate committee neared the end of its deliberations, a national poll showed that Americans oppose Tower's nomination by a 2-1 margin. In a Louis Harris poll, conducted between Feb. 10-14, a majority of every major segment of the American population--including evangelical Christians, conservatives and those who voted for Bush last November--said they were against the choice of Tower as defense secretary.
"The best-educated people are against (Tower), and he has no conservative backing either," Harris told The Times. "There's no major group that's for him."
Stalled by Allegations
Tower's confirmation has been stalled for more than three weeks by allegations of drinking and womanizing, and, more recently, by charges that he accepted allegedly illegal campaign contributions from defense consultants.
While President Bush has stood firmly behind Tower during the Senate deliberations, Harris said that Bush's choice of Tower also has dragged down ratings of the President's performance. By a 62%-29% margin, a majority of those polled faulted Bush's judgment in naming Tower to the top Pentagon post.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) told reporters Monday that the panel will vote this week on whether to recommend Tower's confirmation to the full Senate.
Nunn said Monday that he would meet with individual members of the Armed Services Committee today and that a full committee session would be possible on Wednesday.
White House officials are pressing Senate leaders to schedule a final floor vote as soon as possible after the committee is polled, possibly by Friday.
The timing of the Senate's deliberations has become critical, since Bush will be traveling to Japan and several other East Asian capitals between Wednesday and next Monday. If the Senate rejects Tower's nomination while Bush is consulting with foreign heads of state, some analysts fear the political damage to Bush could be extensive.
Nunn refused to rule out the possibility that Monday's FBI report would be the final one, although he said he would like to make a final decision on whether to support Tower after reading the report. But he said he would not announce his position until other committee members have read the report.
Staff aides of Nunn's Senate panel on Monday interviewed State Department investigator Berne Indahl, one of two government investigators who probed security lapses at the headquarters of the U.S. arms negotiating team in Geneva during 1985-86. Indahl was said to have "independent corroboration" of reports that Tower maintained two secretaries as mistresses while he was a member of the U.S. negotiating team in Geneva.
According to congressional sources, Indahl on Monday backed off none of his earlier testimony relating to Tower's activities.