Perot Sought Probe of Alleged Armitage Drug Smuggling, Bush Aide Says
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot asked Vice President George Bush last fall to look into ″what he considered evidence of wrongdoing,″ including drug dealing, by Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Armitage, Bush’s spokesman said Sunday.
Perot on Sunday denied the report, but assistant press secretary Stephen Hart, commenting on a story in Sunday’s Boston Globe, said he understood the allegations centered on drug and weapons trafficking.
″I have never said a word to anybody about drugs and weapons and Armitage,″ Perot told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Texas. Asked whether he knew of such allegations, however, Perot at first said he would not comment, then added, ″I have no direct knowledge of either.″
″Those stories float out there, but I don’t have any evidence.″
The Globe reported that Armitage was alleged to have been involved in drug and weapons trafficking dating to the early 1970s when he was in Vietnam, and when working as a Defense Department consultant in Bankok in the mid-1970s.
The Defense Department, in a statement released in response to queries about the story, said Sunday, ″That’s an old allegation that was looked into years ago and found to be groundless.″
The statement said Armitage ″is under no investigation by the Department of Defense. Secretary (Caspar) Weinberger has full confidence in him.″
Lt. Col. Edwina Palmer, a Pentagon spokesman, said Armitage could not be reached for comment.
Hart said in a telephone interview, ″Mr. Perot did bring to the vice president what he considered evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Armitage. The vice president told Mr. Perot that if he felt he had a case of wrongdoing he should take it to the appropriate authorities.″
The Globe said Armitage confronted Perot last October, apparently having heard that Perot was allegedly complaining about him. Armitage denied that he was involved in drug and weapons trafficking, the newspaper said.
Perot confirmed Sunday he had met with Armitage but refused to elaborate.
He said, ″no comment,″ when asked if he expressed concerns to Armitage, Bush or other officials about Armitage’s alleged intervention in an Arlington, Va., court case of a Vietnamese refugee woman. The woman, Nguyet Thi O’Rourke, was convicted on gambling charges in 1985.
The Globe reported that Armitage wrote a character reference on Pentagon stationery for Mrs. O’Rourke.
Hart said Bush’s private meeting with Perot occurred Oct. 16 in the West Wing of the White House. Perot refused to discuss any meetings he had with Bush.
Perot, at the request of the administration, has been investigating the issue of American prisoners of war in Southeast Asia and those missing in action since the Vietnam war, and said his foremost goal is the return of any who may still be imprisoned.
Armitage is the administration’s point man on the POW-MIA question and has traveled to Southeast Asia on the issue.
″As you work on things like this every now and then you stumble over something,″ Perot said Sunday, but declined to elaborate further. ″I have one mission in life and that’s to get to the bottom of the POW-MIA situation.″
Armitage served four tours of Navy duty in Vietnam and subsequently as a counterinsurgency instructor, according to his biography in the 1986 Federal Staff Directory. He later served as a Defense Department consultant and was a partner in an import-export business based in Bangkok, Thailand. He rejoined the Defense Department as deputy assistant secretary for international security affairs for East Asia and Pacific affairs in 1981 and assumed his current position as assistant secretary for international security affairs in 1983.
Perot, founder of Electronic Data Systems now owned by General Motors, has been involved in efforts to rescue international hostages in the past, and and engineered a commando raid that rescued two of his company’s employees kidnapped in Iran in 1979.