There were few surprises in the Safavian trial today, where David Safavian himself resumed his seat on the witness stand to answer questions from the prosecution.
Safavian conceded to Justice prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg that he most likely didn't believe he had the qualifications to be chief of staff at the Government Services Administration, the position he held when he had the dealings with Jack Abramoff he is accused of covering up.
"Did you think you were qualified for the job?" Zeidenberg asked.
"Probably not, actually," Safavian said.
"Are you intelligent enough to do the job?" Zeidenberg followed up.
Safavian gave an extensive pause. "I suppose so."
Perhaps it's false modesty. It's more likely he believes that, as one observer noted during a break, "he's got a choice -- he can appear criminal, or he can appear stupid," and looking stupid might be humiliating, but it beats prison.
For instance, he refused to take Zeidenberg up on repeated challenges to guess the cost of a commerical flight to Europe. "You have no conception of what a flight to Europe might cost?" Zeidenberg asked. Safavian insisted no, he didn't. "Could it be $1000, or $10,000, or $100?" Zeidenberg asked. Were those, to Safavian, all equally possible prices for a trip to Europe? Safavian said he just didn't know. When he finds a $100 ticket to Paris, I hope he'll let the rest of us know.
Thus, his challenge is to convince the jury that he is naive enough that he truly never questioned the low $3100 price of his luxurious 7-day Abramoff-arranged trip to Scotland and England; that he never thought to carefully read the ethics decisions he falsely represented as exonerating him of wrongdoing; and he innocently failed to tell investigators crucial details that would have exposed his favors for Jack Abramoff, or the true extent of Jack's favors.
The questioning will resume shortly. More later.