Bush Shocked by Arrest of Former Adviser
By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer
President Bush on Saturday said he was shocked and saddened to learn
that former domestic policy adviser Claude Allen was charged with
theft for allegedly receiving phony refunds at department stores.
"When I heard the story last night, I was shocked, and my first
reaction was one of disappointment, deep disappointment -- if it's
true -- that we were not fully informed," Bush said. "Shortly
thereafter, I felt really sad for the Allen family."
Allen, 45, was arrested Thursday by police in Montgomery County, Md.,
for allegedly claiming refunds for more than $5,000 worth of
merchandise he did not buy, according to county and federal
authorities. He had been under investigation since at least January
for alleged thefts on 25 occasions at Target and Hecht's stores.
"If the allegations are true, Claude Allen did not tell my chief of
staff and legal counsel the truth, and that's deeply disappointing"
the president said at the White House following an event on Iraq. "If
the allegations are true, something went wrong in Claude Allen's life,
and that is really sad."
Allen, who had been the No. 2 official at the Health and Human
Services Department, was named as domestic policy adviser at the White
House in early 2005. He resigned abruptly on Feb. 9, saying he wanted
to spend more time with his family.
The night of Jan. 2, after an alleged incident at the Target in
Gaithersburg, Md., presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said Allen
called White House chief of staff Andy Card to tell him what had
happened. The next morning, Allen spoke in person with Card and White
House counsel Harriet Miers.
McClellan said Allen told Card and Miers that it was all a
misunderstanding and cited confusion with his credit card because he
had moved several times. "He assured them that he had done nothing
wrong and the matter would be cleared up," McClellan said.
The president first learned of Allen's planned departure and the
January incident in early February. But since Allen had passed the
usual background checks and had no other prior issues that White House
officials were aware of, "he was given the benefit of the doubt,"
Mallon Snyder, a Gaithersburg lawyer representing Allen, said his
client was not improperly trying to take the items. Snyder said asked
Target to produce videotape they said they have of Allen but that
store representatives refused. He said he wants to meet with Target
investigators to clear things up.
"It's a misunderstanding on their part," Snyder said, adding that the
investigation had nothing to do with Allen's departure from the White
Allen has been released on his own recognizance. Calls to Allen's home
in Gaithersburg, a Washington suburb, were not returned.
A representative of Target's credit/sales authorization department
spoke off the record saying "the gentleman took merchandise from our
store with a credit card which had been abused/misused, and later
tried to return it and get a cash refund. He did it earlier; owing to
his government position we chose to privately warn him not to attempt
it again. It was not our intent to humiliate or disgrace either the
man, his family, nor the government administration, but his personal
credit status does _not_ warrant any authorization for purchases on
credit. None the less, he persisted in buying things on credit
and returning them for cash. We had to stop the loss to our store."
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
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