ABC News’ Jason Ryan Reports: Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama’s candidacy certainly got a lot of attention. But somewhat less well known has been his endorsement of a somewhat more controversial senator — Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who is currently on trial in federal court for alleged corruption.
Powell was a key defense witness in the month-long trial that is expected to go the jury tomorrow. Powell called Stevens’ character "sterling" and said that "If you made a deal with Ted Stevens you knew it was good… [He] never would do anything that was improper."
But the judge in the case does not want the spotlight on Powell’s political endorsement of Obama to affect the trial. In a brief meeting with the prosecutors and defense team, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan has told both sides that in Tuesday’s closing arguments, neither side should mention Powell’s recent endorsement of Obama.
Stevens is on trial for allegedly lying on financial disclosure forms required by the U.S. Senate in an effort to hide $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts paid for by an oil services company. The senator, 84, has pleaded not guilty.
Powell and Stevens got to know each other during the Reagan administration, when Powell worked at the Pentagon and worked with Stevens on military appropriations issues.
Powell, a Republican who served as Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Clinton, and national security adviser to President Reagan, crossed party lines to endorse Obama on NBC’s "Meet the Press" Sunday.
"Because of [Obama's] ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of this campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities — we have to take that into account — as well as his substance — he has both style and substance — he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president," Powell said.
Powell said his decision is "not out of any lack of respect or admiration" for Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., but that he thinks the country needs a "transformational figure" like Obama.