Powell: Stevens' Character Is 'Sterling'

Former secretary of state takes the stand in Alaska senator's corruption trial.

Oct. 10, 2008— -- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell testified Friday at the ongoing corruption trial of Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, calling him "a trusted individual."

Powell appeared as a character witness, describing his 25-year relationship with Stevens, 84, the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate.

Prosecutors say Stevens lied on financial disclosure forms to conceal $250,000 in gifts, but he has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Powell testified from the witness stand that when he was working as a senior military assistant to Caspar Weinberger, secretary of defense during the Reagan administration, he often dealt with Stevens for military appropriations issues on Capitol Hill.

"I got to know him extremely well," Powell said.

Describing troop reductions after the end of the Cold War, Powell said he had extensive discussions with Stevens about military resources based in Alaska.

"He fights for his people and what's always in the best interest of the United States," Powell said.

Asked by lead defense attorney Brendan Sullivan if he could describe Stevens' character and integrity, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state described them as, "in a word ... sterling."

"If you made a deal with Ted Stevens you knew it was good," Powell said. "[He] never would do anything that was improper."

Prosecutors briefly cross-examined Powell, asking him if he had ever been to Stevens' Girdwood, Alaska, home, which is at the center of the case. Government attorneys contend one of Stevens' supporters paid for the massive renovation project to the home, a claim the defense denies.

Powell said he had never been to the home.

Powell and Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Alaska, have served as character witnesses as Stevens makes his case that he did nothing improper when he and his wife renovated the Alaska home. Inouye took the stand Thursday.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, could also testify in the case. Other defense witnesses Friday focused on work and payments made by the Stevenses.

On Thursday, the defense entered testimony about the value of sled dog runts that were given to Stevens by friends.

The prosecution has alleged that Stevens did not accurately claim the value of the dogs on his Senate financial disclosure forms.