WASHINGTON – As many as five senators and a former secretary of state may take the stand at the corruption trial of Sen. Ted Stevens in coming weeks, a federal judge said Monday.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Democratic Sens. Ted Kennedy and Patrick Leahy were among more than 200 potential witnesses announced Monday as jury selection began in what is expected to be a monthlong trial.
Also named as possible witnesses were Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Add Stevens to the mix of potential witnesses and the case has the makings of a potentially historic trial.
Such lists aren't guarantees, however. Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, for instance, never delivered on his pledge to call Vice President Dick Cheney to testify in a perjury case.
The 84-year-old Stevens, the Senate's longest-serving Republican, is charged with lying on Senate financial disclosure forms about home renovations and other gifts he received from Bill Allen, the founder of powerful oil contractor VECO Corp.
Stevens is fighting for both his innocence and his political life. He is in a tough re-election race against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat. The longtime GOP lawmaker will have to stay in Washington during the trial, while Begich is free to campaign around Alaska.
It's unclear from the witness lists what Powell and the lawmakers might testify about. But Stevens had described Powell as one of his closest friends. And Inouye is one of Stevens' closest allies in Congress.
Other lawmakers could testify about Stevens' character or about the difficulties of keeping track of what services must be disclosed on Senate forms.
The trial could offer a glimpse at the favors and gifts bestowed on Capitol Hill lawmakers and the process by which they are disclosed — or concealed.
Also on the list of potential witnesses were figures in a now-suspended investigation into whether Allen had sex with an underage girl in the 1990s. He was never charged and has denied any wrongdoing in that case.
Allen, who has pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is the FBI's star witness, is expected to testify that he lavished Stevens with gifts and favors. Stevens' attorneys could try to use the sex case to discredit Allen, whom Stevens once counted among his friends.
Stevens, wearing a blue tie and an American flag lapel pin, remained expressionless in court Monday and looked intently at the 184 potential jurors. Upon leaving court, he said nothing but: "Good morning."