Billy Carter probe: 'a dark cloud'

The possible dislodging of President Carter at the Democratic convention is dimming a bit as his strong majority of delegates stands firm. Further, the insurgent group of 40 House members which is leading a drive for an open convention has not yet gained the kind of momentum that would indicate this can or will come about.

Beyond that, the Billy Carter affair remains a very dark cloud, one that certainly will hover over the convention in New York and -- most probably -- during the entire campaign.

Asked at a breakfast meeting with reporters July 29 if he thought the Billy Carter-Libya connection, which his special senatorial committee is probing, would cause the President to lose the nomination, Sen. Birch Bayh (D) of Indiana said:

"It could go either way." He added, "I think the President is in trouble."

But the growing consensus, from Democratic leaders in Congress and around the United States, is that while the Billy Carter matter might eventually cost the President the November election, he still has a firm hold on winning the nomination.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy remains quite confident, openly and in private conversations, that his forces will gain a rules change at the convention that will open the door to him or someone other than Carter.

But short of some new revelations in the Billy Carter investigation that would reflect negatively on the President, there seems to be little likelihood now that the anti-Carter movement will prevail in New York.

Also at the breakfast, Senator Bayh spoke of a "preliminary" probe taking place before the convention in which some witnesses would be called and some interrogation carried out.

But there were no promises from Bayh that his committee would be talking to the chief witnesses, including the President and his brother, until after the convention.

Thus, it appeared that testimony and evidence which could hold the most potential for damaging the President would come after the convention -- where the fallout could not only drop heavily and negatively on the President's campaign, but also could severely hurt the prospects of Democratic candidates all over the United States.

Would Senator Bayh have his committee look into charges that some members of Congress accepted campaign contributions from the Libyans and then attempted to influence American policy with regard to the sale of airplanes to Libya? "Yes," he said, "we must look under our own bed as well."

o the question, "What will your committee be trying to find out?" the senator said:

"We will be asking these questions: What exactly did Billy Carter do? What were his connections with Libya? What was he to produce for them? what was the quid pro quo?"

Senator Bayh said that his committee "will be going at it as fast as it can, and we hope to resolve the main questions by Oct. 4."

"We will be looking for criminal violations," said Bayh. "We will be looking , too, for irresponsible conduct."

When asked if he had referred to Billy Carter as a "boob" in some comments he made in Indiana on Monday, the senator said that he might have done just that. "But," he added, "this doesn't mean that a boob isn't entitled to justice."

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