White House backs Donovan . . . for now
Washington — President Reagan is said to be currently disposed to stick with his beleaguered secretary of labor, Raymond J. Donovan, if Mr. Donovan is cleared of allegations of ties with organized-crime figures.
Some high administration officials say that even if the coming report from special prosecutor Leon Silverman gives Mr. Donovan a clean bill, the President may have no alternative but to let him go. They argue that the charges swirling around the secretary of labor have made him a political liability, enough so that Mr. Reagan may be forced to ask him to resign.
But a close associate of the President in the White House says that Mr. Reagan's loyalty to those who work for him shouldn't be underestimated - and that, at least as of this moment, Reagan is inclined to keep Donovan aboard. Those who share this view point out that the President stood by Director of Central Intelligence William Casey and Attorney General William French Smith when they were attacked for alleged improprieties. They also note Reagan doggedly stayed with national security adviser Richard Allen, before very reluctantly deciding that Allen had become too much of a political embarrassment to retain.
The President's rationale for sticking with Donovan is understood to run along these lines: There is, as Donovan asserts, ''a presumption of guilt'' among those Democratic senators urging Reagan to ask Donovan to ''step aside'' until the allegations against him have been resolved; and Reagan believes Donovan told him the truth when he recently asked the labor secretary about the allegations and Donovan said he was innocent.
White House aides say Mr. Reagan is aware that the controversy has diluted Donovan's effectiveness. The President is understood to hope that if the special prosecutor clears Mr. Donovan - as Reagan believes he will - his labor secretary can give undivided attention to his work.
But if the controversy continues, and if there are more charges, then it is said Reagan may be forced to ask Donovan to step down.