Reagan sees 'lynch atmosphere' against officials
President Reagan reacted strongly Tuesday to questions about the indictment of Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan, declaring that his administration has been plagued by a ''lynch atmosphere.''
Mr. Reagan said other administration officials had been attacked through ''allegations and charges that were without any foundation in fact and which were later revealed as having no foundation in fact; the people were cleared.''
''It is now a matter of law, and so I won't comment further,'' Reagan said while on a campaign swing through Texas.
Presidential candidate Walter F. Mondale, charging that Mr. Donovan was the ''weakest secretary of labor in modern history,'' said Reagan should fire the indicted Cabinet officer if charges against him appear to be based on believable and reasonable evidence.
But Mondale added: ''I presume the innocence of Secretary Donovan.''
''The charges are very serious,'' he said. ''I think the President should right now make a serious independent determination ... whether there is a reasonable basis for these charges and not just react politically in defense of a Cabinet officer.''
''If they determine that there are reasonable grounds for these charges,'' he said, ''then I think the secretary should be removed.''
The 137-count indictment against Donovan charges him, nine others, and two companies with falsifying documents, grand larceny, and filing false documents in a plan to defraud the New York City Transit Authority. The defendants are accused of inflating the value of work on a subway construction job in 1979 and overcharging the Transit Authority by $8 million.
The grand-larceny charge carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. The other counts carry maximum four-year sentences. After entering a plea of innocence, Donovan asked State Supreme Court Judge Barry Salman to expedite his case. The labor secretary, now on leave from his job, asked that the hearing be expedited. He was released without bail and a hearing was set for Nov. 12.