Acting Deputy Attorney General Harold Christensen said Wednesday he believes Attorney General Edwin Meese III will remain at the Justice Department until the end of the Reagan administration.
During his first day on the job, Christensen said "I don't have any sense of crisis at all" and that the department "is functioning well," despite a wave of departures in the past few months.As the No. 2 official at the agency, Christensen, who practiced law in Salt Lake City, will be in charge this week at the Justice Department with Meese leaving on a three-day trip to Munich, West Germany, for a meeting with law enforcement officials.
Asked whether he had any reservations when first approached about coming to the department in view of Meese's ongoing legal problems, Christensen told reporters: "I had no qualms then and I don't have any today."
Christensen is filling the post on an acting basis pending the Senate confirmation process and said he thinks it unlikely he will wind up running the Justice Department.
While he has not discussed Meese's plans with the attorney general, "my personal perception" is that he will "stay through Jan. 20 . . . the attorney general will complete the Reagan administration," Christensen said.
On Monday night, Meese left open the possibility that he may resign before Labor Day, but said he first wants to respond to allegations concerning his ties to scandal-plagued Wedtech Corp. and a $1 billion Iraqi oil pipeline project.
Independent counsel James McKay, who has been conducting a criminal investigation of Meese for the past year, is expected to issue a report this month raising questions about Meese's ethical conduct. The questions are to be referred to the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility for review.
Christensen said "I have no intention" of meeting with former Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns and ex-criminal division chief William Weld, who resigned in protest March 29 over Meese's continued tenure.
"I just want to discharge the responsibilities of my job, which I perceive as day-to-day administration of the Justice Department under the direction of General Meese," said Christensen, a Utah trial lawyer.