Wednesday, July 23, 1997
Boehner denies knowledge
of GOP coup attempt

BY PAUL BARTON
Enquirer Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - In his first interview since the aborted coup attempt against House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. John Boehner said Tuesday night that he had no knowledge of what was being planned and is just now beginning to learn what happened.

''I didn't know anything about it,'' Mr. Boehner said of the planning for the aborted coup two weeks ago.

''I am still not sure as I stand here this evening exactly what happened and who was involved.''

Mr. Boehner, R-West Chester, made his comments during a break from a House leadership meeting inside the Capitol late Tuesday.

Fallout continues from the revelation last week that dissident House members, with the aid of some or all of the other members of the House leadership, had been involved in the coup attempt.

Mr. Boehner is the fourth-ranking GOP leader in the House as chairman of the Republican Conference.

Others being blamed in the episode are Reps. Dick Armey of Texas, the House majority leader; Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority whip; and Bill Paxon of New York, who stepped down last week as chairman of leadership meetings.

Mr. Boehner said the plot to overthrow the speaker was apparently hatched around him without his knowledge.

When asked to recap what happened, he said, ''I wish I could. I'm learning hour by hour how much I didn't know about what happened two weeks ago.''

The plot against Mr. Gingrich apparently involved key meetings held among some House leaders and dissident GOP members July 10.

''I was not in any of the meetings,'' Mr. Boehner said. Various sources have said he encouraged the dissidents, but Mr. Boehner denies it.

''I listened to them. I empathized with their frustrations. I shared with them some of my own frustrations. I don't believe I did anything to encourage them to go any further.''

He added, ''When I met with these members, they gave me no indication that they wanted to do anything like that.''

When asked about his relations with Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Boehner said they were still ''very good.''

But a top aide to Mr. Gingrich was evasive when asked whether the speaker still had confidence in Mr. Boehner.

Christina Martin, Mr. Gingrich's press secretary, said only, ''I am telling you they are continuing to work together as a team.''