Sununu defends his use of White House limousine


,TC WASHINGTON -- Presidential Chief of Staff John H. Sununu, declaring that his post is "a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day job," yesterday defended using a White House limousine to go to a rare stamp auction in New York last week.

In a television interview, Mr. Sununu acknowledged that during that trip he dismissed the chauffeur and then returned to Washington aboard a corporate jet, but stressed that he was able to remain reachable by his office both in the car and in the air.

"I'm going to continue to utilize the tools that are necessary for me to meet my responsibility to the president of the United States," Mr. Sununu said on ABC's "This Week with David Brinkley."

Questions about the one-day trip last Wednesday, initially reported by Newsweek magazine, touch again on two kinds of legal perquisites that are favored by Bush administration officials but have become increasingly controversial -- leisure trips taken in government planes and cars and corporate-provided travel.

Last month, White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray found that Mr. Sununu had violated administration policy governing the use of military aircraft several times and required him to reimburse the government several hundred dollars for improper charges.

At the same time, President Bush issued a new travel policy that requires Mr. Sununu to receive Mr. Gray's permission before using military aircraft.

Mr. Sununu said that Mr. Gray had approved his returning to Washington on the corporate jet -- the ownership of which was not revealed -- and that the senior White House lawyer also found his limousine ride to New York to have been "proper and appropriate."

Because of the around-the-clock nature of his job, Mr. Sununu said that he has a "door-to-door car and driver assigned to me. I have to be able to communicate, to work on sensitive papers, to coordinate the White House activities, even while I'm traveling."

On the Wednesday trip, the chief of staff said he "was on the phone constantly to Cabinet members, House and Senate members, White House staff, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft."

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, who was with Mr. Bush in California, also said that Mr. Sununu had Mr. Gray's approval to use the limousine.

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