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In Letter, Armey Disavows Role In Failed Gingrich Coup Effort

By Janet Hook
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

House Majority Leader Dick Armey, under fire for allegedly abetting an effort to oust Speaker Newt Gingrich, Tuesday insisted he did not support the attempted coup but pointed an accusatory finger at other GOP leaders.

"Never have I said that I was in favor of any plan to remove the speaker," Armey said in a letter to his colleagues. But for the first time he clearly implied he believes other GOP leaders conspired with the rebels.

Although he did not mention anyone by name, the letter intensified focus on House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who has remained publicly silent on his role in the plotting but continued Tuesday to insist that he would not resign from the leadership over the matter.

The high-level finger-pointing made plain how hard it will be for Gingrich to quickly contain the controversy and continue running the House with the current leadership lineup.

On the eve of a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, Gingrich signaled that he would seek no further changes in the leadership - at least for now. He is expected to tell House Republicans Wednesday to put the controversy behind them and to address in private any questions they have about GOP leaders' behavior.

"It is his preference today not to hold a special conference (to discuss the coup attempt) and that we not challenge the leadership in the next conference," said Christina Martin, Gingrich's spokeswoman. "He would prefer to keep the focus on the tax cut as opposed to any challenge to the leadership."

It is not clear whether angry members of the rank and file will comply. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., unpersuaded by Armey's letter declaring his innocence, said he would try to force a full meeting of the Republican conference and demand explanations from each of the GOP leaders.