ABRAMS, ELLIOTT (1948– ), U.S. neoconservative political figure. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1973, Abrams worked in corporate law but quickly decided to pursue a career in politics and public service instead. Abrams volunteered in Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson's 1972 bid for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, and in 1975, when Abrams was looking to get into politics, Jackson offered him a campaign staff position.
After Jackson lost the presidential nomination to Jimmy Carter, Abrams remained in Washington, d.c., where he became chief legal counsel to newly elected Senator Daniel P. Moynihan (Dem., n.y.), another outspoken advocate of U.S. interventionism, and eventually became Moynihan's chief of staff.
During these years, the Democratic Party, under the auspices of President Carter, softened its stance on the Soviet Union. Carter was accused by hawks of "giving up too much" in arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. A minor coup d'etat ensued among several Jewish Democrats who had worked for Senator Jackson: Elliott *Abrams, Richard *Perle, Doug Feith, and Paul Wolfowitz switched to the Republican Party, supported Ronald Reagan in 1980, and began to espouse a political-intellectual ideology known as neoconservatism.
Abrams was assistant undersecretary of inter-American affairs at the time of the Contras affair involving the illicit sale of weapons to Iran and the channeling of the receipts to the Contras. When he was called to testify before Congress, he claimed to have had no knowledge of any illegal activities. A later Independent Counsel investigation alleged that he had lied to Congress. He pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress. On November 15, 1991, the presiding judge, Aubrey E. Robinson, sentenced Abrams to two years probation and 100 hours of community service. On December 24, 1992, outgoing President George H.W. Bush granted Abrams a full pardon amid much controversy.
From 1989 to 2002, Abrams wrote and worked for a number of research and public policy organizations. He was a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the National Advisory Council of the American Jewish Committee. He also served as president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. In 2002, Abrams returned to public life. The younger President George W. Bush appointed Abrams to the post of senior director of the National Security Council, with responsibilities for the Middle East, a position that did not require the Senate confirmation that he was unlikely to get.
Abrams was also the author of three books: Undue Process (1993), a scathing critique of the Office of Independent Counsel; Security and Sacrifice (1995), which urges an aggressive U.S. foreign policy; and Faith or Fear: How Jews Can Survive in Christian America (1997), which argues that American Jewry would fare far better if it adopted conservative values and alliances, particularly with the Christian right. It was written with a grant from a prominent Conservative Foundation.
[Yehuda Martin Hausman (2nd ed.)]