Powell On Stevens: "This Is A Guy You Take On A Long Patrol"

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell just appeared as a character witness for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), and he offered nothing but praise for the longtime lawmaker.

Powell said he had known Stevens for "about 25 years," dating back to the mid-1980s, and said he had a "sterling" reputation for integrity and reliability.

Powell offered what he said was high praise against former infantrymen like himself: "As we say in the infantry, this is a guy you take on a long patrol."

"There has never been a suggestion he would do anything improper or that would suggest any - any - lack of integrity," Powell added when asked about Stevens' reputation among his colleagues.

During a very brief cross-examination, prosecutor Brenda Morris asked Powell if he knew anything about Stevens' current criminal case, or whether he had visited Stevens' home in Girdwood, Alaska. Powell answered, "No" to both questions.

Powell is one of a handful of character witnesses that Judge Emmet Sullivan will allow to testify in Stevens' trial. The Alaska Republican has been charged by the Justice Department with failing to report more than $250,000 in improper gifts that he received during 1999 to 2006. Stevens has denied the allegations, and he asked for a quick trial so the case can be resolved before the November elections.

Stevens' defense team has already called Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) as a character witness, and Powell's comments on Friday echoed Inouye's assessment of Stevens' character and integrity.

Stevens' attorneys has also informed the court that they will call Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), another longtime Senate colleague, next week. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who was on the defense withness list, is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor and is unlikely to testify now.