Nick Clegg saw Lord Rennard's apology to four women weeks ago, but it was not released as the former Lib Dem chief executive did not want to damage the party in the run-up to last week's elections, a friend of the peer has claimed.
Lord Carlile told BBC Radio 4's The World At One: "Lord Rennard was absolutely very concerned personally not to do any possible damage to the party in the run-up to last week's local and European elections.
"So although this apology was seen for example by the party leader [Mr Clegg] weeks ago now it was held back until the elections were over."
Asked if Mr Clegg told Lord Rennard to hold the apology back, Lord Carlile replied, "No, no, no, absolutely not. Chris Rennard went absolutely out of his way to ensure and try and make it absolutely clear that nothing further should happen in this case until after the elections."