- Yet another local government has been issued a subpoena in the federal investigation into Rep. [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA). According to the San Bernardino Sun, the "clerk of Yucca Valley confirmed Tuesday her office has been subpoenaed for records pertaining to Copeland Lowery and Lewis in connection with a criminal investigation being conducted by the FBI, the federal Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the IRS."
- The Los Angeles Times reports on the details of Rep. [sw: William Jefferson]'s (D-LA) deals with the Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Jefferson, in a meeting with the FBI informant Lori Mody, provides this classic quote about Abubakar: "He's a very, well, the word might be … corrupt." The new affidavit also reveals that on one trip to Abubakar's home Jefferson's driver was actually an undercover FBI agent.
- The House Minority Leadership of [sw: Nancy Pelosi] (D-CA) and [sw: Steny Hoyer] (D-MD) invited Jefferson to make his case to the Democratic Steering Committee on why he should remain on the Ways and Means Committee. Pelosi and Hoyer have both publicly stated that Jefferson should be removed from the committee with Hoyer stating "he had $90,000 found in his freezer ... I think he's got a tax problem". The main support for Jefferson comes from the Congressional Black Caucus who have nine members on the Steering Committee. Roll Call reports that a vote on Jefferson's committee seat will show whether the CBC is in open revolt against the leadership or is split itself.
- The Houston Chronicle reports on the end-of-week exit of [sw: Tom DeLay] (R-TX) from Congress. DeLay says that he has no regrets and that he "fight[s] for what I believe in". We'll have more on what DeLay believes in at the end of the week.
- According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, more items that belonged to [sw: Duke Cunningham] will be up for sale tomorrow. If you are around Los Angeles why not go buy a piece of history.
- And finally, The Hill reports that defense lobbyists are rethinking how they do business in Washington in the wake of Cunningham's perp-walk and imminent earmark reform. You see, they need to find a way to get appropriations that doesn't involve bribing members of Congress with hookers. But seriously, this shows that sunlight, and even the threat of more sunlight, causes these guys to, like vampires, alter their behaviors.
- Rep. [sw: William Jefferson] (D-LA) secured a $100,000 bribe for the Vice President of Nigeria to get leverage in dealing with the Nigerian state phone company, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Jefferson received the $100,000 from Lori Mody, the woman who wound up turning on the congressman, and promptly hid $90,000 in his freezer while telling Mody that he had given the money to the Vice President. The money was recovered in an FBI raid of Jefferson's house. The big question here is whether Jefferson was ripping off Mody and is that why she decided to turn him in?
- All eyes are on the congressional race to fill [sw: Duke Cunningham]'s (R-CA) House seat. Cunningham resigned last year and subsequently pled guilty to accepting bribes and was sentenced to 8 years and 8 months in prison.
- Another big race will test how Abramoff-related charges are affecting the image of Sen. [sw: Conrad Burns] (R-MT) as he faces a state Sen. Bob Keenan in the Montana Senate Republican primary.
- The Associated Press rewards bad journalism.
- Closing arguments in the David Safavian case will be held next Monday, according to the Associated Press.
- And finally, House Minority Whip [sw: Steny Hoyer] (D-MD) asserted that Jefferson should step down from the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. When asked why he gave this reason, "I think the reason is because he sits on a tax-writing committee and he had $90,000 found in his freezer ... I think he's got a tax problem, if nothing else." (CongressDailyPM)
- The San Bernardino Sun reports that two more cities have been subpoenaed in the federal investigation of Appropriations Chairman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA) and his ties to the lobbying firm Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White. The subpoenas issued to the two cities, Loma Linda and Twentynine Palms, push the total number of subpoenas issued so far to six in the investigation of Lewis' earmark practices.
- David Safavian, aside from testifying that he is a doofus, also stated that he provided "a lot of insight and advice" to Jack Abramoff, according to the New York Times.
- House Democrats are holding a steering committee meeting today that many expect to center on Rep. [sw: William Jefferson]'s (D-LA) seat on the Ways and Means Committee. Jefferson, facing an imminent indictment for his role in a number of crooked deals, was asked to step down by Minority Leader [sw: Nancy Pelosi] (D-CA) but refused. Pelosi is expected to ask the Democratic Caucus to remove Jefferson from his committee seat and possibly replace him with another member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
- According to The Hill, [sw: Tom DeLay] (R-TX) will be leaving Congress this Friday and it looks like he'll be slipping out the back door and not leaving with the bluster and pomp that he was known for during his tenure as one of the most powerful men on Capitol Hill.
- The Hill reports that the oil and gas industry is ramping up the fear rhetoric after the House voted to force oil companies to renegotiate their oil leases signed in 1998 and 1999. The industry is declaring that if this law passes the Senate than it would increase foreign investment in the Gulf of Mexico. After the vote in the House I did a quick run-down on oil-and-gas contributions to the Republicans who voted "Yea" and found that they took a significantly less from the industry than the average Republican. My colleague Larry Makinson did a more extensive review of career numbers and found the same pattern.
- And for some lighter news: "A struggling art galley is hoping a showing and possible sale of a pair of paintings by imprisoned ex-U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. will keep it open."
- The San Diego Union Tribune looks at San Diego Rep. [sw: Duncan Hunter] (R-CA) and the campaign contributions that he has received from a certain lobbyist with a shady past (read: convicted criminal). "King of Pork" [sw: Hal Rogers] (R-KY) also pops up in the story.
- Rep. [sw: Bob Ney] (R-OH) has a new excuse for going on an all-expenses paid trip to Scotland with Jack Abramoff and friends. His spokesman is saying that he certainly didn't go to play golf because Ney hates golf as much as he hates "an all-night conference committee meeting on an arcane tax issue." He hates dealing with arcane tax issues, good thing he's not in government. Wait a second...!
- Justin Rood reports that David Safavian implicated himself in court today... As a complete and total idiot.
"Did you think you were qualified for the job?" Zeidenberg asked. "Probably not, actually," Safavian said. "Are you intelligent enough to do the job?" Zeidenberg followed up. Safavian gave an extensive pause. "I suppose so."
- Roll Call reports that members of the House and Justice Department officials are scheduled to sit down and hash out issues relating to the raid on Rep. [sw: William Jefferson]'s (D-LA) office and "begin negotiations on a set of procedures for dealing with possible future search warrants for Congressional offices." Meanwhile, House lawyers will file a brief in federal court claiming that the raid was unconstitutional. Continue reading
Today's Washington Post front page story on Rep. [sw: William Jefferson] (D-LA) gives the best summary of what he is accused of doing and the network of businesses and front groups that he set up to receive bribes in seven different deals.
For Jefferson, 59, the money-making schemes were supposed to be all in the family, involving his wife, two brothers, five daughters and two sons-in-law. As a member of the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee, Jefferson has traveled repeatedly to Nigeria and other western African countries and met with their leaders. ... At first, Jefferson promoted iGate's technology without asking for anything in return. But in early 2001, according to court documents, he informed Jackson that his services would no longer be free. On Jan. 19 of that year, the Jefferson family started the ANJ Group, with Jefferson's wife, Andrea Green Jefferson, as manager, and his five daughters listed as company members. On Rep. Jefferson's instructions, court records show, ANJ was to receive $7,500 a month in consulting fees from iGate, along with 5 percent of gross sales over $5 million a year, 5 percent of capital investments in iGate secured by Jefferson and 1 million shares of the company. Between 2001 and 2005, iGate transferred $455,446 to ANJ, some of which covered Jefferson's travel costs to Africa, according to an FBI search warrant. ... The seed of Jefferson's current troubles was planted in 2004 when Netlink Digital Television abruptly backed out of a one-year-old agreement with iGate to provide access to Nigeria's cable television and Internet market. That breach sent Jefferson and Jackson scrambling for new investors, court records show. They found Lori Mody.Mody, of course, wound up turning Jefferson and Jackson into the FBI after she realized that she was being played. You can read the rest if you need to get a full understanding of what underlies the Jefferson corruption story. Continue reading
The New York Times today confirmed that it was legal and constitutional for the Justice Department to raid the congressional offices of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), but that it "unsettled widely shared understandings of constitutional relationships and freedoms that have existed for generations."
In the search case, there is broad academic consensus that the constitutional protection for Congressional speech and debate does not extend to evidence of criminal conduct, even if it is in a Congressional office. That means the Justice Department was probably entitled to seek — and a federal judge probably correct in authorizing — a warrant to search the offices of Representative William J. Jefferson, Democrat of Louisiana, notwithstanding objections by leaders of Congress. But having the legal power to conduct a search of another branch of government does not mean it is a wise or prudent thing to do. No other administration has ever done it. In ordering a 45-day cooling-off period, during which the solicitor general will hold the seized materials, President Bush seemed to allow time for reflection on the difference between what the executive branch may do and what it should do.It is certainly true that this raid is not something that should be a regular occurance and I have always, in supporting the raid, thought that this was a particularly unique circumstance. Jefferson was clearly uncooperative in the investigation and was also determined to be untrustworthy, as demonstrated by the allegations that he attempted to remove documents in a blue bag during the search of his New Orleans home. Raids on congressional offices certainly should not become a regular occurance in Washington, but neither should members like Jefferson become a regular occurance. The executive and Congress need to sit down and hash this out and come up with a workable proceedure so that the confusion and bitter attacks that came after the raid does not have to happen again. Then the Congress needs to get back to enforcing its own ethics rules and drop the current motto of "what happens in Congress, stays in Congress." In the end, Congress is the one to blame because they did not police their own membership -- they failed in their constitutional responsibility and left the FBI and Justice to do what they refused to. And finally to put this in perspective here is an article that I read over at John Cole's Balloon Juice:
Police may enter Californians’ homes without warrants to arrest those suspected of driving under the influence, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a case testing the scope of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. ... Under the Fourth Amendment, authorities are prohibited from entering a home and making an arrest without a warrant unless so-called “exigent” circumstances are present. Those include “hot pursuit” of a fleeing felon, imminent destruction of evidence and the risk of danger to the police or other persons inside or outside of a house, among others. In this case, Justice Marvin Baxter wrote that the loss of evidence at issue was obtaining a measurement of the suspect’s blood-alcohol level. Baxter added that a contrary ruling would allow “the corruption of evidence that occurs when the suspect takes advantage of any delay to ingest more alcohol—or to claim to have done so—or when the suspect evades police capture until he or she is no longer intoxicated.”Citizens don't always get to have a warrant served on them and don't always get the protection of the Fourth Amendment. Members should not get their own personal Cayman Islands Holding Corporations in an office building at Independence Ave and 1st Street. Continue reading
The Los Angeles Times article on Rep. [sw: William Jefferson] (D-LA) paints the man as both highly ambitious and in search of that holy dollar bill and a tireless advocate for the people that sent him to Congress. Here is a story about one side of the man:
An accomplished attorney and aspiring politician, Jefferson became known early on for a pursuit of money that earned him the nickname "Dollar Bill." As local legend goes, the name came from Jefferson's mentor — legendary New Orleans Mayor Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial. Morial had asked his protege for some legal work and was given it — along with a staggering bill. Outraged, Morial coined the moniker. It followed Jefferson harmlessly enough until last month, when the FBI reported capturing the eight-term congressman on videotape accepting a leather briefcase with $100,000 in alleged bribe money from an undercover informant in front of a northern Virginia hotel. Of those marked bills, $90,000 wound up in Jefferson's freezer, the FBI said after a search of Jefferson's Washington home.But Jefferson also worked to benefit his people:
A member of the influential Ways and Means Committee and an advocate of trade to alleviate poverty in Africa, Jefferson continued his education even while in Congress. He earned a master's degree in tax law from Georgetown University in 1996, and after Hurricane Katrina he helped pass tax-related legislation to benefit New Orleans.Jefferson, whose alleged actions are beyond the pale, certainly is not the text book example of a greedy politician. Many in New Orleans feel that Jefferson's turn to bribery and backroom deals is a real shame, for him and for their community:
"We are so traumatized," said Stephen Sabludowsky, a New Orleans-based attorney and publisher of BayouBuzz.com, a website about everything Louisianan. "We're going through so many things, we don't want the world's attention on us again." Sabludowsky has urged Jefferson to resign rather than saddle the beleaguered city with a distracted congressman. He did so reluctantly, though, describing Jefferson this way: "Incredible … just in terms of his intelligence, his political acumen, the influence that he has…. "That's what makes this such a shame," Sabludowsky said.Continue reading
The Justice Department is willing to give Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) the opportunity to view the documents that the FBI took in a late night raid on his office. According to the Los Angeles Times, Jefferson would get access to all of the seized documents and "would then be given an opportunity to raise objections about whether individual documents were properly seized." A judge would settle whether or not Jefferson's objections were valid.Continue reading
The Justice Department responded today to the fierce reaction by Congress against the raid of Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) congressional office. Apparently the Justice Department investigators could not trust Jefferson to hand over documents because he had previously hid them from federal agents. Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker explains:
But beyond the legal argumentation, prosecutors supply the most detailed version of their case against him so far. And they explain why it is that they needed to raid his office - because they don't trust him to turn over evidence. According to an FBI agent's affidavit appended to the filing, Jefferson tried to "surreptitiously remove" documents while the FBI was searching his home in August of last year.Jefferson took documents and hid them in a blue bag that had already been searched. An FBI agent observed his actions and explained them in the affidavit. The Washington Post provides more information on what Jefferson is alleged to have done:
"After a copy had been brought to him and he reviewed it, I observed Congressman Jefferson then take the subpoena and the documents he had been reading earlier and place them together under his elbow on the kitchen table." At one point, she said, he moved to the living room, which had just been searched, and sat on a recliner. While sitting, he slipped the subpoena and the documents into a blue bag that he knew had already been searched, Kent's affidavit said. "After several minutes, I approached Congressman Jefferson and told him that I needed to look at the documents that he had placed into the bag," the agent stated. "Congressman Jefferson told me the documents were subpoenas." He finally pulled out the documents that were from a B.K. Son. The search warrant had asked for all communications between Jefferson and Son, the affidavit said. Son is the chief technology officer of iGate. If this is true it is unbelievably shocking behavior by a member of Congress. This ranks up there with Duke Cunningham's bribe menu as the most offensive and ugly thing a member could do. Beyond that, the issuance of this affidavit shows that the Justice Department is not playing around and that they are clearly dealing with a man who could use the privacy of his congressional office to hide information relevant to the investigation. Continue reading
The controversy over the FBI raid of Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) congressional office continued today despite efforts by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's (R-TN) to put it to rest over the weekend. Frist, who was on "Fox New Sunday", stated about the FBI, "I don't think it abused separation of powers ... I think there's allegations of criminal activity, and the American people need to have the law enforced." House Judiciary Committee James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) feels differently and today he held a hearing titled "Reckless Justice: Did the Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution?" Sensenbrenner and the ranking Democrat John Conyers (D-MI) agreed that the raid was out of bounds with the chairman saying, "It is about the ability of the Congress to be able to do its job free of coercion from the executive branch." Conyers stated, "We've never learned why the member in question was not permitted to have his attorneys present while his offices were searched for some 18 hours."
Personally, I believe that this was an extraordinary case, but was not conducted "out of bounds". The affidavit against Jefferson was unbelievably detailed, showing an almost unparalleled level of corruption by an elected official. The FBI was carrying out a legally obtained warrant to search Jefferson's office in relation to activities that did not include any legislative action nor any activity directly related to his elected role. I don't think that members can live above the law just because they have been chosen by the people of their district or state to represent them. That is essentially the argument of people who are against the raid: that members may operate their congressional office as though it were a Cayman Islands bank account (hat tip to Bill Allison). This is what Josh Marshall is getting at when he states his support of the raid:
If the Feds can raid a congressman's house, it's not clear to me why they can't raid his office. Sure, there's some room for prudential restraint and a respect for comity. But if the DOJ can't search a congressman's office, then the power to investigate and prosecute close to falls apart since that creates a safe harbor for incriminating information. Any serious claim that the functioning of Congress falls outside the bounds of the DOJ would apply to acts as well as work product. And that means that any bribery prosecution is impossible since official acts are an element of the crime.Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) makes the same point in issuing his support for the raid and surprise at the bipartisan reaction against the raid:
I understand that the speech and debate clause is in the Constitution. It is there because Queen Elizabeth I and King James I were disrespectful of Parliament. It ought to be, in my judgment, construed narrowly. It should not be in any way interpreted as meaning that we as Members of Congress have legal protections superior to those of the average citizen.If you want to read a selection of arguments made by law professors Josh has a number of links here (pro and con). Continue reading