Jefferson says he's innocent in bribery probe

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Jefferson says he's innocent in bribery probe

Post by Corlyss_D » Mon May 22, 2006 6:12 pm

Jefferson says he's innocent in bribery probe
Mon May 22, 2006 6:12 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Democratic congressman facing a bribery probe after police found $90,000 in his freezer denied wrongdoing on Monday and said he would not step down from his congressional seat.

Speaking to reporters, Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson said he could not discuss details of the pending federal investigation.

"There are two sides to every story. There are certainly two sides to this story," Jefferson said, adding, "This is not the time; this is not the forum" to discuss it.

Jefferson again declared his innocence and said, "I expect to continue to represent the people who sent me here."

FBI investigators raided Jefferson's office over the weekend and disclosed that they have videotaped the New Orleans lawmaker accepting $100,000 cash intended as a bribe for a Nigerian official.

The FBI also said in a court affidavit that they found $90,000 of that money hidden in a freezer in his house.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, asked by reporters for justification for conducting the FBI search on Capitol Hill, said he could not discuss details of the investigation. But he added, "I will admit that these were unusual steps that were taken in response to an unusual set of circumstances."

Former associates have said that Jefferson accepted more than $400,000 in bribes to help them sell telecommunications technology to Nigeria and other West African countries.

Two of those associates, former congressional aide Brett Pfeffer and Kentucky businessman Vernon Jackson, have pleaded guilty to bribery charges and are cooperating in the investigation.

Jefferson also faces an ethics probe by his colleagues in the House of Representatives, which has been shaken by several other corruption scandals over the past year.

Rumor has it that the Hill Dems were enraged that the FBI raided the office of a sitting member. I guess that's going to be their strategy: change the subject to the Bush administration assault on Congressional constitutional protections. :roll: I have been unable to confirm that Pelosi has established a "Free Jefferson!" legal defense fund within DCCC.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon May 22, 2006 6:22 pm

FBI's Saturday night Capitol Hill raid raises alarms

By Susan Davis, CongressDaily
The unprecedented FBI raid Saturday night of the Rayburn House Office Building office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., has stoked tempers on Capitol Hill as some past and present lawmakers and legal experts criticized the Justice Department's actions.

"There is no excuse for the FBI for the first time in history searching a congressional office and apparently doing so in total [dis]regard of due process as it relates to the legislative branch," former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., wrote Sunday night in an e-mail to several members and aides obtained by CongressDaily. Gingrich was particularly critical of what he described as the executive branch trampling constitutional lines of authority.

"The president should respond accordingly and should discipline (probably fire) whoever exhibited this extraordinary violation," he wrote. "The protection of the legislative branch from the executive branch's policing powers is a fundamental principle which goes all the way back to the English Civil War," he added, describing the incident as "the most blatant violation of the constitutional separation of powers in my lifetime."

House officials were given short notice of the FBI's intentions Saturday, and neither Jefferson's attorney, Robert Trout, nor the general counsel of the House were allowed to monitor the search, according to the Associated Press. "The government's actions in obtaining a search warrant to search the offices of a United States congressman were outrageous," Trout said in a statement, according to AP. "There were no exigent circumstances necessitating this action."

Charles Tiefer, a law professor at the University of Baltimore who served as solicitor and deputy general counsel of the House for 11 years, said the incident "raises some serious separation of powers questions when extraordinarily harsh and extreme tactics are used on the legislative branch."

During his tenure, Tiefer said the FBI conducted "many successful investigations" of members of Congress without having to resort to raids. "The FBI could have assured the safeguard of these materials just as well by involving the House Sergeant at Arms in the subpoena process," he said.

Tiefer said the raid could set a chilling precedent. "Congress is frequently at odds with the FBI and the Department of Justice and other investigative or security agents working with them," he said. "It must intimidate critical overseers to know that the FBI feels they have the power to seize their file cabinets without even serving a subpoena beforehand."

Jefferson has not been charged with any wrongdoing and maintains his innocence, although he has publicly acknowledged that he could be indicted. Jefferson's claims were not aided by an 83-page affidavit used to justify the raid that states the FBI has videotape of Jefferson accepting a $100,000 cash bribe from an FBI informant, and the cash was later found in his refrigerator during a separate search of his Washington home in August.

Tiefer noted that the incident is somewhat reminiscent of the 1980 Abscam scandal when FBI agents posed as Middle Eastern businessmen to bribe members of Congress in the first major public corruption sting operation that also resulted in accusations of entrapment against the FBI.

"Tactics that seem justified in the individual instance don't seem justified in the long term," said Tiefer, who served as assistant Senate legal counsel during Abscam. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had not released any statement on the raid at presstime.

This document is located at http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0506/052206cdpm1.htm
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon May 22, 2006 6:35 pm

The Inside Story of FBI's Historic Raid on Capitol Hill

May 22, 2006 1:41 PM

Brian Ross, ABC News, Reports:

The FBI's raid on the office of Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA) was the first such raid on Capitol Hill in history and came about only after lawyers for the House of Representatives refused to turn over the material the FBI sought, according to officials familiar with the case.

At the request of the FBI, the House General Counsel's office had secured copies of the documents and computer files being sought in the bribery investigation from Jefferson's office.

But officials say the House lawyers then refused to turn over the documents to the FBI.

The refusal by the House Counsel led the FBI to seek a search warrant from Judge Thomas Hogan to send agents into Jefferson's Rayburn Building office, room 2113, according to officials.

"Left with no other method, the government is proceeding in this fashion," states the search warrant application filed by FBI agent Timothy Thibault.

The warrant was issued by Judge Hogan last Thursday and instructed Capitol Hill police "to provide immediate access" to Jefferson's office.

FBI agents went into the building around 7:15 Saturday night. Officials say the agents used a special team "to minimize the likelihood that any potentially politically sensitive" items were removed.

In a statement today, Jefferson's lawyer called the FBI action "outrageous."

There was no immediate comment from the House General Counsel.

May 22, 2006

Cripes! This may be more interesting that just the usual "Congressman goes wrong" story.
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Post by Ralph » Mon May 22, 2006 10:29 pm

Just what is so unusual about someone having $90G in his freezer?
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Post by pizza » Mon May 22, 2006 11:56 pm

Ralph wrote:Just what is so unusual about someone having $90G in his freezer?
Are they now considered frozen assets? :wink:

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue May 23, 2006 12:57 am

pizza wrote:
Ralph wrote:Just what is so unusual about someone having $90G in his freezer?
Are they now considered frozen assets? :wink:
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Post of the Day Award to Pizza!
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue May 23, 2006 1:01 am

Ralph wrote:Just what is so unusual about someone having $90G in his freezer?
Freezer . . . . $395. 00

Cash Cache . . . $90,000.

FBI raiding Congress? . . . Priceless
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Post by Ralph » Tue May 23, 2006 7:13 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:Just what is so unusual about someone having $90G in his freezer?
Freezer . . . . $395. 00

Cash Cache . . . $90,000.

FBI raiding Congress? . . . Priceless
*****

I just moved $121,000 from my freezer to my garbage compactor. Just in case there's a raid.
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Post by Ralph » Tue May 23, 2006 10:18 am

Lawmakers decry search of D.C. office
Louisiana's Jefferson maintains innocence in bribery probe

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. William Jefferson vowed Monday to stay in Congress and fight allegations that he took bribes and hid $90,000 of allegedly ill-gotten funds in the freezer of his Washington home.

In concerns echoed by the Republican House and Senate leaders, the Louisiana Democrat blasted an apparently unprecedented weekend search of his office by FBI agents as an "outrageous intrusion into the separation of powers between the executive branch and the congressional branch."

"I expect to continue to represent the people who have sent me here," Jefferson said during a brief appearance before reporters.

"This will not retard my capacity to continue to work for the people I represent," he said, adding that he expects to run for re-election in November.

However, he said that on the advice of his attorneys he would not discuss details of the allegations, which he said "would be extraordinarily foolhardy" because he is the subject of an ongoing federal criminal investigation.

"There are two sides to every story. There are certainly two sides to this story. There will be an appropriate time and forum when that can be explained," Jefferson said. "But this is not the time. This is not the forum."

Jefferson has not been charged with any crime, but a Kentucky businessman and a former Jefferson aide have both pleaded guilty to bribery charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. (Affidavit outlines case against congressman -- 1:28)

Last week, the House Ethics Committee opened its own investigation into the allegations against Jefferson.
Search concerns GOP leaders

Meanwhile, the search of Jefferson's office in the Rayburn House Office Building has caused unease on Capitol Hill about the possible breach of separation of powers between Congress and the executive branch.

Both Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert said they were "very concerned" about the search, which was conducted under a warrant issued by a federal judge.

Jefferson told reporters Monday, "I believe that it's completely inappropriate to use the police of the federal government to come into the office."

Hastert issued a sharply worded statement Monday evening saying he planned to "seek a means to restore the delicate balance of power among the branches of government." He did not elaborate on what measures he might propose.

"Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this separation of powers line in order to successfully prosecute corruption by members of Congress," Hastert said.

"Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years."

Frist said legal experts from both the Senate and House have been discussing "what a proper course of action is."

Speaking to reporters earlier Monday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales acknowledged that the search had raised "institutional concerns" on Capitol Hill.

"We are talking to Congress and hope to allay their concerns," he said. "I will admit these were unusual steps that were taken in response to unusual circumstances."

In an affidavit filed in support of the search warrant for Jefferson's office, prosecutors said they had "exhausted all other reasonable methods to obtain these records in a timely manner."

However, details of what steps had been taken to get the records short of a search warrant were redacted from the version of the affidavit made public.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that though members of Congress "must obey the law and cooperate fully with any criminal investigation," such probes "must be conducted in accordance with constitutional protections and historical precedent so that our government's system of checks and balances are not undermined."
Allegations detailed

The affidavit supporting the search warrant, released Sunday, revealed the most extensive details to date of the allegations against Jefferson, 59, an eight-term congressman.

Investigators have collected evidence linking Jefferson to at least seven cases where the congressman "sought things of value in return for his performance of official acts," according to the affidavit.

A search of Jefferson's Washington home in August 2005 turned up $90,000 in cash in the freezer, stashed in food containers and wrapped in aluminum foil, the affidavit said.

The money was part of $100,000 in cash that had been given to Jefferson by an informant working with investigators, and the delivery of the money was taped by the FBI, according to the affidavit.

Jefferson's home in New Orleans was searched at the same time. A month later, after flooding from Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, the congressman came under criticism for traveling to his home with a National Guard escort to retrieve personal belongings.

The congressman defended the trip, saying it was part of a larger tour to assess damage in the city and adding the escort was necessary because of security concerns.

According to the affidavit, the investigation of Jefferson began in March 2005, when the informant went to the FBI claiming to be "a victim of a fraud and bribery scheme" involving the congressman and two other men -- Vernon Jackson, the CEO of the Kentucky-based high-tech firm iGate, and Brett Pfeffer, a former Jefferson aide who was president of an investment firm owned by the informant.

The informant agreed to record conversations with Jefferson, Jackson and Pfeffer, the affidavit said.

The affidavit identified the informant only as a Virginia resident who headed an "educational technology philanthropic foundation." However, a government official told CNN on Monday that the informant was a businesswoman named Lori Moody.

Jefferson represents Louisiana's 2nd District, a majority black, solidly Democratic district that takes in much of the city of New Orleans and some suburban areas. When he was elected in 1990, Jefferson became the first black congressman from the Pelican State since Reconstruction.

CNN's Kevin Bohn and Terry Frieden contributed to this report.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue May 23, 2006 12:30 pm

Jefferson's steadfast denials remind me of a comment made by the judge who sat on the trial of the guy who shot Gov. Wallace responding to counsel's motion for dismissal on the grounds that the perp couldn't get a fair trial because news media in the DC area kept replaying the handy videotape of the assassination attempt with the perp in full view.

"You aren't going to get your client off by claiming he can't get a fair trial because everyone saw him do it."

I'm waiting for Jefferson to try the ol' standby, "I was investigating corruption myself and this was all part of my private sting operation . . . "
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Post by Ralph » Tue May 23, 2006 1:59 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:Jefferson's steadfast denials remind me of a comment made by the judge who sat on the trial of the guy who shot Gov. Wallace responding to counsel's motion for dismissal on the grounds that the perp couldn't get a fair trial because news media in the DC area kept replaying the handy videotape of the assassination attempt with the perp in full view.

"You aren't going to get your client off by claiming he can't get a fair trial because everyone saw him do it."

I'm waiting for Jefferson to try the ol' standby, "I was investigating corruption myself and this was all part of my private sting operation . . . "
*****

Sounds good to me.
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Post by pizza » Wed May 24, 2006 9:32 am

Both sides of the Congress are now squealing that the search of Jefferson's congressional office violated the Constitution. A federal judge approved the search and the FBI executed it. Seems to me the executive branch acted with the authority of the judicial. Maybe Ralph can explain how this incident presents a constitutional question for the Supreme Court to decide.

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Post by Ralph » Wed May 24, 2006 9:43 am

pizza wrote:Both sides of the Congress are now squealing that the search of Jefferson's congressional office violated the Constitution. A federal judge approved the search and the FBI executed it. Seems to me the executive branch acted with the authority of the judicial. Maybe Ralph can explain how this incident presents a constitutional question for the Supreme Court to decide.
*****

I don't see a constitutional issue at this time. A legislator's office is not per se sacrosanct and immune from legal process. The Speech and Debate Clause might be relevant if a showing could be made that as with Nixon's CREEP there was an underlying criminal political agenda but this appears to be a clear if unusual criminal investigation.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed May 24, 2006 11:16 am

This is another front in the Congress-Executive struggle about who runs the country. The fact that the FBI wasn't getting any cooperation from the Congressional Powers That Be proves the FBI did the right thing, but of course there are 535 whores on the Hill who will run for the nearest microphone to express his or her outrage and the MSM will cover them with depth and alacrity while Gonzales will eventually have to get back to work. There will be hearings and essentially legislation protecting legislator-criminals just because they are legislators. It will be like the fixers directing the bishops to send all their incriminating records on pedophile priests to the Papal Legate in DC where they would be under diplomatic immunity and the police couldn't get them. Congressmen will start keeping all their records of their dirty dealings in the Peoples' House.
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