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Jefferson (D) Caught With $100K In Freezer

From the DNC’s house organ, the Washington Post:

A US lawmaker William Jefferson (L), pictured here in April 2006 with Rev. Jesse Jackson, is under federal investigation for corruption and a shady business deal in which 90,000 dollars was found in his freezer, according to court documents obtained after the FBI raided his offices.

Congressman cool over cash in freezer

By Dana Milbank in Washington May 24, 2006

It takes a particular kind of nerve to be filmed taking $100,000 in alleged bribe money out of an FBI informant’s car, have the FBI later find the very same money wrapped in foil in your freezer – and then adamantly claim that you have done nothing wrong.

But Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana has that rare trait – to the horror of fellow Democrats hoping to persuade voters that it is the Republicans who are corrupt. "There are two sides to every story," he said.

Maybe so. But an 83-page FBI affidavit made public over the weekend – after a raid of his congressional office – alleges Mr Jefferson was caught on video taking a certificate for a 30 per cent stake in a Nigerian company in exchange for his political influence, and intervening with the vice-president of Nigeria.

When Mr Jefferson demanded that his stake in the Nigerian company be increased he said he was doing it for his five daughters. The affidavit also says Mr Jefferson received "a leather briefcase containing $100,000 cash in denominations of $100 bills" – and that $90,000 of it wound up in his freezer "inside various frozen food containers". He referred to the cash as "African art" and laughed with a partner about "all these damn notes we’re writing to each other as if … the FBI is watching".

But the FBI was watching and his "business partner" was wearing a wire tap. Another former partner says he took more than $400,000 in payments.

Mr Jefferson appears to have the most damning predicament since a Florida congressman, Richard Kelly, caught stuffing $25,000 in bribes into his coat pockets, claimed he was conducting his own investigation of the investigators. Ten television cameras showed up to watch Mr Jefferson give his account. Even the comedian Dave Chapelle stopped by to gather material.

Mr Jefferson’s eyes turned moist as he spoke and perspiration formed on his brow. He said it would be "extraordinarily foolhardy" to talk about the case. But it would not be the only foolhardy thing he had done lately. Did he not know that the Pentagon City complex where he was stung was an FBI favourite? Monica Lewinsky was undone by agents in the same place.

Turning to the constitution, Mr Jefferson said he found the search of his office, the first such search of a congressional office, "an outrageous intrusion in the separation of powers". A reporter pointed out the searchers had a warrant.

While his Democratic colleagues hope he resigns, Mr Jefferson said he planned to stand for re-election, adding, "I have been extraordinarily effective."

A reporter asked: "If you didn’t take a $100,000 bribe, why not just say it now?"

Meanwhile, the DNC’s Associated Press is putting out this kind of story:

FBI Search of House Office Questioned

By MARY DALRYMPLE, Associated Press Writer

Tue May 23, 3:37 AM ET

WASHINGTON – The FBI’s weekend search of the House office of a Louisiana Democrat under investigation for bribery may have overstepped Constitutional boundaries, House leaders said as the congressman under investigation pledged to stay in office.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert said the Justice Department had never before crossed a line that separates Congress from the executive branch by searching a congressional office while investigating a member of Congress.

The search warrant was issued by a federal district judge in suburban Virginia, based on an affidavit from FBI investigators outlining some of the evidence that have accumulated in the case, including video tape of the congressman accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant, who agreed to have her conversations with the congressman taped.

Agents later found all but $10,000 of the cash — in marked bills — hidden in a freezer in one of the congressman’s homes, according to the affidavit.

His homes in New Orleans and the Washington area were searched by FBI agents last August.

"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," Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said in a statement Monday.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said congressional independence from the executive branch protects Americans from abuses of power.

"Justice Department investigations must be conducted in accordance with Constitutional protections and historical precedent," she said.

Rep. William Jefferson, whose office was searched over the weekend in connection with allegations of bribery, told reporters that he would not resign.

"I plan to go to the floor to vote tonight. I plan to go to the floor to vote tomorrow," he said. "I plan to carry out my responsibilities here, as I have since the time that I’ve been here."

He declined to talk about allegations that he was videotaped accepting money from a Virginia businesswoman who is cooperating with investigators. She was identified as Lori Mody by a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the woman’s name was kept secret in court documents.

Jefferson called the weekend search of his office an "outrageous intrusion."

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, asked about the search, said he understands the concerns raised about FBI agents raiding a congressional office.

"I will admit that these were unusual steps that were taken in response to an unusual set of circumstances," Gonzales said.

The search warrant affidavit spells out special procedures put in place to ensure the search did not infringe on privileged material. The procedures include use of a "filter team" of prosecutors and FBI agents unconnected to the investigation. They would review any seized items or documents and determine whether the documents are privileged and therefore immune from the search warrant.

If the status of a document is in doubt, the filter team will give the documents to a judge for a definitive ruling before giving them to case prosecutors, according to the affidavit.

Hastert said those protections may not be enough.

"It is not at all clear to me that it would even be possible to create special procedures that would overcome the Constitutional problems that the execution of this warrant has created," he said.

Jefferson has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing, but two of his associates have pleaded guilty to bribery-related charges in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

The House Ethics Committee has opened an inquiry into the case.

Why shouldn’t the FBI search Congressional offices? That’s where the money is.

At least the money that’s not in their freezers.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

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