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A backstage nudge didn't work with Jefferson, so Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has gone public:

May 24, 2006

Congressman William J. Jefferson 2113 Rayburn House Office Building U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Jefferson:

In the interest of upholding the high ethical standard of the House Democratic Caucus, I am writing to request your immediate resignation from the Ways and Means Committee.


Nancy Pelosi Democratic Leader

Update: Jefferson says no. From Roll Call:

"I have received your letter of this date requesting my immediate resignation from the Ways and Means Committee. With respect, I decline to do so," Jefferson said.

The prosecution kicked off the trial of David Safavian this morning with their opening statement. Justin will be checking in a little later with his account of what he saw, but here's a little taste from the AP. It will certainly not be the last time that golf comes up in this trial:

At the start of the first trial in the Abramoff influence peddling scandal, prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg told a jury that David Safavian provided substantial amounts of information about government-controlled properties that the lobbyist wanted for himself or his clients.

Using his official position, Safavian "worked first and foremost for a rich, powerful" lobbyist and personal friend and then he "lied and concealed in order to keep the truth from the public," Zeidenberg told the jury of 10 women and two men.

Abramoff "constantly dangled" the prospect that Safavian could return to the private sector and join Abramoff's lobbying operation, "where he would make a great deal of money and he would play a great deal of golf," Zeidenberg told the jury.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) has taken his rage over the FBI's Saturday raid to the next level. He wants the seized documents back now:

"We think those materials ought to be returned," Hastert said, adding that the FBI agents involved "ought to be frozen out of that (case) just for the sake of the constitutional aspects of it." [Pun apparently not intended]

Majority Leader Boehner, remember, thinks this should go the Supreme Court. If Hastert is more than just boasting (a big "if"), that could be sooner rather than later.

The FBI, meanwhile, says their agents did everything they could to get the documents they needed for their investigation - apparently they've been itching to raid Jefferson's congressional office since last summer, when they raided his home in Louisiana.

The problem with using a small-town pastor to front your fake charity is that eventually he'll catch on, and he won't like it.

OK, so maybe it took Chris Geeslin (pictured here with his wife Maryellen) a little longer to catch on than you might expect. But he has. And after making his big debut in the pages of the Washington Post last year, he sat down recently with NPR to explain how he got taken.

To hear Geeslin tell it, Ed Buckham, Tom DeLay's former chief of staff, bagman and confidante, seemed nice and honest enough. They prayed together. Geeslin even ordained Buckham into the ministry.

Then Buckham, who had just left DeLay's office to become a lobbyist, asked Geeslin if he'd like to be on the board of a nonprofit. The nonprofit was called the U.S. Family Network. It promoted things like "moral fitness." Geeslin said he jumped at the opportunity; his wife joined the board too. But then, well:

NPR's John Ydstie: Geeslin first became uneasy when large donations started rolling in, one for $1 million. He said he suggested to Buckham that maybe the group should focus more on being the grassroots organization described in the U.S. Family Network's mission statement.

Chris Geeslin: “And [Buckham] looked at me with some disdain. And he said, ‘You know where that million dollars came from? I said, 'Well, no.’ And he told me 'This is the way Washington works.' And he was schooling me, so to speak. He said, ‘That money came from Russian enery magnates, or oil magnates, who wanted to influence Congressman DeLay so he would not vote against the IMF funding of the bailout of Russia.’ And again, he said, ‘That’s the way Washington works, it runs on money.’ At the time, I didn’t know what to do with that. It was like, this has gotta be a joke. It’s beyond belief. It’s surreal.”

Give the piece a listen.

Funny how attached to his job Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) seems - now that he's under investigation.

It's been hinted since the beginning of the week that the Dem leadership would make a bid to push Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) out of his plum committee position. He's on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes, trade, Medicare, etc.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made her play yesterday, which prompted a defiant response from Jefferson:

"I will not give up a committee assignment that is so vital to New Orleans at this crucial time for any uncertain, long-term political strategy.... None of the matters reported to be under scrutiny involves issues under jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee,” Jefferson said.

“Therefore, such a request (to step down) would be even more perplexing and unreasonable. If I agreed, it would unfairly punish the people of the 2nd Congressional district and I will not stand for that.”

He said a request to give up the Ways and Means post would be “discriminatory” because no other member under investigation has been required to give up a major committee assignment.

So Jefferson's not stepping aside so easily.

I can't help comparing such tenacity with his remark to the FBI informant, Lori Mody, that he's just sticking around Congress to push through a telecom deal (of which he was getting a fat cut): "I'm gonna get your deal out of the way... and I probably won't last long after that."

How times change.

I'm a day late, but this tidbit was too good to pass up. From a piece on Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) news conference in yesterday's edition of The Hill newspaper:

In a surreal moment at Jefferson’s news conference, entertainer Dave Chappelle wandered through, having just come from Wright Patman Congressional Federal Credit Union, where he does his banking. The comedian signed a few autographs before moving on.

It got me thinking. . . Couldn't Chappelle do a wicked Jefferson impersonation?

Facing Corruption Charges, Ney Helps Watchdog Group Fundraise You've read a lot on this site about the Washington, D.C.-based group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). They're the group that's constantly pushing for documents and probes in cases of corruption on Capitol Hill.

They've been hounding Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who's been ID'd in four plea agreements as corruptly assisting disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Among the rebukes employed by Ney to defend against CREW is that they take money from conservative bogeyman George Soros, a progressive billionaire who funds a variety of causes.

Only problem was, CREW didn't get money from Soros -- until Ney and his people opened their mouths, anyway:

After Ney and his spokesman, Brian Walsh, repeatedly insisted her group was funded by Soros, Sloan brought their claims to Soros' foundation.

"'We kept saying, They say you are already funding us. Shouldn't you?'" recalls Sloan, who said the group got its first grant in January.

(Cleveland Plain Dealer)

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Reacting to the surprise raid Saturday on the offices of Rep. William "Cold Cash" Jefferson (D-LA), the Speaker of the House told the White House to keep its G-men at bay, AP reports.

A grand jury is expected to return a formal indictment of Rep. William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson (D-LA) in four to six weeks, ABC News reports.

The network also says that the FBI went to extraordinary lengths in preparing legal justifications and safeguards for its unprecedented raid of the congressman's Capitol office. Apparently, one of the issues was a collection of documents and computer files the Justice Department had requested -- but Congress' lawyers would not release:

[T]he FBI had sought to obtain documents and computer discs from Jefferson's office through the use of a grand jury subpoena.

Officials say the House of Representatives General Counsel made copies of the requested documents and discs several weeks ago but then refused to turn them over.

Officials said Judge Thomas Hogan himself suggested the FBI request a search warrant for the Capitol Hill office of the Congressman, which Hogan authorized last Thursday.

We've been quiet about it so far, but privately we've been training, focusing, air-boxing to the Rocky theme music -- let the era of the Abramoff trial begin!

Opening statements in the trial of Abramoff pal David Safavian are tomorrow, and Justin will be there at DC's E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse to get the sights and sounds. (Running up the steps in a sweatshirt -- Rising up, back on the street/Did my time, took my chances. . . )

Jack himself won't be showing up - prosecutors have chosen to let his emails speak for themselves. (As a consolation prize, Rep. Bob Ney's (R-OH) former staffer Neil Volz will take the stand.) And this isn't exactly a bribery trial. Safavian, a former General Services Administration official, is charged with lying to GSA ethics officials, the GSA's Inspector General, and investigators from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. So it's not really a good indicator of how prosecutors will fare in court when they go after members of Congress.

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