They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

Do you think they'll try to search his office?

From ABC:

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, is under investigation by the FBI, which is seeking to determine his role in an ongoing public corruption probe into members of Congress, ABC News has learned from high level government sources.

Federal officials say the information implicating Hastert was developed from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

The other tribes were represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who reportedly has provided details of his dealings with Hastert as part of his plea agreement with the government.

The letter was written shortly after a fund-raiser for Hastert at a restaurant owned by Abramoff. Abramoff and his clients contributed more than $26,000 at the time.

The Department of Defense wants its budget for classified, or "black" programs to swell to $30.1 billion, according to a recent analysis by a Washington, D.C. policy shop specializing in defense budgets.

The Center for Security and Budgetary Assessments found that the classified acquisitions requested by the Pentagon for 2007 are double what they were in 1995. And while the Pentagon's budget to buy unclassified toys has grown also, its budget for "secret" equipment and operations has grown much faster.

Why is this important? The "black" contracting arena is where much of the current earmark abuse has taken place. Admitted and alleged bribers like Mitchell Wade and Brent "Boom Shaka Laka" Wilkes built companies on secret contracts awarded away from the public eye.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is now joining Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to ask the FBI to give Jefferson his documents back. Their joint statement is less severe than Hastert's (R-IL) earlier suggestion to freeze FBI agents involved in the raid out the case. Rather, the duo proposes to resolve this Constitutional crisis by the FBI returning Jefferson's documents to him, so Jefferson can wilfully cooperate (by handing the documents back to the FBI, I suppose).

Somehow I don't think the FBI will agree. And given Pelosi's recently demonstrated inability to control Jefferson, it's not clear she could compel him to comply.

Here's the joint statement from Minority Leader Pelosi and Hastert:

“No person is above the law, neither the one being investigated nor those conducting the investigation.

“The Justice Department was wrong to seize records from Congressman Jefferson’s office in violation of the Constitutional principle of Separation of Powers, the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution, and the practice of the last 219 years. These constitutional principles were not designed by the Founding Fathers to place anyone above the law. Rather, they were designed to protect the Congress and the American people from abuses of power, and those principles deserve to be vigorously defended.

“Accordingly, the Justice Department must immediately return the papers it unconstitutionally seized. Once that is done, Congressman Jefferson can and should fully cooperate with the Justice Department’s efforts, consistent with his constitutional rights.

“In addition, the Justice Department must immediately cease any further review of the documents it unconstitutionally seized, ensure that those who have reviewed the documents do not divulge their contents to the investigators, and move in Court to vitiate the search warrant.”

Following on the heels of Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-IL) demand that the FBI return the documents seized from William Jefferson's Congressional office, Jefferson's lawyer has filed a motion to order the FBI to return the documents:

The congressman also asked that FBI and Justice Department attorneys be prohibited from reviewing the documents and that they be locked up until the judge acts on the motion.

Jefferson's motion said the search violated "speech and debate" protections in the Constitution to insure the independence of lawmakers.

No matter which way that decision goes, it will be appealed, no doubt. I think Boehner was right when he said this one's going all the way to the Supreme Court.

Update: John Bresnahan of Roll Call has more:

Read More →

I just got back from watching the opening arguments in the Safavian trial. There were some entertaining moments -- like when the judge forgot to swear in the jury, or when he blew up at a guy whose cell phone rang when court was in session. But in general, the lesson learned was this: the only thing more boring than golf is a trial about golf.

Paul's breakdown yesterday was essentially right: the prosecution argued that the case is about "lying, concealment and misleading." The defense countered that Safavian never lied and never misled. They'll bat that back and forth for a while, I suspect -- much as Paul predicted. Although, it looks like the defense has at least one strategy that could spell danger for prosecutors not just in this trial but others in the Abramoff scandal roll-up.

At the heart of the case is Safavian's motive for allegedly lying to investigators and obstructing probes. That motive, prosecutors seem to believe, is his overwhelming love of golf.

First, they say Safavian lied in order to go on that infamous golf trip to St. Andrews, Scotland with Abramoff, associates and lawmakers. Second, they say he loves golf so much that he was susceptible to Abramoff's seductions: "dangling" the prospect of working as a lobbyist at Jack's firm, "where [Safavian] could make a great deal of money, and play a great deal of golf," prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg explained.

So: Did Safavian help Abramoff with GSA property deals and lie about it, presumably so that he could a) play golf in Scotland while at the GSA, and b) play golf anywhere he pleased after landing a cushy job with Abramoff?

I don't know. I don't know how much he loves golf. But it became clear that a number of others in the courtroom -- myself included -- did not love golf at all.

Read More →

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.