Wednesday, September 14, 2005
I'll keep the box, Monty -- you can have door number three
What is Congressman Jefferson hiding?
On Friday, Sept. 2 -- five days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast -- Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who represents New Orleans and is a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee . . . used National Guard troops to check on his property and rescue his personal belongings -- even while New Orleans residents were trying to get rescued from rooftops.It gets better.
Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard tells ABC News that during the tour, Jefferson asked that the truck take him to his home on Marengo Street, in the affluent uptown neighborhood in his congressional district. According to Schneider, this was not part of Jefferson's initial request. . . Jefferson went into the house alone, the source says, while the soldiers waited on the porch for about an hour.And it gets better, still.
Finally, according to the source, Jefferson emerged with a laptop computer, three suitcases, and a box about the size of a small refrigerator, which the enlisted men loaded up into the truck.
Jefferson said the trip was entirely appropriate. . . "This wasn't about me going to my house. It was about me going to my district," he said.Tell me another story.
But wait -- there's more.
The Louisiana National Guard tells ABC News the truck became stuck as it waited for Jefferson to retrieve his belongings.Okay -- so here is the situation. A prominent Democratic politician essentially takes military resources and diverts them to his personal use in order to get to his home in the flood damaged area. He then forces the military to wait for an hour while he goes inside his home, alone.
The soldiers signaled to helicopters in the air for aid. Military sources say a Coast Guard helicopter pilot saw the signal and flew to Jefferson's home. The chopper was already carrying four rescued New Orleans residents at the time.
A rescue diver descended from the helicopter, but the congressman decided against going up in the helicopter, sources say. The pilot sent the diver down again, but Jefferson again declined to go up the helicopter.
After spending approximately 45 minutes with Jefferson, the helicopter went on to rescue three additional New Orleans residents before it ran low on fuel and was forced to end its mission.
"Forty-five minutes can be an eternity to somebody that is drowning, to somebody that is sitting in a roof, and it needs to be used its primary purpose during an emergency," said Hauer.
Then the truck gets stuck, so they send a chopper carrying four other flood victims to pick him up. He refuses not once, but TWICE to board the chopper.
Why would he do that? Let's look at the facts -- the chopper had people on it already, and, rather than landing, it sent a rescue diver down to pick up the Congressman, who had a large box of personal possessions from his home.
I'd guess that the diver told him there was no way to take the box aboard the chopper, and so the Congressman refused to go. I mean, I can't think of any other explanation that fits the facts as well as that (Marcus Aurelius, anyone?).
So what could possible have been so important? ABCNews has a hint.
Authorities have recently searched Jefferson's property as part of a federal investigation into the finances of a high-tech firm. Last month FBI officials raided Jefferson's house as well as his home in Washington, D.C., his car and his accountant's house.Wow. That sounds pretty suspicious, don't you think? But, no worries -- Congressman Jefferson has assured us that he did nothing wrong.
Jefferson has not commented on that matter, except to say he is cooperating with the investigation.
Last week, Jefferson set up a special trust fund for contributions to his legal defense in light of the FBI investigation. A senior federal law enforcement source tells ABC News that investigators are interested in learning if Jefferson moved any materials relevant to the investigation. Jefferson says he did not.See -- he says he did not remove materials related to the investigation.
Well, before we jump to any conclusions, let's see what the investigation REALLY entails, okay?
On the same day that federal agents executed search warrants on the New Orleans and Washington, D.C., homes of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, the FBI also raided the Maryland residence of Nigeria's vice president, seeking evidence of possible payments to officials in that African nation. A State Department official confirmed the Aug. 3 search of the Potomac, Md., home of Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar and his wife, Jennifer. The agency referred all questions about the raid to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.Oh my. We aren't talking about some sort of Martha Stewart-esque insider trading deal. We are talking about an American congressman being investigated for trying to bribe foreign officials. This sounds an awful lot like ABSCAM.
A source familiar with the investigation said subpoenas show agents were looking for records showing whether Jefferson, D-New Orleans, paid, offered to pay or authorized payments to officials in the government of Nigeria or Ghana.
The subpoenas, described to The Times-Picayune, seek documents related to Jefferson's dealings with Abubakar and the vice president of Ghana, Alhaji Aliu Mahama. Jefferson returned from a five-day visit to Ghana in mid-July, about three weeks before the FBI raided his homes.
The subpoenas focus in part on a telecommunications deal Jefferson was trying to engineer in Nigeria over the past year, according to documents and those familiar with details of the investigation.
Let's dig a little deeper, shall we?
According to a Washington Post story quoted by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, "the operation had been in the works for a year and was investigating whether Jefferson pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars from business deals. The Post reported that agents found a large amount of cash in Jefferson's freezer."
I'm sure there will be claims this is racially motivated -- I mean, this guy is the first black Congressman from Louisiana since Reconstruction -- but I heard the same thing about Marion Barry, who was guilty as hell.
Here, I strongly suspect that Congressman Jefferson wanted to get into his house to seize documents and other evidence regarding his involvement in bribing foreign officials (such as the VP of Ghana and the VP of Nigeria) in a technology company deal. Officials found thousands of dollars stored in Congressman Jefferson's freezer.
As I said earlier -- this smells a LOT like ABSCAM. It is noteworthy that the federal grand jury investigating this matter was formed in suburban (and largely white) northern Virginia (apparently Jefferson has a shell company there) rather than in the minority-majority areas of Washington, D.C. or New Orleans, where Jefferson maintains residences.
That tells me the FBI and DoJ are seriously looking at prosecuting. They have to know it is a politically sensitive case because Jefferson is a prominent black politician (the first black elected to Congress from Louisiana since reconstruction). The Feds are also confident enough not only to conduct a series of raids on a sitting congressman's homes and offices, but also to raid the homes of a Nigerian diplomat -- something rarely seen in diplomatic circles due to the powerful nature of diplomatic immunity.
Look for this story to be buried in the mainstream media, while stories about Tom DeLay's associates get prominent coverage.
But the MSM is fair and balanced, right?
Hat tip, Instapundit for the initial story.