Thursday, November 16, 2006

Jack Murtha Is STILL Not Telling the Truth. Really.

Interviewed last night on MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews," Jack Murtha continued to evade, dodge, obfuscate, and even tell outright falsehoods to host Chris Matthews.

Let's take a look at what Murtha said last night, and how it squares with known facts:

MATTHEWS: Let's talk about what's being said against you. Not just by your opponents, but in the newspapers. Let's talk about Abscam. Back 26 years ago, I went through the numbers. Five members of the United States Congress, a United States senator, Pete Williams from New Jersey were convicted of accepting money from these undercover FBI agents, posing as Arab guys trying to make an offer to congressmen so he'd cut a deal, put some money in the pockets of these people.

All these people are convicted, you weren't. Does that mean you're innocent?

MURTHA: Well, I'll put this way. I had 24 percent unemployment, I was looking at investment. I told them I wanted an investment in my district, they put $50,000 out on the table. I said I'm not interested in that, I'm interested in investment. The ethics committee cleared me completely, unanimous vote.

FACT: The Ethics Committee did no such thing. Contrary to what Jack Murtha declared as fact, the House Ethics Committee split on a straight party-line vote -– every Republican cast a vote to proceed with an investigation of Murtha, while every Democrat on the Committee cast a vote to close down any proceeding against Murtha.

The Special Counsel hired to investigate the Abscam scandal on behalf of the Ethics Committee –- E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr. -– resigned in protest that very day.

MATTHEWS: When they said, when they offered you the envelope of $50,000, did you think that was a bribe?

MURTHA: It wasn't an envelope, it was a drawer full of cash.

MATTHEWS: Was that a bribe?

MURTHA: No. As far as I was concerned...

MATTHEWS: ... No, what did you see that as? Why did you say I'm not interested?

MURTHA: Well, I said I'm not interested because I just didn't feel like it was the right thing to do.

MATTHEWS: Why not?

MURTHA: Well, what the hell, I'm not going to take cash from some Arab sheikhs. They weren't Arab sheikhs, they were FBI agents.

MATTHEWS: But you didn't know that.

MURTHA: I just said this is not what I'm interested in. I'm interested in you folks investing.

FACT: Actually, as we pointed out yesterday, Jack Murtha's "investment defense" was nothing more than a cover to throw any inquiring reporters off the scent. If the rich Arab put money into Murtha's district, he reasoned to the undercover FBI agent, no one would start wondering aloud why Murtha was doing favors for a rich foreigner; absent such a cover, however, people would naturally become suspicious. Here's how Murtha described it at the time, in his own words (courtesy of the Abscam surveillance video):

"And what I'm sayin' is, a few investments in my district, a few you know, is big to me, to this guy apparently is not too big, to a couple of banks which would get their attention. And investment in a business where you could legitimately say to me -- when I say legitimately, I'm talking about so these bastards up here can't say to me, well, why, in eight years from now, that's possible, we'd never hear a thing for eight years, but all at once, ah, some dumb bastard would go start talking eight years from now, ah, about the whole thing and say, '[expletive deleted], ah, this happened,' then he, then he, in order to get immunity so he doesn't go to jail, he starts talking and fingering people and then the [expletive deleted] all falls apart."

Just a few moments later in the tape, Mr. Murtha continues, discussing what he calls "a business commitment" in the district:

"A business commitment that makes it imperative for me to help him. Just, let me tell you something. I'm sure if -- and there's a lot of things I've done up here, with environmental regulations, with all kinds of waivers of laws and regulations. If it weren't for being in the district, people would say … 'Well that [expletive deleted], I'm gonna tell you something … This guy is, uh, you know, on the take.' Well once they say that, what happens? Then they start going around looking for the [expletive deleted] money. So I want to avoid that by having some tie to the district. That's all. That's the secret to the whole thing."

"That's the secret to the whole thing." Investment not for the sake of investment, but because "that's the secret" to how you can take a bribe and get away with it.

MATTHEWS: I've heard you, I've seen this tape on YouTube now, everybody has seen it. A million people apparently have seen this tape. You said I'm not interested, and I assume you think it was something you shouldn't have done, as you just said. It wasn't the right thing to do, right, sir?

MURTHA: Well certainly, that's exactly.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well then why did you say at this point, then?

MURTHA: Listen, I wanted to negotiate with them about investment in the district, that's what I was interested in. It's the only thing I was interested in.

MATTHEWS: But what do you mean when you said I'm not interested at this point. I'm not interested maybe at some point?

MURTHA: No, no, listen.

MATTHEWS: That's on the tape.

MURTHA: I know, but what I said was I want to continue to talk to you guys, I want investment in the district. That's all I was interested in.

FACT: In fact, Murtha was quite interested in taking the $50,000. He just didn't want to take cash out of a room in front of two men he had never before met, and a third man who had been introduced to him by one of his corrupt congressional colleagues.

Roughly 46 minutes into the 54-minute-long meeting, Howard Criden and Jack Murtha briefly stepped into the hallway outside the meeting room for a private conversation. There, the two discussed a means for Murtha to accept the cash without putting his hands on it -- by having Criden put
his hands on it.

Here's what you see on the tape:

Upon their return, Howard Criden says to Anthony Amoroso, the undercover FBI agent posing as the representative of the sheik, 'John says that it is okay for you to give me what's in that drawer.' [The drawer he was referring to, of course, is the desk drawer in which agent Amoroso had already placed $50,000 in cash.] Jack Murtha then immediately follows, explaining to Mr. Amoroso, 'Is that all right, Tony, let me make it very clear. The other two guys [Congressmen Frank Thompson and John Murphy] do expect to be taken care of, as Howard. And you're gonna have to deal through Howard. Me, you've got my deal.' Criden then acknowledges, 'We have a deal.'

Leaving a room where one has just been offered $50,000 in cash, only to return two minutes later with a bag man saying "John says that it is okay for you to give me what's in that drawer," is not something done by a man who's not aware he's trying to take a bribe.

These are the actions, rather, of a man who wanted very much to take the bribe -- as Jack Murtha said at one point on the tape, "you know, I need the [expletive deleted] money like anybody else does" -- but who thought he was clever enough, and careful enough, to have figured out a way to take the bribe without actually accepting the money himself.

Jack Murtha could have contradicted Howard Criden when Criden said, "John says that it is okay for you to give me what is in that drawer." He could have said, "Howard, I never said that."

But Jack Murtha did NOT contradict Howard Criden. Instead, he said, "Is that all right, Tony," and went on to remind the FBI agent that two other Congressmen "do expect to be taken care of," and then to agree with Criden -- "And you're gonna have to deal through Howard."

Just what did Howard Criden and Jack Murtha discuss in the hallway? Did Criden tell Murtha, "It'll be alright, Jack, I'll take the money, just like I did for Frank Thompson?" In fact, in trial testimony later, Jack Murtha testified that that is EXACTLY what happened in the hallway.

Jack Murtha believed he had cut a deal. But the deal fell apart -- FOR THE MOMENT -- when he refused to take the cash out of the room himself.

Did Jack Murtha call the FBI to report that, as a sitting Member of the House of Representatives, he had just been offered a bribe? Did Jack Murtha call the Speaker of the House of Representatives, or even the Chairman of the House Ethics Committee -- of which he was a member at the time -- to report a bribe attempt, as he was required to do under the Rules of the House in effect at the time?

No, he did not. Instead, as he testified later in federal court, he called his "immigration guy," to determine what could be done on behalf of the sheik. Why? Because he thought he still had a deal.

MATTHEWS: But did you smell corruption in that conversation?

MURTHA: Sure. I saw these guys were trying to corrupt me and trying to...

MATTHEWS: ... Did you think they were legitimate emissaries for an Arab big shot or did you think they were...

MURTHA: They were the slimiest guys I've ever seen.

MATTHEWS: Well why didn't you walk out of the room the minute you met them?

[Ed. note: Walking out of the room is exactly what Republican U.S. Senator Larry Pressler did when he was offered a cash bribe by the same undercover FBI agent.]

MURTHA: Well listen, they said they were going to invest in the district.

MATTHEWS: I understand the constituent service part of it. I understand that. But the tricky part of this is to say I'm not interested, which meant you didn't want to have anything to do with these slime balls, as you saw them, but then you said "at this point." Was that just a way of finessing your way out of the conversation?

MURTHA: Exactly, exactly. I deal with people like this all the time. I wanted to find a way to move towards a negotiation to investment.

MATTHEWS: Did you know they had already paid two other members off?

MURTHA: I had no idea.

FACT: Of course Murtha knew the faux sheik's representatives had already paid off two other Members of Congress already -– one of them, Frank Thompson, had been the man who brought Murtha into the sting operation in the first place. At Thompson's trial, Murtha testified to this fact, and to the fact that he had been told by Thompson that there would be $50,000 in what he called "walk around money" offered to him before he ever went to the meeting.

Here's how David Holman, a reporter for The American Spectator, summarized it:

Murtha's claim that he thought he was meeting to discuss investments in his district is only half true: he knew for weeks beforehand that there would be bribes involved. In late October or early November of 1979, Murtha testified, Congressman Frank Thompson approached him on the floor of the House. He told Murtha there were some rich Arabs who might be willing to invest in the district. "He wanted to get two more Congressmen involved. ... But all we would have to do is help these two Arabs get into the country perhaps sometime in the future."

About a week later, Thompson sat next to Murtha on the floor of the House. Murtha testified that Thompson said he had checked the Arabs out -- they had hundreds of millions of dollars. (Abscam had a banker at Chase Manhattan who would "verify" the size of their bank account if any marks called to check.) This time, though, Thompson said, according to Murtha, "And there would also be some walking around money for the three Congressmen involved." In direct examination, Thomas Puccio, the government's lead prosecutor on the case, then asked, "Did Mr. Thompson say how much walking-around money?" "He said $50,000," Mr. Murtha replied. "What did you understand walking-around money to mean?" Mr. Puccio asked. "Cash," Mr. Murtha said. Murtha knew since the first half of November 1979 that the Arabs were offering bribes.

Thompson pursued the matter with Murtha through the end of the year, finally securing a meeting for Murtha's first day back in town: January 7, 1980. Thompson phoned Murtha on January 7. He said that Howard Criden, an attorney arranging meetings with members of Congress for the Arabs' representatives, was in his office and Thompson would like Murtha to meet Criden.

Murtha went over. After some small talk, Thompson told Murtha that he would go with Criden to the Arabs' house in Georgetown, where Criden would "pick up the money." Murtha testified that he repeatedly demurred and said that he was "just not prepared to get involved with the money." He said that he twice almost walked out of Thompson's office at Thompson's and Criden's insistence that Criden would pick up the money. At one point, Thompson said, "You go down and Howard will pick up the money and we will split -- that the three of us will split the money." Murtha testified in cross-examination that when he went to the W Street townhouse, he knew there was a "possibility" that he could be bribed by going there or a bribe offer could be made there.

Before Murtha left Capitol Hill, he knew the terms of the meeting: he was going to a strange townhouse, with a strange lawyer he had not met before that day, to meet with strange representatives of strange sheiks from an unnamed Middle Eastern country. Thompson explicitly told him that Criden would pick up the money for the three congressmen, Thompson, Murphy, and Murtha, to split three ways. Despite his account of protesting to this situation, he went along.

Twenty-six years later, Jack Murtha still isn't telling the truth about what happened in that room that day.


Post a Comment

<< Home