Lobbyist Abramoff May Make Plea Deal
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
There are reports this morning that indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff is negotiating with federal prosecutors. The lobbyist used to be known for his tight connections to powerful Republican lawmakers. Now he's at the heart of a wide-ranging bribery investigation. NPR's Peter Overby has been following the Abramoff case and he joins me now.
PETER OVERBY reporting:
Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Bring us up to date on this case.
OVERBY: Well, overnight the Associated Press and a couple of newspapers reported that anonymous sources were telling them that the negotiations are picking up between Abramoff's team and the Justice Department aiming toward a plea bargain for Abramoff. The reports vary on the intensity. I spoke to one of Abramoff's lawyers last night. He wouldn't confirm; he wouldn't deny. He simply said he couldn't comment on it.
MONTAGNE: But why now for these negotiations? What do the two sides get out of talking now?
OVERBY: Well, Jack Abramoff is in a real squeeze. On January 9th, not that far away, he's supposed to go on trial in Florida on federal fraud charges. Last week his co-defendant in that case pleaded guilty and is now the star witness for the government. Last month, Abramoff's closest business associate here in DC pleaded guilty. That would be Michael Scanlon, former aide to Congressman Tom DeLay. This is a serious, serious case that's going on. There are allegations of fraud, of bribery, of possible violations of charity laws. At the same time, Abramoff has not been socking away all this money that's in question. And on Capitol Hill, all these lawmakers that he used to pal around with, that he used to raise money for, are abandoning him.
MONTAGNE: And how so?
OVERBY: Well, for instance, Tom DeLay a long time ago said Abramoff and other lobbyists should stop trading on his name. Congressman Bob Ney, who went to Scotland on a golfing trip with Abramoff, said, `I was duped in my dealings with him.' Senator Conrad Burns says he wishes Abramoff had never been born.
MONTAGNE: And as one might expect, are lawmakers watching these developments pretty closely now?
OVERBY: You bet. It's high anxiety time on Capitol Hill. The bottom line here is that an investigation like this doesn't go after someone like Abramoff. Abramoff is not a big fish in this. An elected official would be.
MONTAGNE: Peter, thanks very much. NPR's Peter Overby.
OVERBY: You're welcome.
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