DeLay Says He's Not Backing Away from a Fight

Rep. Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, announces he is resigning from Congress by June. After his decision became public, Andrea Seabrook spoke the Texas Republican by phone and asked him whether he was backing away from a fight.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We have an update, this morning, on the resignation announcement of Tom DeLay. Amid corruption investigations, the former house majority leader sent word by videotape, that he will give up a bid for reelection and leave congress by mid June. After releasing that videotape, DeLay returned the calls of NPR's Andrea Seabrook who has interviewed him in the past. And Andrea's with us on the line. Andrea, good morning.

ANDREA SEABROOK reporting:

Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: How did this interview come about?

SEABROOK: Well, I'm actually in jury duty today and I'm sitting in the court house jury room, and I got a call back from Tom DeLay. And I immediately called NPR and he said he agreed that he'd speak to us about his decision to step down from congress.

INSKEEP: And you recorded this interview. And let's listen to a little bit of this, as Tom DeLay answered the question of whether he is backing away from a fight, by quitting his seat.

Representative TOM DELAY (former majority leader, Republican, Texas): I'm not turning from the political fight. I'm kind of excited that I'm going to be out there trying to unify the conservative movement. I'm going to be fighting very hard to grow the majority in the House. I just think I can do it better outside the House than inside, right now.

SEABROOK: Does this have anything to do with the investigation of Tony Rudy, your aid, and the ongoing corruption investigation into Jack Abramoff?

Rep. DELAY: I'm not connected to that—all that—at all. I made this decision before I knew what Tony Rudy was going to do. And, um, I know my detractors and enemies are trying to prove me guilty by association, but unfortunately they're not going to get to do that now.

INSKEEP: Tom DeLay talking to NPR's Andrea Seabrook who's on the line with us. And Andrea, remind us who Rudy is what is the legal situation that Tom DeLay is in.

SEABROOK: Tony Rudy was one of Tom DeLay's closest aids--he was at one point, in the late 90s. He worked in the office up to 2000, and he pleaded guilty on Friday, to accepting—seeking and accepting bribes in return for trying to influence Tom DeLay's vote.

INSKEEP: And this is not the only legal problem that reaches into DeLay's office. He's under indictment, too.

SEABROOK: He is under indictment on state criminal campaign finance charges in Texas. You know, the federal investigation is the one to watch, though, at this point, as its tentacles seem to be reaching further and further inside Tom DeLay's office.

INSKEEP: And very briefly, what was your assessment of Tom DeLay's mood after your conversation with him?

SEABROOK: I think he was not pleased by the repeated questioning of how that investigation relates to him. You know, it's just the idea that he would turn away from political fight at this point, when he has never in 22 years been known to do that. Is one that—you know, as a political reporter, is hard to understand. And so, I find myself continuing to ask questions about that investigation.

INSKEEP: And we should mention, just very briefly, he's going to stay in Washington?

SEABROOK: That is what I hear, that he is actually moving his home out of the district altogether, so that he—there will be a special election in Texas for someone to replace him.

INSKEEP: Okay, thanks very much. NPR's Andrea Seabrook—we'll let you get back to jury duty. Thanks for your work.

SEABROOK: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: And we want to just leave you with one more bit of tape from that interview with Congressman Tom DeLay. In this piece of tape, Congressman DeLay denies again, that the investigation of him had anything to do with his decision to leave congress.

Rep. DELAY: I am not a target of the investigation. I have not spoken to any federal agent. I have not been interviewed by any federal agent. I have cooperated, by sending all my records and everything to the Department of Justice. I have not been subpoenaed. I have not been talked to. I know the press has a hard time believing it, but the truth is, I am not a target of this investigation. Abramoff has nothing to do with me. And, you know what? When I step out of the House, I don't have to answer those kind of questions anymore. And I gotta go. Bye bye.

INSKEEP: Texas Congressman Tom DeLay on tape this morning. And you're hearing him on Morning Edition from NPR News.

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