MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
It's a story that is almost everything an author might want for a political thriller, a congressman, a governor informant, a suitcase full of cash and a videotape, not to mention piles of money stashed in a freezer. The FBI has disclosed that it filmed Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson putting a case containing $100,000 in bribe money into his car. That money allegedly later ended up in the Democrat's freezer. Over the weekend, the agency raided Jefferson's Capitol Hill office. Jefferson says he's done nothing wrong.
NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR reporting:
The disclosures were contained in an 83-page affidavit accompanying the search warrant for Jefferson's office. Jefferson has been under investigation for over a year in a public corruption probe. He's not been charged with anything to date, but the affidavit said there was probably cause to suspect Jefferson committed wire fraud, bribery of a government official and bribery of a foreign official.
A former Jefferson aide and a Kentucky businessman have already pleaded guilty in the case. Jefferson spoke briefly to reporters as he returned to the capitol this afternoon. He said he would not get into the facts of the case, but said there are two sides to every story. He said he will not resign and that he intends to run for reelection..
Representative WILLIAM JEFFERSON (Democrat, Louisiana): I plan to carry on my responsibilities here as I have since the time that I've been here. I expect to continue to represent the people who sent me here and to try and respond to their needs and their issues. And I will continue to do that so long as they permit me to.
NAYLOR: The FBI affidavit states that Jefferson met several times with an unnamed informant who was wearing a microphone. The informant was an investor Jefferson had earlier approached. Their conversations over dinner at a suburban Virginia hotel included discussions about business schemes with foreign governments, among them, Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon.
On one such occasion, Jefferson passed a note to his informant with the letter C. Asked what that meant, Jefferson said he was making the deal for his children. He was then recorded saying, "All these damn notes we're writing to each other as if we were talking as if the FBI is watching."
It turns out, they were. Last July 30th, Jefferson went to the car of the FBI informant parked at the Ritz Carlton Hotel near the Pentagon. According to the affidavit, he reached in and removed a reddish brown colored leather briefcase, which contained $100,000 in cash. He placed it inside his 1990 Lincoln Town Car and drove off.
The affidavit says that Jefferson's receipt of the briefcase containing the $100,000 was videotaped by the FBI from several vantage points. A few days later, $90,000 of that money was found in the freezer of Jefferson's home, wrapped in aluminum foil and put into freezer containers. In addition to the federal investigation, the House Ethics Committee has launched its own probe.
Political Science Professor Jack Pitney at Claremont McKenna College says the Jefferson investigations make it difficult for Democrats to campaign against a Republican culture of corruption in Congress.
Mr. JACK PITNEY (Claremont McKenna College): The Democratic scandals take some of the edge off the Democratic argument. It confirms what a lot of Americans already suspected, that neither party is free from sin. And it'll make it a little harder for the Democrats to make the case that it's exclusively a Republican problem.
NAYLOR: The search of Jefferson's congressional office was carried out Saturday night and Sunday by a team of 15 FBI agents. Jefferson called the search an outrageous intrusion. According to a Senate historian, it's the first time federal agents have searched a congressman's office in a criminal probe.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capital.
NORRIS: And you can read all 83 pages of the warrant used to search the offices and home of Representative William Jefferson. You can find that at our website, NPR.org.
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