Tales from the Trail

FBI releases files on ex-Senator Stevens, little on corruption case

The FBI released some of its expansive files on former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens who died last year in a plane crash, offering tidbits about threats against him, accusations of corruption and some correspondence he had with the FBI.

FINANCIAL-BAILOUT/There was very little in the thousands of pages about the federal corruption investigation into Stevens beyond press clippings and court filings previously made public. The senator was initially convicted by a jury in October 2008 but the case was later dropped after a federal judge found that federal prosecutors withheld critical evidence from Stevens’ defense team.

Still, there were a few interesting tidbits, including details of contacts with foreign officials, several threats against him and also his work dating back to the 1950s when was a federal prosecutor in Alaska.

One FBI note talks about allegations that an attorney made a contribution to the Alaska Republican Party but it was allegedly illegally directed to Stevens’ re-election campaign and later the attorney received an appointment to be a federal judge with the senator’s support.

Another memo talked about an allegation that the former owner of the Fairbanks Daily News Miner who died and gave Stevens a $400,000 yacht in his will in exchange for his past help winning federal funds for projects in the city. The files do not offer details of investigations into the allegations. Stevens was never charged in those incidents.

U.S. officials seek to shelve Karzai tensions

Tensions, what tensions?

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew arrived back from Afghanistan and Pakistan on Friday, touting the performance of several ministers in Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government.

OBAMA-AFGHANISTANHis visit came at a particularly tense time in U.S.-Afghan relations after Karzai made some corrosive statements in recent weeks against his donors, blaming the West for much of the corruption in his country and drawing critical comments from the White House.

Hours after landing home, Lew went out of his way to single out several Afghan ministers, including the finance and agriculture ministers, who he said were “extraordinary leaders.”

Blago says he’s “blacker than Barack Obama”

Believe it or not, Rod Blagojevich is African-American — and more so than President Barack Obama. At least, that’s what the former Illinois governor tells Esquire magazine in a new interview.
“It’s such a cynical business, and most of the people in the business are full of (expletive deleted) and phonies, but I was real, man — and am real. This guy, he was catapulted in on hope and change, what we hope the guy is. What the (expletive deleted)? Everything he’s saying’s on the teleprompter,” Esquire quotes Blago as saying about the president, without the expletives deleted.

“I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived. I saw it all growing up,” he explains.

Blago is, in fact, a white Democrat who gained prominence for introducing big male hair to the national political arena during a corruption probe that led to his indictment on charges of trying to sell Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat. He denies the accusations.

Ex-House Republican aide pleads not guilty to corruption charges

An aide to former House Majority Leader Richard Armey pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of receiving valuable sports and concert tickets as well as free meals in a corruption case related to disgraced U.S. lobbyist Jack Abramoff.Horace Cooper, through his lawyer, pleaded not guilty during a brief arraignment in U.S. District Court, and while he will have to surrender his passport, Cooper won’t have to post any bail and will still be able to travel around the country giving speeches.CRIME ABRAMOFFWearing a pink dress shirt, sport coat and slacks, Cooper hastily put on a necktie as he appeared before Judge John Facciola who informed him of his rights to a speedy trial and to counsel if he could not afford one.Cooper was indicted last month on five counts of conspiracy, making false statements, concealment and obstruction of justice from his time working with Armey as well as later at the Voice of America and the Labor Department.In one titillating detail in the indictment, Cooper complained to Abramoff that he was charged $141 at the lobbyist’s restaurant Signatures, saying “I think there may have been a little glitch at the restaurant.”Cooper’s attorney, white collar crime defense lawyer Sol Wisenberg, asked the court to permit his client to continue traveling throughout the United States without advance court approval so he can give speeches which is one of his current sources of income.  He said that Cooper was “not in any way a flight risk.”Facciola approved the request, but ordered that Cooper give a week’s advance notice of his travel plans.Click here for more Reuters political coverage.- Photo credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria (Abramoff outside a Florida courthouse.)

Aide to former House Republican leader indicted in Abramoff case

An aide to former U.S. House Majority Leader Richard Armey was indicted on corruption charges in connection with disgraced U.S. lobbyist Jack Abramoff, including taking free sports tickets and helping  his clients with a government contract.

Horace Cooper, who served as a legislative counsel to Armey, was charged with conspiracy, concealing his actions, making false statements and obstruction of justice, according to the indictment filed in U.S. district court.

Prosecutors accused the legislative aide of receiving valuable tickets to events like Washington Redskins football games and concerts including rock singer Bruce Springsteen between 1998 and 2000, when Cooper worked for Armey.

Attorney General warns prosecutors after Stevens debacle

(UPDATE: clarifies first two paragraphs about Holder talking to prosecutors)

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had some pointed words for prosecutors on Wednesday after the fumbling of the corruption case against former Republican Senator Ted Stevens that the government ultimately had to drop because evidence was withheld from the defense team.

JUSTICEHe warned government lawyers at a conference that the case had threatened to undermine the Justice Department’s credibility for providing defendants all the material against them as required by law.

“Our adversarial system for criminal trials can only result in justice if the discovery process is conducted by the government fairly, ethically, and according to the rule of law,” Holder said at a National Black Prosecutors Association luncheon in Memphis.