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another Bush scumbag GUILTY!

Tom Isern
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Safavian guilty of obstructing justice

By Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington

Financial Times




Updated: 5:12 p.m. ET June 20, 2006


A former Bush administration official was found guilty on Tuesday of obstructing an investigation and lying about his ties to the indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, marking the first victory for prosecutors in a scandal that has touched a host of Washington heavyweights.


David Safavian, who was chief of staff of the General Services Administration, was found guilty by a jury in Washington on four of five felony counts of obstruction and lying about a 2002 trip he took to Scotland's St Andrews golf course arranged by Mr Abramoff.


Mr Safavian was also found guilty of lying to a federal agency about his dealings with the lobbyist – who has pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is co-operating with investigators – in connection to two government properties.


For the Department of Justice, which has stepped up its focus on cases involving influence peddling since the Abramoff case emerged, the courtroom victory suggests that its strategy of working its way up the food chain – by securing guilty pleas from Mr Abramoff's former business associates, former congressional aides, and then from the lobbyist himself – is paying off.


Mr Abramoff's sentence on the corruption charges he has admitted will depend partly on the level of his co-operation with prosecutors.


The government's case against Mr Safavian, who faces a maximum of five years in prison for every count, was bolstered by the testimony of Neil Volz, former chief of staff for congressman Bob Ney of Ohio. An attorney for Mr Safavian, who will be sentenced on October 12, told Reuters the there would be an appeal against the ruling.


Alice Fisher, assistant attorney-general at the DoJ's criminal division, said: "The message of this verdict is clear: in answering questions posed by Congress and by federal agencies, public officials have the same obligation as does the public for which they serve, to tell the truth. No one is above the law."


What the DoJ has so far kept under wraps is how fruitful the co-operation of Mr Abramoff – who did not testify in Mr Safavian's trial – has been in building a potential case against members of Congress. Mr Ney and Tom DeLay of Texas, who has resigned, both had close contact with Mr Abramoff but have denied any wrongdoing.


Prosecutors are also investigating corruption cases involving Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the former Republican congressman from California who pleaded guilty to bribery charges, and Louisiana Democrat William Jefferson, whose Washington office was recently searched by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an act that infuriated lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.


But in spite of the apparent push by the DoJ to pursue "public integrity" cases, Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, says it is too early to gauge how aggressively the DoJ will investigate allegations that top lawmakers, particularly Republicans, accepted bribes in an election year – especially when Democrats are looking to capitalise on the so-called "culture of corruption" within the Republican party.

Copyright The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved.


URL: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/13443677/

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