Abramoff Viewed as ‘The Middle Guy,’ Official Involved in Probe Tells TIME, Suggesting There Are Bigger Targets in Their Sights
New York - In an internal e-mail obtained by TIME, the director of the FBI’s Washington field office, Michael Mason, congratulated some 15 agents and 15 support staff under him on the case for “a huge accomplishment” in squeezing Jack Abramoff to make a deal after 18 months of investigation and negotiation, one that made “a huge contribution to ensuring the very integrity of our government.” But he added that “the case is far from over,” TIME’s National Political Correspondent Karen Tumulty reports in Monday editions of the magazine, RAW STORY has learned.
Another official involved with the probe told TIME that investigators are viewing Abramoff as “the middle guy”—suggesting there are bigger targets in their sights. The FBI has 13 field offices across the country working on the case, with two dozen agents assigned to it full time and roughly the same number working it part time. “We are going to chase down every lead,” Chris Swecker, head of the FBI’s Criminal Division, told TIME.
Bribery has always been a difficult thing to prove, absent a videotape of a crook stuffing the pockets of a politician with cash. But so large are the amounts involved—and so voluminous the evidence from a man who committed nearly every thought to e-mail—that prosecutors in the Abramoff case may even test the proposition that legally reported campaign contributions constitute bribery, if it can be proven they were given expressly in return for official actions, TIME reports. A high-level source tells TIME that prosecutors will also focus much of their energies on the lesser and easier-to-prove charge of “honest services mail fraud,” for which they have to show only that a lawmaker has acted in his personal interest or that of another individual but not of his constituents in return for improper gain.
Sources at the Interior Department tell TIME that its inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, has been conducting a wide-ranging investigation into Abramoff’s dealings with the Cabinet agency — which oversees many of the Indian-related issues Abramoff built most of his career around. In particular, the agency is looking into the ties between Abramoff and former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, who has been accused of intervening in agency deliberations on behalf of the Coushattas. Griles has denied it, and his attorney says Abramoff was wildly exaggerating their relationship when he referred to Griles in an e-mail to lobbying colleagues as his man at Interior, TIME reports.
“Jack lived pretty much right at his means,” says one former associate who was familiar with his personal finances. “He never saved money. He lived check to check.”