Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay took his victory lap in the media on Monday after his lawyer announced that the Justice Department had decided not to file charges against him after a years-long investigation into his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
In a conference call with reporters, DeLay called the Justice Department’s investigation “weak” and said he was not interviewed by investigators nor ever required to appear before a grand jury. He also faulted the press being so quick to assume he was guilty, reported The Hill.
Later in an interview on CNN, DeLay said, “I am not mad that they thought I was corrupt. I’m mad that they thought i was stupid.”
DeLay told reporters that Abramoff, who was convicted of seeking to illegally influence members of Congress and defrauded Native Americans out of tens of millions of dollars, “never asked me to do anything untoward and I never did anything untoward or unethical.”’
On CNN, the former GOP leader faulted the criminalization of politics over the past 10 to 15 years for his ordeal.
“[I]t’s not good enough for your political enemies to ruin your reputation. They now want to bury you, vilify you, bankrupt you, put you in prison and then dance on your grave. I’m hoping that people will see what’s happened to me and stop this criminalization of politics for the politics of personal destruction. It’s not healthy for the country and it is certainly not healthy for the institution of the House of Representatives.”
One government watchdog said the Justice Department’s failure to charge DeLay demonstrated how difficult it could be to secure such cases.
“It shows that there’s a limitations to changing elected officials’ behavior by using the long arm of the law,” David Donnelly of The Campaign for Fair Elections, a nonpartisan watchdog group, told TPMMuckraker. “Frankly, the problem is not that the scandal is what Tom Delay did, it’s what he did is now determined to be legal. The whole system is the problem, not any particular actors in it.”
The way Charlie Rangal is defending himself is fascinating, said Donnelly, because in defending himself, he’s pointing to his colleagues.
The DeLay investigation leaves open questions about where the line is drawn, said Donnelly. It also raises questions about whether opposition researchers will look for “shovel ready” political corruption investigations. Other investigations to watch include the one into Sen. John Ensign as well as the ongoing prosecution of Gov. Rob Blagoveich, said Donnelly.
Video of DeLay’s CNN appearance embedded below.