What is on the rest of Congressman Jack Murtha’s now infamous FBI tape? Much more than the available video reveals.
Thanks to the diligent efforts of conservative media and blogs in January and February of this year, many readers now know or remember that Congressman Murtha was an unindicted co-conspirator in the “Abscam” investigation of the late 1970s and 1980. (I wondered where the mainstream media’s outrage was over Murtha’s murky lobbyist relationships, besides the L.A. Times‘s lone, forgotten piece on the subject.)
Still, only a brief, 13-second snippet of a tape of the FBI’s undercover meeting with Murtha is widely available. The agent tells him, “I went out, I got the $50,000. OK? So what you’re telling me, OK, you’re telling me that that’s not what you know….” Murtha replies, “I’m not interested. I’m sorry. At this point [emphasis Murtha’s].”
In his column, Novak hinted at the content of the tape. “The videotape showed Murtha declining to take cash but expressing interest in further negotiations, while bragging about his political influence.” We have seen him declining the cash and expressing interest, but not the bragging. What is on the rest of the tape?
An article from the August 6, 1980, Washington Post, inexplicably unavailable on LexisNexis, fills in some of the gaps. Written by Jack Anderson, the sometimes controversial yet Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative columnist, the article details Murtha’s conversation with the investigators and sheds further light on his status as an unindicted co-conspirator. Anderson’s reporter, Gary Cohn, apparently reviewed the tapes.
Anderson framed Murtha’s performance as “perhaps the saddest scene on the secret Abscam videotapes…. He refused to take the money, but his reason was hardly noble.” The column continued:
“I want to deal with you guys awhile before I make any transactions at all, period…. After we’ve done some business, well, then I might change my mind….”
…”I’m going to tell you this. If anybody can do it — I’m not B.S.-ing you fellows — I can get it done my way.” he boasted. “There’s no question about it.”…
But the reluctant Murtha wouldn’t touch the $50,000. Here on secret videotape was this all-American hero, tall and dignified in a disheveled way, explaining why he wasn’t quite ready to accept the cash.
“All at once,” he said, “some dumb [expletive deleted] would go start talking eight years from now about this whole thing and say [expletive deleted], this happened. Then in order to get immunity so he doesn’t go to jail, he starts talking and fingering people. So the [S.O.B.] falls apart.”…
“You give us the banks where you want the money deposited,” offered one of the bagmen.
“All right,” agreed Murtha. “How much money we talking about?”
“Well, you tell me.”
“Well, let me find out what is a reasonable figure that will get their attention,” said Murtha, “because there are a couple of banks that have really done me some favors in the past, and I’d like to put some money in….[“]
The dialogue continued as follows:
Amoroso: Let me ask you now that we’re together. I was under the impression, OK, and I told Howard [middleman Howard Criden] what we were willing to pay, and [This is where the available videotape begins]I went out, I got the $50,000. OK? So what you’re telling me, OK, you’re telling me that that’s not what you know….
Murtha: I’m not interested.
Murtha: At this point, [This is where the available videotape ends] you know, we do business together for a while. Maybe I’ll be interested and maybe I won’t…. Right now, I’m not interested in those other things. Now, I won’t say that some day, you know, I, if you made an offer, it may be I would change my mind some day.
It is damning stuff. But the mainstream media has yet to question Murtha aggressively about that short snippet of tape, much less the full reel. After my February article questioned Murtha’s ties to defense contractors while chairing the defense appropriations subcommittee, John McLaughlin interviewed Murtha on his obscure One on One program. Besides suggesting that my article originated with a “sinister genius at the White House,” McLaughlin asked Murtha about the tape:
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: …Murtha was approached by an undercover FBI agent, and you’re on tape telling the agent, quote, unquote, “I’m not interested.” Is that true?
REP. MURTHA: Not only that, John; they pulled a drawer out and they had $50,000 there and I said, “I’m not interested.” I said, “I’m interested in investment in my district, period.”
Not interested, period? The only “period” that Anderson reported Murtha using in the conversation was, “I want to deal with you guys awhile before I make any transaction at all, period.” No wonder Murtha has kept a generally low profile through most of his political career.