How close did Rep. Jack Murtha come to accepting a bribe in Abscam? The full tape of his meeting with the FBI, now available for the first time, shows just how close!
(Page 2 of 4)
Thompson pursued the matter with Murtha through the end of the year, finally securing a meeting for Murtha’s first day back in town: January 7, 1980. Thompson phoned Murtha on January 7. He said that Howard Criden, an attorney arranging meetings with members of Congress for the Arabs’ representatives, was in his office and Thompson would like Murtha to meet Criden.
Murtha went over. After some small talk, Thompson told Murtha that he would go with Criden to the Arabs’ house in Georgetown, where Criden would “pick up the money.” Murtha testified that he repeatedly demurred and said that he was “just not prepared to get involved with the money.” He said that he twice almost walked out of Thompson’s office at Thompson’s and Criden’s insistence that Criden would pick up the money. At one point, Thompson said, “You go down and Howard will pick up the money and we will split — that the three of us will split the money.” Murtha testified in cross-examination that when he went to the W Street townhouse, he knew there was a “possibility” that he could be bribed by going there or a bribe offer could be made there.
Before Murtha left Capitol Hill, he knew the terms of the meeting: he was going to a strange townhouse, with a strange lawyer he had not met before that day, to meet with strange representatives of strange sheiks from an unnamed Middle Eastern country. Thompson explicitly told him that Criden would pick up the money for the three congressmen, Thompson, Murphy, and Murtha, to split three ways. Despite his account of protesting to this situation, he went along.
On W Street
At the W Street townhouse, Murtha tried to set the terms for his future involvement, bragged about his influence, and apparently tried to cut out Criden and the other congressmen. And the agents certainly did offer money: $50,000. Murtha testified that there was no doubt in his mind that $50,000 was being offered to him. Steve Kaufman, attorney for Congressman Thompson, asked Murtha in cross-examination, “You feel you were offered a bribe when you went to W Street?” Murtha answered, “Yes, I feel they were offering me money, yes.”
The 54-minute video is a long dance between Murtha, Criden, and agent Tony Amoroso (undercover as Tony DeVito). Weinberg was in the room for most of the meeting, out of the camera’s visual range, but in a supporting role, particularly when Amoroso left the room. Yes, Murtha walked out of that house without any money and did not return. But the video casts doubt on Murtha’s claims that he was only interested in investment in his district. We already know that Murtha was not interested in the money “at this point” and that he bragged, “If anybody can do it — I’m not B.S.-ing you fellows — I can get it done my way.”
The complete video suggests why the deal did not work out. When Amoroso mentions paying to get the Arabs into the U.S., Murtha repeatedly tells them that they “don’t need to spend a goddamn cent on this thing,” or “I honestly don’t think you have any problem.” But when given a chance to back out of the deal altogether, Murtha instead brags about his influence.
On the video, Murtha does not appear to be a man uninterested in money. He appears to be uninterested at that point. Interpretation of the nuances of this conversation may be subjective, but Murtha appears essentially to say, You don’t need Thompson and Murphy. I’m the guy who makes it happen.
Later on, while Amoroso and Criden have stepped out of the room, Murtha tells Weinberg that he wants to be “completely independent”:
WEINBERG: Get them squared away there.
MURTHA: Now, these other guys are expecting, no question about it, they’re expecting some, uh…
WEINBERG: Well that’s no problem as long as you tell Tony. You wanna go one-on-one with Tony, that’s up to you.
MURTHA: Well I’m just telling you, they’re expecting…
WEINBERG: Why don’t you tell, lemme get Tony in here, you tell him that, alright? And tell him what you want to take from them. That’s all.
MURTHA: Well I am not gonna get involved. Let Howard handle that part of it. Howard is your intermediary. And now if you guys don’t trust Howard…
Minutes later, Murtha again emphasizes that he has a separate “deal” and agrees with Weinberg that they should “be a little cautious.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?