Video: Capitol corruption

msnbc.com
updated 11/30/2005 12:02:36 AM ET 2005-11-30T05:02:36

In the CIA leak scandal, Karl Rove’s lawyer, Bob Luskin, tells MSNBC he has been in frequent and even daily contact with prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.  It’s a clear indication that Rove, President Bush’s top adviser, remains in the legal crosshairs, and that Fitzgerald is still deciding whether Rove’s misstatements to the grand jury were the work of a bad memory or simply of bad character. 

The Washington Post reports Fitzgerald held off indicting Rove a month ago only because Luskin, during an 11th hour meeting with Fitzgerald, mentioned conversations with Time magazine reporter Vivica Novak. 

It’s not clear what the information is, but the Novak/Luskin discussions started before Time reporter Matt Cooper testified, and Novak could shed light on whether Rove intended to lie or tell the truth.  The ongoing probe of Rove comes in the wake of the indictment of Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby. 

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said, “Anyone who would go into a grand jury and lie and obstruct and impede the investigation has committed a serious crime.” 

But on top of the CIA leak case, there are other investigations swirling here, and already six Congressional Republicans and one Democrat have been dragged into the spotlight.

Yesterday Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham pleaded guilty to taking bribes and resigned. 

“I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, most importantly the trust of my friends and family,” said Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California in a tearful admission.

Cunningham admitted to tax evasion and taking from defense contractors he favored $2.5 million in cash and gifts, including this yacht, a Rolls Royce, antique nightstands, four armoires, and a 19th Century toilet valued at $7,000. 

Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has been subpoenaed by the Securities and Exchange Commission investigating Frist's sale of millions of dollars of stock. 

Democrat William Jefferson is under investigation for a telecom deal he was trying to arrange in Nigeria. 

There’s also the growing probe into the cozy and possibly illegal relationships between lawmakers and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  Abramoff allegedly extracted $82 million from Indian tribes.  Abramoff's partner, Michael Scanlon, has admitted using some of the money to bribe members of Congress and their staff. 

Forty Justice Department investigators and prosecutors are said to be looking into the activities, gifts, and benefits given to Republicans including Sen. Conrad Burns, Rep. Robert Ney, Rep. John Doolittle, and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay who is facing separate campaign finance charges in Texas.  The Congressmen's wives are also under investigation. 

Two months ago, Republican David Safavian, the top procurement official at the White House, resigned after being charged with obstructing the Abramoff case. 

Democrats are having a field day with the GOP, describing a "culture of corruption." 

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Leader from California blasted Republicans.  She said, “Until they break with that culture of corruption of which they have all been complicit, and they all enable.” 

But the perception that lobbyists and special interests rule Washington is hurting Democrats as well.  Over the last four years, the public’s approval of Congress has dropped 22 points and now stands at just 37 percent.  According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the public for the first time in the poll's history, now has higher negative feelings than positive feelings about both parties. 

It’s all bad news for politicians here, but perhaps more so for the Republican majority, because just as this town moves into an election year, the Bush administration’s own Justice Department prosecutors are seeing reasons to move the CIA leak case and other investigations into high gear. 

Watch 'Hardball' each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC. 

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