House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted Wednesday on charges of conspiring to violate election laws in his home state of Texas. On the final day of a Texas Grand Jury, lead by Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle, a formal indictment of DeLay was issued, forcing him to temporarily resign his position in Congress.
Dan Abrams talked with Delay's attorney Dick Deguerin on the merits of the indictment.
DAN ABRAMS: Now in another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive is Dick Deguerin, one of Tom DeLay‘s attorney.
Do you think is it a risky tactic for him to go after the D.A. [Earle] so overtly. Does it make you as a lawyer, nervous to hear your client going after a D.A. in that matter?
DICK DEGUERIN, TOM DELAY‘S ATTORNEY: Not at all. In fact, it needs to be done. Ronnie Earle needs to be exposed for what he is. And that is he‘s a partisan prosecutor, using the grand jury, using the power of his office to try to destroy someone who‘s been elected by the people. Now, you might not like what Tom DeLay has done with politics. He‘s changed the face of politics in Texas. But that doesn‘t mean that a D.A. needs to get in and try to destroy him by use of an indictment.
ABRAMS: Is it not true that Ronnie Earle has prosecuted a lot more Democrats than Republicans?
DEGUERIN: That‘s true. And that‘s the old saw that he hauls out every time he‘s criticized about this. But the problem is that for a long time, there weren‘t anything but Democrats in Texas, so there wasn‘t anybody else for him to prosecute.
ABRAMS: But still, I mean if he‘s going after Democrats, you know, if the claim is that this is a guy who‘s out to get Republicans because he‘s such a partisan, doesn‘t it help his case that there are so many more Democrats he‘s gone after than Republicans?
DEGUERIN: No. What it means is he‘s going after his political enemies, whether they be Democrats or more of them along time ago than there were Republicans. He goes after his political enemies and he uses the power of his office to try to affect politics. That‘s what I disagree with so strongly.
He did this with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison when she was about to change the complexion of politics in Texas and he failed and now he‘s trying to do it with Tom DeLay, who did change the complexion of politics in Texas.
ABRAMS: Dick, you‘re one of the best-known attorneys in Texas. You have dealt with a lot of prosecutors in the state of Texas. Have you ever gone after a D.A. almost this personally in response to an indictment?
DEGUERIN: Well, it needs to be done, Dan. Yes, in Kay Bailey Hutchison‘s case, we did the same thing because it was so blatantly political and it needs to be done here. I don‘t like to attack a prosecutor personally, if that person is acting as a professional ought to act. But even against, I think, the advice of his own lawyers in his own office, Ronnie Earle has secured this indictment, basically because Tom DeLay gets punished before going to trial. He gets removed as the majority leader in the House...
ABRAMS: That‘s corruption that you‘re accusing him of, right? I mean if he‘s doing it for political gain and indicting someone for political gain, that‘s just pure, unadulterated corruption.
DEGUERIN: It‘s not corruption in the sense that he‘s getting a payoff from somebody paying him money, but it certainly is misusing his office by this indictment. We‘re going to demonstrate that because Tom DeLay didn‘t do anything. He didn‘t do anything wrong.
ABRAMS: All right.
DEGUERIN: He didn‘t do anything. In fact, if you look at this indictment, it doesn‘t really accuse Tom DeLay of doing anything.
ABRAMS: Let‘s talk about exactly what the allegations. They‘re saying that this group, Texans for Republican Majority, gathered $190,000 in corporate contributions. They say that—and this is the illegal part that that ends up in the hands of the Republican National Committee.
They‘re saying it was too close to the election, it‘s coming from a corporation and therefore, it violates election law. It‘s then given to seven Republican candidates for the Texas House of Representatives.
DEGUERIN: No, wrong. No, that‘s not true.
ABRAMS: That‘s wrong about the allegation...
DEGUERIN: That‘s not what happened.
ABRAMS: Well that‘s the allegation.
DEGUERIN: Those are not the facts and that‘s not...
ABRAMS: Well that‘s the allegation...
DEGUERIN: Those are not the facts...
ABRAMS: Right. That‘s fine...
DEGUERIN: I don‘t care what the allegations are.
ABRAMS: I‘m sorry. It‘s important to me. You‘re not saying that I‘m misstating the facts. You‘re saying that Ronnie Earle is charging him with something he didn‘t do.
DEGUERIN: That‘s right...
ABRAMS: OK. All right, go ahead...
DEGUERIN: ... something that didn‘t happen and Ronnie Earle has been given the proof that the $190,000, there was actually more than that—that came from corporate contributions to TRMPAC, came at a lawful time. TRMPAC kept that money separate. It went to Washington and it was spent there on states, which allow corporate contributions.
No money, no corporate money came to candidates in Texas that came from corporations. Only money that came from individuals who contributed to individuals, so no law was broken.
ABRAMS: Why did—I was interested in the indictment seeing that Tom DeLay through his counsel, waived the statute of limitations. Why do that?
DEGUERIN: He did that because he didn‘t have anything to hide and he thought that with -- if they just spent a little more time with Ronnie Earle and showing him what the facts were -- by the way, Tom DeLay cooperated throughout this investigation, gave up documents, went in and even subjected himself to interrogation by Ronnie Earle. And so, he waived those statute of limitations because Ronnie Earle said if you don‘t waive the statute of limitations on this day, I‘m going to indict you on this day, so he waived it and wanted another chance to go in and try to explain to Ronnie Earle that there wasn‘t a crime, but... So that‘s what happened.
ABRAMS: You weren‘t even surprised by the indictment though were you?
DEGUERIN: No. No, I‘ve expected it for quite some time.
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