It's been a long time since former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) got the chance to come out swinging in public.
But that's exactly what the feisty former GOP leader did Monday when the Justice Department told his attorneys it closed its inquiry of DeLay after a six year probe.
DeLay was his vintage himself during a telephone conference call with reporters.
"They didn't have anything," DeLay boasted. "The case was so weak I never did meet with anyone from the Justice Department and never appeared before the grand jury."
The FBI began to probe DeLay for his links for former superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff did jail time after pleading guilty to fraud and for trying to bribe lawmakers. Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) went to jail for his relationship with Abramoff.
"I never understood why it took so long," said DeLay.
While in office, DeLay was known for his abrasive style of politics that earned him the moniker The Hammer. But he swung hard at the tactics of others.
"In the new politics, it's no longer good enough to beat you on policy. They have to completely drown you and put you in prison and destroy your family and reputation and finances and dance on your grave," DeLay said.
DeLay said he was always confident the feds would clear him of the charges. Yet in a very un-DeLay-esque moment, the former House leader conceded he thinks could have put this to rest long ago.
"Maybe I should have fought harder than I did," DeLay said wistfully.
DeLay still faces an indictment on a state charge for improper fundraising practices in Texas. House Republican Conference rules require those in leadership to relinquish their posts if a lawmaker is indicted of a felony. That indictment ultimately forced DeLay to step down as Majority Leader in September, 2005. He resigned his seat in Congress in June, 2006.
"I wouldn't even go to the restroom without a lawyer saying I could," DeLay said.
But DeLay's exoneration on Monday didn't please everyone.
"It's a sad day for America when one of the most corrupt members to ever walk the halls of Congress gets a free pass," chastised Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "The Hammer belongs in the slammer. Mr. DeLay still has crimes to answer for in Texas - generally not considered the best place to be a criminal defendant."
During his 30-minute conversation with reporters, DeLay indicated that he thought the that the ethics process in Washington has been politicized. He even briefly took up the mantle of embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), who faces an ethics trial later this year.
"I think it's unfair that it's taken two years (to bring a case against him)," DeLay said.
But DeLay held particular contempt for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who as House Minority Leader, often spoke out against DeLay and brought multiple ethics resolutions to the floor in an effort to sanction the Texas Republican. Pelosi promised voters that if Democrats seized control of the House in 2006, she would "drain the swamp."
"She is the swamp," hissed DeLay of Pelosi.
That brought a sharp rebuke from a senior House Democratic aide who highlighted DeLay's appearance on the TV program Dancing With the Stars.
"Tom DeLay, who was admonished by the Ethics Committee several times, can two-step all he wants. But as the Washington Post reported: it was criminal enterprise being run out of the majority leader's office. No fancy dancing shoes can tap their way around that shameful record."