This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, April 22, 2002. Click here to order the entire transcript of the show.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST:
ANNOUNCER: Tonight On the Record: Congressman James Traficant found guilty of corruption. Now he may get kicked out of Congress, but he's not going quietly...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES TRAFICANT (D), OHIO: Why do we fear our own government? We're the government!
VAN SUSTEREN, FOX HOST: Do you fear them?
TRAFICANT: Not at all. I took them on, and they can go to hell! And I'm going to take my own appeal all the way. I'm not afraid to go to jail. I think it's time for somebody to tell them to go to hell! This is our country, not their's!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: An ON THE RECORD exclusive you can't miss.
The charges are in, and it's murder, Robert Blake accused of killing his wife, Bonny. Now the ex-TV cop could face the death penalty. Should cameras be allowed in the courtroom for Blake's murder trial? If not, why not? What does the defense have to hide?
VAN SUSTEREN: First, my exclusive interview with convicted Ohio congressman James Traficant, now facing possible expulsion in Congress after refusing to go quietly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
How do you describe yourself?
TRAFICANT: I'm the son of a truck driver. I really am. And I would have never run for Congress if it weren't for the fact I probably would got killed if I'd have ran again for another term as sheriff of Mahoning County. Mahoning County's been controlled by organized crime for years, but they pay taxes to Cleveland and Pittsburgh. But they had an FBI and IRS office in Youngstown area for 50 years and never made an arrest until I ran for sheriff.
And it was one of the most interesting races in the history of the nation because I used Mob money to beat the hell out of the Mob. And it was a sensational trial in 1983, with a confession and everything. And as you know, I was the only pro se defendant in the history of the United States that defeated the Justice Department in a RICO case. And that's part of this trial, Greta, very much a part of this trial, very much a part of this political targeting that took place here. And I know that sounds self-serving, but it's a fact.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Expulsion in Congress has only happened four times in U.S. history. Only one other member of Congress has been expelled because of official corruption. That was back in 1980. The others were expelled for being disloyal during the Civil War. House rules permit any member of Congress to go to the floor and offer a privileged resolution calling for immediate expulsion of a lawmaker. Removing Traficant would take a two thirds vote.
More from the congressman himself in just a moment, but first, [Fox Correspondent] Steve Brown. He's going to take us inside the Traficant trial.
TRAFICANT: I've never been one to back out.
STEVE BROWN, FOX CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Facing prison time and possible expulsion from Congress, James Traficant says he will fight on. In his federal corruption trial, Traficant was accused of bribery, tax evasion, even forcing his staff to work on his horse farm. And the jury found Traficant guilty of all 10 counts.
TRAFICANT: I don't believe I was tried by a jury of my peers. I think peers have an understanding of a person's character.
BROWN: Traficant acted as his own attorney and claimed the entire case was a government vendetta against him. The judge would not allow Traficant to make that argument in court.
UNIDENTIFIED NEWSCASTER: Traficant was taken to Cleveland federal district court...
BROWN: The tactic did work in 1983. Traficant beat federal corruption charges then, convincing a jury that the FBI tricked him into signing a confession. Since then, Traficant says, government agencies have been out to get him. But back in his district, Traficant still enjoys voter support.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's the kind of congressman that I like.
BROWN: Much of Traficant's popularity is traced back to the early 1980s, when the Youngstown steel mills were closing and a lot of people were losing their jobs.
DOUG BOUSLOUGH, YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO: Back when the steel mills closed, he was the sheriff. And one of the responsibilities at that time was to foreclose on housing. You know, it got so ugly, he decided "I'm not foreclosing on these people anymore."
BROWN: But in the halls of Congress, Traficant is far from loved by his fellow Democrats. Traficant angered many in his party when he voted for Denny Hastert, a Republican, for House Speaker. On the day of Traficant's conviction, House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt called for Traficant to resign.
TRAFICANT: I've never been a quitter. I don't think I'll quit now.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Gephardt said you should.
TRAFICANT: Gephardt has (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
BROWN (on camera) While Traficant works on an appeal to his conviction, the House of Representatives Ethics Committee has begun an investigation of its own. And ultimately, if two thirds of the House votes for his ouster, Traficant could be kicked out of Congress, unable to appeal that decision.
Steve Brown, Fox News.
VAN SUSTEREN: Steve, thanks.
Now to my exclusive interview with convicted congressman James Traficant of Ohio. I traveled to the congressman's home state over the weekend and I asked him why he began representing himself in court back in 1983, when he's not a lawyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRAFICANT: No, I'm not a lawyer.
VAN SUSTEREN: But you won.
TRAFICANT: I have a couple master's degrees.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK, but...
TRAFICANT: Yes, but the bottom line was they brought a false confession in. When they found out that this schmuck was going to represent himself...
VAN SUSTEREN: Meaning you?
TRAFICANT: Yes -- they brought in a confession. And the forensic scientist proved that this document was fraudulent.
VAN SUSTEREN: Was the confession yours?
TRAFICANT: Supposedly mine. But when it all came out, it became my evidence, and I used it as a defense exhibit. And I would not be sitting here were it not for this confession.
Now, in this trial, I had nine tapes that were not allowed to be played. I had nine witnesses that were subject to perjury under oath, testifying to a judge without the jury present. They were not allowed to testify. And I had no FBI agent that took a stand against me, no IRS agent that took the stand against me. They had 1,000 documents without one fingerprint. Until this day -- I want the audience to listen -- I never opened the evidence boxes that were sent to me by the Justice Department because I knew they had no case.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, let's -- let's go through the trial. You...
TRAFICANT: Let's go.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK. All right, what were you charged with?
TRAFICANT: I was charged with everything. I think -- raping Mother Teresa, I think, was a part of this thing. I was charged with taking bribes, with doing favors, quid pro quo, accepting kickbacks, a number of things.
VAN SUSTEREN: Having -- having staff members work on your horse farm?
TRAFICANT: Yes. And some of the staff members did on their own time, voluntarily. And if that's enough to put me in jail on a RICO charge, go ahead. The bottom line was I never denied that, but you know...
VAN SUSTEREN: You never denied what? You never...
TRAFICANT: Members of my staff wanted to be near me. One of them testified that he used it as a health spa until his allergy got bad. Now, the bottom line is a congressional staffer is required to put in 30 hours a week full-time. All of my staff put in all their time. My staff liked me.
But I had some incidents that occurred where some of my staff were upset with some of my hirings. They got vindictive, and there was a lot of animosity that took place. Amidst this time, there was a lot of turmoil and investigation going on in Youngstown. I found out that in 1996, when the investigation really started, the focus of their investigation was Jim Traficant.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why did they want Jim Traficant?
TRAFICANT: I'm the only one that's ever beaten them. They had to clean the slate, number one. Number two, I supplied a concurrent -- House concurrent resolution calling for an investigation of that Chinese money that come from the general of the red Chinese army to the Democrat National Committee. Now, the Democrats wanted nothing to do with it. The Republicans, wanting Most Favored Nation permanent trade status for China, sort of set it aside.
And Greta, I believe in my heart that we have set America at stake and America is in danger of a nation who is taking $120 billion a year net surplus in trade surplus buying intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines, and has declared -- the CIA has told members of Congress that China considers America an enemy.
VAN SUSTEREN: So you say it was Democratically politically motivated...
TRAFICANT: I think it was.
VAN SUSTEREN: ... when they started the investigation of you in '96?
TRAFICANT: Yes. I think it was a combination of beating them. They had to clean that record up, number one. Number two, the China thing, calling Janet Reno a traitor. Now, remember this, the judge that tried me was appointed by President Clinton. They had to be scrutinized and approved and the background check performed by the Justice Department, headed by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. Janet Reno, in my opinion -- look, I'm not on the House floor. She's running for governor of Florida. She's a traitor to the nation.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, then -- wait. But your prosecutor...
TRAFICANT: She betrayed America.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, if your -- if the motive is this was political, this was Democratic, how do you explain the fact that you were prosecuted by a Republican Justice Department? How does that play into it, in your mind?
TRAFICANT: Well, this whole ordeal started underneath the Reno investigation.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why would Reno hate you, just over -- in your...
TRAFICANT: No, it wasn't that. It was a combination of local, national, very outspoken, and I touched on issues that people didn't want to hear. They didn't want to hear about Pan Am 103. They didn't want to hear about Ruby Ridge. They didn't want to hear about Waco, where they could have arrested Kirshner [sic] any day out jogging and killed 80-some people.
Here's what's happened, in my opinion. We have an America at stake. People are afraid of their government. A federal judge can only be removed one way, Greta. They die, they resign or the FBI, IRS or Treasury Department develops a case on them. And right now, I don't believe an American, especially a politically targeted American, can get a fair trial. And I believe what's happening is this fear factor in America is dangerous. Why do we fear our own government?
VAN SUSTEREN: Did you...
TRAFICANT: We're the government!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: More of the exclusive interview with convicted congressman James Traficant when we come back.
VAN SUSTEREN: Back with more of my exclusive interview with convicted Ohio congressman James Traficant. Does the congressman fear the government?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRAFICANT: Not at all. I took them on, and they can good to hell. And I'm going to take my own appeal all the way. I'm not afraid to go to jail. I think it's time for somebody to tell them to go to hell. This is our country, not theirs. And they run it like it's theirs.
And let me say this. I don't want members of Congress to get mad at me. I have great respect for members of Congress. But all you need to do is have your name in the paper with an IRS investigation attached to it or an FBI inquiry, and you lose an election. And we've got congressmen and congresswomen, in my opinion, that are afraid. They're afraid to take on these institutions. The executive branch has become too powerful, and people have got to take their government back.
And if they do not -- mark what I tell you -- and I'm going to make this statement on your show. I predict that China, with what we've allowed China to get away with and the money they're taking out of our economy, may some day -- maybe not your children or grandchildren, but for sure, the grandchildren are going to be visited by China.
And I believe we have set a dangerous pattern in America, where we are born into a limited partnership with the IRS. Their behavior modification program tell us what we can and cannot do. I think it's time to abolish the 16th Amendment, get rid of the IRS, go with a flat 15 percent national sales tax, exempt everybody up to the poverty level. And look, Greta, let's have some freedom in America. America is not free. We fear our government. We have a right to fear our government. And when the IRS testified on my legislation that if we do not have the fear factor, we won't collect taxes -- are these voluntary taxes, Greta?
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think having a lawyer -- you represent yourself...
TRAFICANT: Hell, no! I won the case! Here's what happened...
VAN SUSTEREN: You won the first case.
TRAFICANT: I won this case, too, because jurors went in, and it was 6-6 on the first vote. Then the jurors come out and decided that I was guilty because they didn't like the way I disrespected the judge. Now, look, you could fine me, you could put me in jail for contempt, but the jurors couldn't even identify and explain what a RICO charge was.
And RICO has become so prostituted, you can get a housewife charged for RICO for not making three square meals for her kids today. It's gone! It's out of hand. I don't believe the courts are fair. I believe the courts in America and the system of American jurisprudence has been prostituted.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why would this judge -- I mean, do you think the judge is the reason, then, that you were convicted?
TRAFICANT: I think that the judge was well-liked by the jury. They didn't like the fact that -- they didn't realize when they left that room that these witnesses were being deposed as if they were in a civil trial.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think that...
TRAFICANT: I never heard of anything like this!
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think that this judge did this because she believed that this is the way the evidence should be under the rules, or do you think she did it to get Congressman Traficant?
TRAFICANT: No, I think this judge, like most judges, favored the prosecution. I believe most federal judges don't want to get on the wrong side of a prosecutor, especially when they know that there's an American that they really want, because here's why. If you testify for Jim Traficant or you're a campaign contributor to Jim Traficant, you're subject to being audited by the IRS.
I'm an incumbent of nine terms. I had my last campaign, in the primary -- my two opponents raised more money than me. I couldn't raise any money. People are afraid to give me money because their name appears on my federal election report and the IRS is out to come and take a look at you. So here's what I'm saying to the IRS. Look, you better beat me on appeal, or there will be no IRS And I'm not afraid of the IRS. They can go to hell. I'm not afraid of the FBI. While they've been messing around playing footsies, we basically had 9/11.
Now, tell me this. And I really want to know this. And Fox deserves a lot of credit. Let's take a look at one thing. How did we learn about the invasion of Kuwait? On television. How did we learn about the fall of the Berlin Wall? On television. How did we learn about the collapse of the Soviet Union? On television. What the hell do we need a CIA for? And what is the CIA? The CIA is the FBI counterpart that does international work. The FBI does domestic work.
Our borders are wide open. You have 300,000 illegal immigrants coming across the border every day. Now we have a resolution brought up by Loretta Sanchez when I was the only Democrat devoted for a new election out there because I felt that illegal immigrants might have affected precedent, the election of a federal official who weren't even eligible electors, who were illegal aliens.
My God, what is the country coming to? The border's wide open, and we're guarding the Israeli borders, the Mideast borders. We're in Afghanistan. We're in Somalia. We're in Pakistan. And our borders are wide open. Someone's going to bring across our border, Greta, the components of a nuclear weapon and literally launch one against America. That's how wide open this country is!
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman -- and I'm not supposed to call you that, but -- Congressman, you brought...
TRAFICANT: Here's the toilet tissue.
VAN SUSTEREN: Good. Why'd you bring that?
TRAFICANT: You can't get a print on it. It's very porous. You couldn't get a print on it.
VAN SUSTEREN: What do you mean? You mean a fingerprint?
TRAFICANT: No, but you could lift a fingerprint off a dead body.
VAN SUSTEREN: So why did you break the toilet paper?
TRAFICANT: Number one, this is currency.
VAN SUSTEREN: Right.
TRAFICANT: It's a little more porous, isn't it? A little bit better to get a fingerprint on. This is an envelope, a little denser, better to get a finger print on. This is a manila envelope, much more dense, easier to get a finger print on. This is a plastic bag that'll hold water, absolutely capable of getting a fingerprint.
This is the FBI analyst's report, that on 972 documents of Jim Traficant submitted by the lab for testing, not one of Jim Traficant's prints was found on any of their evidence. They had no physical evidence. And the woman who I had taped, who said, "Jim, if I wasn't a principal in this radio station that they investigate and know what happened, with the paper trail I seen on you, if I was on the jury, I'd find you guilty."
VAN SUSTEREN: But Congressman...
TRAFICANT: There's no evidence!
VAN SUSTEREN: But Congressman, they actually had -- they had witnesses come into the courtroom, take the witness stand, take an oath and say you accepted kickbacks...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... that you accepted cash.
TRAFICANT: ... you're a prosecutor, aren't you?
VAN SUSTEREN: No. I was a defense attorney, sir.
TRAFICANT: OK. Let me just say this to you and say it to you right out. You have a congressman that is highly political, highly visible, very critical of the federal government, the FBI and the IRS, with legislation to create a three-member panel to investigate Ruby Ridge and Waco and the injustices of FBI. Now, no wiretaps, no bugs, no physical evidence, no FBI or IRS agent take the stand against me.
They brought a 37-year veteran in from Philadelphia who said he didn't even meet with any of the investigators, just added what they told him onto my '98, '99 returns. The only FBI agent they brought was one-year rookie who brought the money and said there's no prints on anything.
VAN SUSTEREN: So it boils down to...
TRAFICANT: Where's the evidence?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: More with Congressman James Traficant tomorrow.
You can watch Part II of our exclusive interview this evening at 10 p.m. ET only on the Fox News Channel. Tonight Congressman Traficant tells Greta that he plans to run for office again and explains what he plans to do in prison.
Click here to order the entire transcript of the April 22 edition of On the Record.
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