Exclusive! Embattled Ohio Congressman James Traficant

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.


ANNOUNCER:  Tonight On the Record: Is he a madman or a maverick?  Renegade Ohio congressman James Traficant takes on the legal system and defends himself in part 2 of this Fox News exclusive.  How will he handle his critics in Congress?  And does he have any chance of ever winning another election again?


REP. JAMES TRAFICANT (D), OHIO:  Who does the IRS work for?  Those bastards work for me.  I'm not afraid of them.  The FBI, they work for me.  I'm investigating them right now.  And until I go to jail, if that happens, or Congress expels me, I'm going to fight like a junkyard dog in the face of a hurricane because that's the way I'm made.


ANNOUNCER:  Dealing with the church's dirty secret.  American's cardinals convene in Rome, and the pope lays down the law, zero tolerance for pedophile priests and a papal apology for the sins of the fathers.  But is that enough for the victims?

And if you can't do the time, then don't do the crime.  Actor Robert Blake could face the death penalty for the murder of his wife.  But from his jail cell in Los Angeles, the "Baretta" star says he isn't afraid to die.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST:  Good evening.  I'm Greta Van Susteren.

Tonight, more of my exclusive with convicted Ohio congressman James Traficant.


TRAFICANT:  Listen, this is no choirboy here.  And I'm tired of the bull [deleted].  And I think America better take back their country.  I think our courts can't be trusted, if you're a political target.  Now, if you're guilty, you're guilty.  Now, if I committed these crimes, I'd have cut a deal.  I'm not afraid of what I did.  I have yet to open up their box of evidence, and they -- I knew they had no evidence!


VAN SUSTEREN:  Also ahead, the Robert Blake murder case.  Did the LAPD pull the trigger on Blake's arrest under political pressure, or do they have the evidence for a conviction?  And wait until you hear what the "Baretta" star says about his possible execution.

But first, my exclusive interview with James Traficant continues.  I asked the congressman if the cross-examination was effective enough to convince a jury.


TRAFICANT:  Let's take a look at the case.  They voted 6-6.  The determinant was they didn't like the way I treated the judge and come back with a guilty verdict.  Now, under the 6th Amendment, you're to be tried by a jury of your peers, and you know that certainly well.  She opened this voir dire up to the entire northern district of Ohio...

VAN SUSTEREN:  She being the judge.

TRAFICANT:  ... judge -- all the way to the Indiana border.  Now, let's look at what a community is, and let's identify a peer.  This now we're getting into appeal matters, and I'm going to do it myself because, quite frankly, I've listened to all of these attorneys and I'm ready to handle this, OK?  What is a peer and what is a community?  The community was the eastern division of the northern district of Ohio.  That would be the Cleveland court system, the Akron court system and the Youngstown court system.

Now, in the Cleveland system, you had 48 potential jurors out of 10,000 voters.  In the Akron district, you had 38 potential jurors out of 10,000 voters.  In the Youngstown district, you have 26 potential jurors out of 10,000 voters.  So we're already at a participatory disadvantage, discriminatory factor.  Then to rule out all of the Youngstown area, being my congressional district, I was not tried by neither a community nor a jury of my peers.

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right.  OK.  Fine.  Let me ask you a question now.  Here's -- here's the problem that...

TRAFICANT:  Don't go too far.  You're not playing around with Rostenkowski here you know.

VAN SUSTEREN:  I understand that.  Here's the question I was -- I heard all your arguments about the evidence -- no physical evidence tying you...

TRAFICANT:  None at all!

VAN SUSTEREN:  ... no -- no videotapes, no wiretaps, no nothing...

TRAFICANT:  Do you believe that, Greta?  Now, you've been in business -- you're a defense attorney.  Do you believe they have a guy like me they've been after 25 years, they've taken me to several grand juries, there've been grand juries all over my case, but they didn't bug my telephone.  They didn't videotape me.  They didn't ask for specific surveillance...

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right, can I...

TRAFICANT:  ... opportunities...

VAN SUSTEREN:  Let me ask -- let me ask my -- let me ask...

TRAFICANT:  I don't know if I'm going to let you.

VAN SUSTEREN:  ... my question.  Well, I don't know if you will, either.


VAN SUSTEREN:  But here's the question...

TRAFICANT:  I'm a guest!

VAN SUSTEREN:  I understand that.  The jury listened to witnesses who may not have had physical evidence but who took the witness stand and said Congressman Traficant accepted kickbacks, and they believed it.  Why?

TRAFICANT:  But they didn't hear from other witnesses that the judge did not allow to testify before that jury.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And those witnesses...

TRAFICANT:  They only heard from those witnesses that the judge allowed.  She allowed hearsay on one side but found technical hearsay exceptions on the other side.  And I think the key one is the Sadie (ph) case.  Russell (ph) Sadie was just sentenced.  And he, himself, is part of an investigation into my case.  He was...

VAN SUSTEREN:  What did he say -- what did he say at your trail -- what would he have said...

TRAFICANT:  He said his brother-in-law told him that he didn't bribe Jim Traficant.  And his brother-in-law was so distraught after his second meeting with the FBI and he...

VAN SUSTEREN:  And his brother-in-law...

TRAFICANT:  And he was...

VAN SUSTEREN:  ... testified against you.

TRAFICANT:  ... subject -- yes.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And the brother-in-law did testify against you?

TRAFICANT:  Yes.  Yes.  But he was not allowed to come to the stand.  And he was subject to being sentenced.  So under the hearsay objection, here's a man that's subject to injury, whose trustworthiness can't be overlooked.  Here's another man under the utterance of excitement makes a trustworthy statement.  Had the jury have heard just that one, it would have reflected upon the quality and the veracity of the witnesses they had.

But why do you treat a criminal case like a civil case with nine depositions?  Not in front of a jury.  Look, here's the bottom line.  Get their best hold.  I'm hoping that the Congress does one thing, and I think that Fox and you, Greta, should support this.  I believe my Ethics Committee process that I'm going to handle myself -- I'm not going to have an attorney -- should be public so the American people can find out what the hell's going on in the courtrooms.

VAN SUSTEREN:  But public, you mean there should be TV cameras there.

TRAFICANT:  TV, no private hearings, no back rooms, meeting with people.  Bring everybody forward.  I'll come right before the cameras.  Now, remember this.  She brought up, first of all...


TRAFICANT:  ... in front of the jury...

VAN SUSTEREN:  Who's she?

TRAFICANT:  ... the judge -- whether I was going to testify before the jury.  She asked me if I was going to take the stand in the presence of the jury, clearly violating a 5th Amendment right.  She asked if I was ready to rest.  I told her I rested every night.  She asked me if I was ready for closing arguments in front of the jury.  She failed to sustain an objection that I brought up, when on rebuttal after final arguments, the prosecutor brought up an issue that wasn't even discussed during the trial.  What the hell is going on here?

VAN SUSTEREN:  Congressman, the way the jurors, after the trial, reports, some of them, is they thought she was patient with you during the trial, that you gave...


VAN SUSTEREN:  ... the judge a hard time.

TRAFICANT:  Half -- the reason the jurors found this is -- this was a 10-week trial, 7 to 7-and-a-half weeks was the prosecution.  She didn't allow half of my witnesses.  Half of the time, the jurors had to get up and go and sit in the back while she was voir diring witnesses, seeing whether or not they could testify.  And she only let two testify, one who had a pending litigation and another one who had a felony conviction, when she did not allow others in similar circumstances, because she felt that she had to give me something.

Here's -- here's the bottom line.  Now, I read an article in the paper that said even though I mistreated her, she's going to be fair with me.  Listen, this is no choirboy here, and I'm tired of the bull [deleted].  And I think America better take back their country.  I think our courts can't be trusted if you're a political target.  Now, if you're guilty, you're guilty.  Now, if I committed these crimes, I'd have cut a deal.  I'm not afraid of what I did.  I have yet to open up their box of evidence, and they -- I knew they had no evidence!

But, my God, Greta, you've been involved with the law.  And if you're representing a congressman, who is the only one to ever defeat them in the history of the country, and they said they didn't wiretap his phone, didn't follow him with helicopters, with airplanes, they didn't put bugs -- they have more tapes on me probably than RCA, but they're were exculpatory.  They're lying!

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right, let me talk about your constituents.  What have your constituents said to you since the conviction?

TRAFICANT:  I think most of my constituents -- first of all, have you heard about the murder thing?  Supposedly, I was involved in a contract for murder which has become almost a laughable item around...

VAN SUSTEREN:  That you have?

TRAFICANT:  Yeah, that I was supposedly responsible for being involved in a part of a murder conspiracy to kill a woman who had testimony against me.  So they took her into protective custody, paid a thousand dollars to keep her dogs, and she finally come back and realized that they just tried to use her because she had nothing illegal against me.  And now she may even sue them.  It's become sort of like a laughing matter.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Do your constituents...

TRAFICANT:  I mean, if the Congress believes I could be involved in conspiracy to commit murder, expel me now.

VAN SUSTEREN:  Well, let me -- I want to talk about it, Congressman.  Let me back up for a second.  You've been elected nine times.

TRAFICANT:  Yes, I have.

VAN SUSTEREN:  OK, and overwhelming support by the voters.

TRAFICANT:  With very little money, hardly any money.  I raised very little money.

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right.  Do you intend to run again this November?

TRAFICANT:  I'm running as an independent.  But now, I have to keep alive my appeal or my stay of appeal to be on the ballot.  But if I'm on the ballot in November, there'll be a donnybrook here, and I may win it.


VAN SUSTEREN:  More of my exclusive with James Traficant when we come back.

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up: Robert Blake, facing possible death for his wife's murder.  But did he do it?  And can the LAPD prove it?  And later: cardinal sins.  The pope warns priests there's no place for pedophiles in his church.  But wait until you hear how long one priest says the church knew about rampant sex abuse.  His story will astound you.


VAN SUSTEREN:  Now for more on my exclusive interview with convicted Ohio congressman James Traficant.  He says he may win if he runs again for office.  I asked him what might prevent him from winning.


VAN SUSTEREN:  You have to understand something.  You're dealing with the government.  Now, you have several cases that are still pending.  The Bookeye (ph) case is pending, the Blazio (ph) case is pending and Detour (ph) case is pending.  Now that they saw him convicted, even though I have tapes on all three of them...

VAN SUSTEREN:  Who -- who are these, these cases?

TRAFICANT:  These are three -- these are three people they indicted to make sure they kept them out of this case.  Both of...

VAN SUSTEREN:  And why were they relevant in this case?

TRAFICANT:  They all testified at the grand jury -- they all testified there was nothing illegal with Jim Traficant.  But now, seeing that I'm convicted, they may try and make a deal so that their daughters or sons aren't hurt.  One fellow told me on tape he was concerned that they were going to invite -- indict his daughter or his son.  Another individual told -- that I had a consensual tape on, was told by his employer that if he didn't say that he, in fact, did these things to Traficant illegally, they were going to indict his son.

These are the types of pressure and prosecutorial misconduct that existed in this case, and I brought them forward.  This judge completely laughed.  On the one tape, the one witness said that, "Jim, it's so bad, that I -- if I didn't have two kids, I'd take a gun and blow my brains out."  I mean, this is how bad -- and I have nine tapes.

I'm going to sell these items.  I'm not going to give them to anybody.  I'm going to sell them when the times comes.  I'm going to do a book.  If I go to jail, I'll do a book.  But I think if Congress has any fortitude, looking at speech and debate, 5th Amendment -- and remember, the 5th amendment here, and I want Congress to hear this.  I stipulated that I would take the stand in my trial and also allow them to cross-examine me on the 1983 trial and revisit it, if they gave me 15 minutes of cross-examination of the prosecutor who threatened, literally threatened, Richard Detour himself, literally threatened people with indicting their family members if they didn't participate...

VAN SUSTEREN:  Against you?

TRAFICANT:  ... legally suborning perjury.  And everyone who testified against me had either a criminal case pending against them or subject to great harm and loss of life or loss of liberty.

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right, we've covered your trial, right?


VAN SUSTEREN:  Pretty much.  We've been talking about it, right?

TRAFICANT:  Well, what I want is I want an open ethics investigation process, so the American public can know what really in hell's going on...

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right...

TRAFICANT:  ... in this country.  It's going to hell in a handbasket.

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right, so let's move to that open ethics investigation, which is on Capitol Hill, right?

VAN SUSTEREN:  Here's to you, you little Fox diva.  You just go right ahead.

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right.  Thank you.   I'll -- I don't know how -- whether to accept that as a compliment or whether that's an insult but...

TRAFICANT:  It's not an insult.

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right.

TRAFICANT:  That is a compliment.

VAN SUSTEREN:  OK.  All right.

TRAFICANT:  I think that you're very cognizant.  You were a defense attorney.  And when you hear the FBI, when they had no physical evidence, didn't go out and try and corroborate it with some admissibility of a tape or an admission, and that doesn't pique your interest, then you're not showing me the type of skills a defense attorney would manipulate in a court of law.

VAN SUSTEREN:  All right.  I'm interested in finding out -- we've covered the trial.  I'm not interested in finding out what you want from the United States Congress because they are now seeking to do something about...

TRAFICANT:  Well, they have to do something.  And more than likely, Gephardt -- I'm not surprised he's used Loretta Sanchez because it's the only Democrat to vote to, in fact, have a new trial.

VAN SUSTEREN:  When you say, "use her" -- because, look, I mean, the -- you were so involved in this case, but the viewers are not quite as involved in the case...

TRAFICANT:  I think Loretta Sanchez, out of the only...

VAN SUSTEREN:  Congressman Sanchez, right?

TRAFICANT:  Congresswoman Sanchez.  I was the only Democrat to vote to not seat her and to have a new election out there.

VAN SUSTEREN:  And so what is her role now in this ethics...

TRAFICANT:  She brought up one of the resolutions to move me.  And I sort of laugh at that because the Democrats -- I think they've become so emasculated that they -- their manhood now has to be questioned.  At least the Democrats [sic] had Sensenbrenner do something.  But here's what the Congress has to understand.  I'm not a normal congressman, that's for sure.

VAN SUSTEREN:  No kidding.

TRAFICANT:  Yeah.  And number two...

VAN SUSTEREN:  I say that very...

TRAFICANT:  ... I love...

VAN SUSTEREN:  I say that teasing you, you understand that.

TRAFICANT:  Now you know, you just said earlier that you might have thought I impugned your dignity, so I'm going to take your remarks as being favorable, as well.

VAN SUSTEREN:  OK.  Fair enough.

TRAFICANT:  But let me say -- but let me say this.  Looking back at Congress -- Congress has to take the country back.  The executive branch controls America, not even the presidency, the Justice Department, the IRS, the Treasury Department, manifest so much power that we in America fear our government.

Now, through the Ethics Committee process, what can be done is this.  They could focus on every element of this case, bring every witness they want and let them all say anything they want.  And I'm available and I'm open, and the country can look and take a see -- talk a look at this matter, Greta.  I think this is what it's about.  I think we fear our country.  I believe our nation is at stake.  I believe Congress has become damned near background music in a doctor's office.  Nobody wants the FBI checking them out.  No one wants the IRS snooping around.

And you know, I really feel bad.  You know, I changed the burden of proof in a civil tax case.  I now required, through my legislation, that they can't seize your home without a warrant.  You can now sue the IRS up to $1 million because of my legislation.  And it wouldn't have happened unless there was a great American by the name of Bill Archer from Texas.  And he was a former head, chairman, of the Ways and Means Committee of Congress.  He retired.

Had they made Bill Archer the treasury secretary under President George Bush, I believe America would be free today.  But he put my language in it.  Let me tell you what that meant to the American people.  Wage attachments dropped from 3.1 million to 500,000.  Property liens dropped from 688,000 to 160,000.  And seizures of American-owned homes dropped from 10,067 to 51 in 50 states, when the IRS had to prove their case.

The IRS has been preying on us, feasting on us.  And when they testified before Congress, they said, "If you take away the element of fear," Greta, "that we will lose America."  Fear!  An agency of the government saying fear.  Who does the IRS work for?  Those bastards work for me.  I'm not afraid of them.  The FBI, they work for me.  I'm investigating them right now.  And until I go to jail, if that happens, or if Congress expels me, I'm going to fight like a junkyard dog in the face of a hurricane because that's the way I'm made.


VAN SUSTEREN:  I'll have more with Congressman Traficant tomorrow [on Wednesday, April 24].

You can watch Part III 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 23 edition of On the Record.

Content and Programming Copyright 2002 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2002 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.