WASHINGTON – California Rep. John Doolittle, under scrutiny in the Jack Abramoff congressional corruption case, charged Wednesday that the government tried to strong-arm his wife to get him to admit to committing a crime.
When he wouldn't, FBI agents searched his home to intimidate and pressure him and his wife, Doolittle said.
The Republican congressman made the comments in a radio interview with his wife, Julie, on "The Tom Sullivan Show" on radio station KFBK-AM in Sacramento, Calif.
Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra declined to comment.
Doolittle had written an opinion piece over the weekend in the Auburn (Calif.) Journal, is his home district, accusing the government of leaking word of last month's FBI search on his home to coincide with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' Senate testimony on the fired U.S. attorneys controversy.
He went further in Wednesday's interview, and his wife also spoke out for the first time.
Doolittle, a nine-term incumbent, recounted that a few weeks before the search, his and his wife's attorneys met with government prosecutors.
"It became apparent to us that there is an attempt by the government to strong-arm Julie in order to get me to admit to a crime that I did not commit," Doolittle said. "And in our mind, as a result of my refusing to admit to a crime I did not commit, the government searched our home in what we believe was little more than an attempt to intimidate and pressure us."
Doolittle's attorney, David Barger, declined to comment.
The search warrant executed April 13 at the Doolittles' Oakton, Va., home was for Julie Doolittle's bookkeeping and event-planning business. The home business had done work for Abramoff, the one-time GOP superlobbyist who's cooperating in a wide-ranging influence-peddling investigation.
John Doolittle was friends with Abramoff and accepted campaign money from him while working to advance Abramoff's clients' interests. He has said he believes prosecutors are scrutinizing his wife's business to see whether she did real work for real clients.
Doolittle also noted Wednesday that he's the only lawmaker left in Congress connected to the Abramoff case, suggesting that if prosecutors want to nail a sitting congressman, it has to be him. Others have retired or been defeated while one former lawmaker, former GOP Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, pleaded guilty in the case.
"If you really want to get a congressman I'm the one that's left," Doolittle said.
Julie Doolittle defended her business, Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions Inc., and said FBI agents have gone into the homes and businesses of her bookkeeping clients.
"This isn't a fly-by-night type of business that I'm involved in; it's something that is real," she said.
Abramoff's lobby firm retained Sierra Dominion in September 2002 for about $5,000 a month. The arrangement lasted through February 2004 though a fundraiser Julie Doolittle was hired to plan was canceled after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.