Exclusive: Traficant - 'I Was a Target. ... I Must Have Been Doing Something Right'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 10, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now, former congressman James Traficant goes "On the Record" in his first interview since his release from prison. Now, eight days ago, he walked out of a federal prison after serving a seven-year sentence for bribery and racketeering.

Earlier, the former Democratic congressman went "On the Record" about life in prison, whether he's planning a political comeback, and so much more.


VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you, sir.

JAMES TRAFICANT, FORMER OHIO CONGRESSMAN: I'm glad to be here. Good to see you again. But to tell you the truth, Greta, I'm glad to be anywhere.

VAN SUSTEREN: Besides? Besides prison, for one!


TRAFICANT: I come from seven years up at Rochester. I want to say hello to Dray Maddux (ph) and Freddie McKnight (ph) and all those guys up there. A lot of good guys there. They're sort of like family, in a way. It's a different experience.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you made friends in prison?

TRAFICANT: Absolutely. You know, Nelson Mandela made a statement. He said, If you really want to know the truth about a nation, you've got to go through their prisons. And believe me, he's right. And I learned an awful lot about America going through the prisons.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Before we get to prison and all about America, I have to ask you the headline question. Ready?

TRAFICANT: Don't say it...

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm going to ask it!

TRAFICANT: ... because I'm going to get personal.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm going to ask it right now.

TRAFICANT: Get at me. Get at me, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Are you going to run for Congress again?

TRAFICANT: I don't know yet. There's a lot of people that want me to run for Congress. You know, I was the number one target of the American- Israeli Public Affairs Committee and the number one target of the Justice Department since 1983, being the only American to ever defeat them pro se in a RICO trial. And I have big enemies.

But I have some grudges, and I want to go at them. I want to go at them big time, Greta. So I have to see, first of all, if I'm viable, and second of all, if the people would support me. They came in here and they fractured this district. They broke it up certainly to make it tougher. I think they also felt they gave me a life sentence, that I'd never survive in prison. Then they came to me and said if I said I was guilty, I might even get a pardon, and I told them to shove the pardon up their derriere sideways.

So here I am, and if I do run, get your best hold, because I will be running downhill with my tails flapping in the wind, wide open.

VAN SUSTEREN: What are the odds you are going to win -- I mean, not are you going to win. What are the odds that you're going to run?

TRAFICANT: The odds, and I saved all comments for your show, because, number one, I think you have a great show, and this is not to patronize you. I know you got some questions, and I am going to embarrass you before it is over.

But I would say at this point is 50-50, and I have a lot of people that are encouraging me to run because there are so many disenfranchised people, so many, especially in this area.

Concerns I have that I come home to is we have Delphi here, the salaried that were completely cut out of also pension benefits. It's going to be almost a $250,000 impact to this general community.

And when you look at it nationally, Dayton, Ohio, is going to be hit real hard. The state of Ohio is going to be hit with about $1.5 billion in lost money, and economic generation, because of this decision.

And I feel, and you know my record, if we can take care of people over the world, dammit, take care of those Delphi salaried workers. And I expect it to be done.

I mean, I am on your show here asking you and asking America to look at this place, because we have here 9,500 workers to lose their pension benefits, they're going to have to pay for hospitalization.

It's an immediate cost pocket of $50 million, with a computing factor of the multiplication of two for the general metropolitan area of billion dollar impact on the economy that lost steel mills years ago and has been left behind. Can't have it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can't have it. You said you had some grudges. Who are your grudges against?

TRAFICANT: Well, number one -- and my wife constantly reminds me to tone [it] down -- I brought that guy back from Israel, John Demjanjuk.

It was my Freedom of Information Act which proved not only that he was innocent, but who Ivan really was. The case was so sensitive, members of Congress would say, "Jim, I love you. But please, don't involve me."

I sent my evidence to the 6th Circuit Court in Cincinnati. They wouldn't accept it.

I finally send it over to Israel, to the Israeli Supreme Court, and they called me over there, and I went with the family. I did a live interview satellite with Bryant Gumbel, and I said, "When they put this innocent man to death, they're going to lose $15 billion to $20 billion every year they get from the American taxpayers.

And Bryant Gumbel says, "What are you talking about? They only get $3 billion." And I said, "Bryant, that's only the foreign aid bill. Look at all of the other trade compacts, economic assistance, military assistance."

I am saying this to you right now -- Israel gets approximately $15 billion a year from the American taxpayers. That $15 billion is $30,000 for every man, woman and child. And people in my district are losing their pension benefits.

So, I was targeted big-time.

VAN SUSTEREN: By the Israelis?

TRAFICANT: The Israeli Supreme Court looked at the evidence, could not refute it. And it came from the Justice Department, Greta. And they said, take him home. I brought him home, and he was bombarded ever since.

VAN SUSTEREN: Home to Ohio?

TRAFICANT: Now he's in Germany fighting for his life.

Now, let me say this, Prosecutor Moskovitz of the OSI Office of the United States Justice Department suborned perjury with Otto Horn. The documents clearly state who "Ivan the Terrible" was, a man named Ivan Marchenko, not Demjanjuk. And they had to release him.

And now they can't live with it. They couldn't live with Jim Traficant having beaten him in 1983. I was a walking symbol of defiance. And now they have this man in Germany. And if someone doesn't look into this, the American people should be ashamed of themselves.

When you allow one American to be violated, you threaten the freedoms of every American. And I can't understand this, why no one in Congress is raising their voice.

And the reason is very simple. And this maybe you don't want to hear, I don't know. And I certainly don't want to hurt you on your show. You have one of the best. You're fair.

But I believe that Israel has a powerful stranglehold on the American government. They control both members of the House, the House and the Senate. They have us involved in wars in which we have little or no interest.

Our children are coming back in body bags. Our nation is bankrupt over these wars. And if you open your mouth, you get targeted. And if they don't beat you at the poll, they'll put you in prison.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, two quick things. One is the Israelis have released Demjanjuk back to the United States, right?

TRAFICANT: The Israeli supreme court. And I give them credit.

VAN SUSTEREN: Give them credit for that.

TRAFICANT: I give them credit, big-time.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. The second thing is, is Israel is a democracy and is our ally, right?

TRAFICANT: Yes, they are.

VAN SUSTEREN: So, you have no...

TRAFICANT: And they should be our ally. They are our friends over in that troubled part of the world.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. So, explain to me what you see as -- you know, why you target or why you have a grudge against the Israelis.

TRAFICANT: The grudge is not necessarily a grudge. It's an objective assessment that no one will have the courage to speak about.

They're controlling much of our foreign policy. They're influencing much of our domestic policy.

Wolfowitz as undersecretary of defense manipulated President Bush number two back into Iraq. They've pushed definitely, definitely to try to get Bush before he left to move into Iran.

We're conducting the expansionist policy of Israel and everybody's afraid to say it. They control much of the media, they control much of the commerce of the country, and they control powerfully both bodies of the Congress. They own the Congress.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you an anti-Semite?

TRAFICANT: No, I'm not. And that's exactly what they're going to say. And I expect that.

What I am is an American. You see, I think America comes first. And we have a one-sided foreign policy in the Mideast, and we've alienated Arabs who have no way of fighting.

So, what they've done -- and I predicted this on the House floor -- is they would export violence to America. And they have. They have no other way to fight.

I think President Obama knows this. I think he sees this. I think he wants to do something. I think his hands are tied, and I think he's dancing between the raindrops, trying to figure how I can politically machinate some scenario to mitigate these problems.

Greta, I'm saying this. America is in danger if America doesn't take back their government without foreign influence, interference.


VAN SUSTEREN: Up next, how bad was prison for former Congressman Traficant? Did he cry? Did he feel alone? Was he punished inside the prison? He's going to tell you all the raw details of prison coming up.



VAN SUSTEREN: More with former Congressman James Traficant. What would the former congressman do about health care?


TRAFICANT: There's only one downside to health care -- this massive government becomes even that much more gigantic.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what would you do about health care?

TRAFICANT: I don't know. I haven't studied it all that much, but I think that the heart of President Obama is in the right place.

Now what has to be done, there has to be a blending of this sentiment, this worthy integrity to do something right, with a pragmatic economic approach that doesn't bankrupt America and destroy us even further.

VAN SUSTEREN: I take it the seven years you were in prison you never cried uncle.

TRAFICANT: I never cried at all.

VAN SUSTEREN: Never cried at all?

TRAFICANT: Why should I?

VAN SUSTEREN: What was it like?

TRAFICANT: I'm an American just like everybody else. In fact, I went to prison. And a lot of Americans go to prison.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was it like? What was it like for -- I imagine...

TRAFICANT: For me, it was tough. The first place I went was Allenwood, and I think the reason I went there is there were a lot of illegal immigrants there. And they knew I had the troops on the border. I think I was put in a position to be hurt.

When I was at Allenwood, I had a guy say he would refute this, but he said, "My mother's your biggest fan. Watch yourself." We can't even do nothing with you. Everything is coming out of Washington.

Before long, I was in the hole.


TRAFICANT: Well, they said I caused a riot. I asked a question of some jackass C.O. over there, some officer who was so dumb he could throw himself to the ground and miss. But anyway...

VAN SUSTEREN: What was the question?

TRAFICANT: I forget what it was.

VAN SUSTEREN: Like what? I mean, can you give me an idea -- was it...

TRAFICANT: No. I said, "People can't hear you. Speak up."

VAN SUSTEREN: And you went to the hole for that?

TRAFICANT: I went to the hole.

But anyway, they said it caused a riot. They shackled me and took me in front of the whole body into some room over there and they put me in the hole.

VAN SUSTEREN: What did you do that was supposedly so bad?

TRAFICANT: I asked that question.

VAN SUSTEREN: Just that single question caused a riot?

TRAFICANT: Yes, that single question. Although, I wouldn't meet with anybody, talk with the warden or anybody. I never even said hello to any of the wardens who were there.

They were my captors. I didn't give a damn about them. I had nothing to do with them.

And the hole didn't bother me. It gave me time to think.

VAN SUSTEREN: How long were you in Pennsylvania, in Allenwood?

TRAFICANT: I don't know. But I was in Ray Brook only about nine months, and probably about 17 months, or whatever, in Allenwood.

But most political figures go to some camps in country clubs. I didn't. I went through some tough times. And I was told, also, at Ray Brook that I was only so many points away from going to a federal penitentiary.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you have cells or did you have rooms? What kind of...

TRAFICANT: Well, at Ray Brook, I lived in a 20-man room with one commode, and they lock you in at night. But when I was at Rochester, I lived about three years in a four-man room. It was about 10 by 14.

VAN SUSTEREN: Private commode or not private?

TRAFICANT: No, no, no. Two sets of bunk beds.

You had about 15 square feet of your own personal space other than cabinets and stuff. It was very crowded. The prison system is very crowded. They should probably pass that crack law and make that right.

They definitely should pass the 65 percent. And for nonviolent offenders, reduce it to 50 percent. And they should reinstate the parole board.

See, one of the first bills I submitted -- and I didn't get involved with those issues. Had I gotten involved, it would be law. When I set my mind on something, I did it.

But the first bill I submitted was the Nonviolent Offender Act. See, I believe, Greta, if you're nonviolent, you shouldn't go to prison.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what should we do with them?

TRAFICANT: Well, you have all these support systems outside. You have all these people falling over themselves, like at lunchtime up there in the prison. You have all these people with suits who don't do a damn thing.

But you have a lot of good COs and a lot of good workers that -- you know, they're fair. I mean, they've got to do their job. And I looked at it from a different angle. I mean, I was a prisoner, but I understood the dynamics of prison life.

And now what you have is, they want to keep the prisons open, keep the jobs going. They're putting 20, 30 years on some of these young people, and it's out of hand, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it tough to do time?

TRAFICANT: Well, any time your freedom is impacted it's very tough.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess when you say stuff like you have a public commode, that's sort of like, oh, that sounds pretty dehumanizing.

TRAFICANT: Yes. Well, you go into a john, yes. It's dehumanizing. Like you say, it's not very flattering.

But, quite frankly, it didn't bother me at all.

VAN SUSTEREN: Not at all?

TRAFICANT: Because I forfeited my future, and I didn't give a damn what they did to me. And from this day forward, talking with you, I don't give a damn what anybody does to me. I'm going to say what I think is right, I'm going to do what I think is right. And if it offends some people, then so be it.

You see, because I'm still, I guess, the same jackass I was. But I do love America, and America's in danger of imploding, imploding.

Now, people laughed when I called for the depression. Stevie Wonder could see this coming. Stevie Wonder could see America's troubles now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me get back to prison.

TRAFICANT: I'm tired of you getting back and pushing me around.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I'm curious...

TRAFICANT: I've had enough.

VAN SUSTEREN: I am going to push you around a little bit. You like being pushed around.

TRAFICANT: OK. Go ahead. Go ahead. Those guys up in Rochester would say, "Don't let her push you around, Jim."

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you make some friends?

TRAFICANT: Yes, a lot of good people, a lot of good guys up there.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has anyone contacted you since you've been out?

TRAFICANT: Oh yes. Well, they're not supposed to.

VAN SUSTEREN: Politicians?

TRAFICANT: No. Politicians are scared to death of me. Are you kidding me?

VAN SUSTEREN: No, but -- so, nobody's called and said, "Welcome home, Jim"?

TRAFICANT: No, nobody. Nobody. They're scared to death.

Do you want to get targeted? See, you're being objective as hell. You're carrying the water pretty good. And I'm -- you should do what you're doing, because if you think, first of all, this bias I have towards Israel, believe me, I don't.

I have a strong support for America. And if I think anything's wrong, I say it.

But if you're a politician and you support me, you're in trouble. If you're a businessman and you give me money on my finance report, you get audited. I was a target.

And you know what I'm most proud of?


TRAFICANT: That I was that target. I must have been doing something damn right. I was doing the right things, Greta.

You know, I never passed a bill. All of my stuff were put in other bills as amendments, but I got a lot done in Congress. And I'm very proud of that.


VAN SUSTEREN: Up next, she was his high school sweetheart. The former congressman's wife joins him to go "On the Record."

And why didn't she visit him during his seven years in prison? Her answer is surprising.


VAN SUSTEREN: Well, for seven years, Congressman James Traficant has been in prison, and for seven years his wife Tish has been waiting for him to come home.

Earlier Tish joined Congressman Traficant and went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: It's fun to have him home?



TISH TRAFICANT: Really, it is.

TRAFICANT: I am surprised with the support, because I don't have a newspaper write a good thing about me.


VAN SUSTEREN: I thought to myself when I found out he was getting out, I though, Wow, that seven years went fast, but then I thought, I bet it didn't go fast for them.


TISH TRAFICANT: But it was a long seven years.

I would do countdowns, like one Christmas down, six to go. I did countdowns. And then it slowed up when I had one Christmas to go and one New Years to go. And then when I hit the last New Years, I did it that way in my mind, it dragged.

And then I got into summer. August was the slowest because I knew he was coming home in September. August was my slowest month.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you pick him up?


VAN SUSTEREN: You saw him in prison?


VAN SUSTEREN: You did not visit him once?


TRAFICANT: I had no visitors. I did not want any visitors. I did not want my family see me in prison. If I died they'd remember me the way I was. And if I got out, it'd be back.

VAN SUSTEREN: Not one visitor.


TISH TRAFICANT: You had the attorney.

VAN SUSTEREN: How often would you talk?

TISH TRAFICANT: As often as he would call.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which was how often?

TISH TRAFICANT: He'd call a lot. Two or three times a week, sometimes more on holidays. They sometimes kept him three or four days, and I'd go, what's today? (inaudible)

VAN SUSTEREN: How long did you get to talk?

TISH TRAFICANT: Not long. They were quick talks.

VAN SUSTEREN: Like 10 minutes?



TRAFICANT: It was very expensive. I did not want to have her have to pay for the calls.

TISH TRAFICANT: I did. I don't know how it worked, but you do what you do. You do what you do to survive.

VAN SUSTEREN: How was your hair, because your hair is a big deal.

TISH TRAFICANT: It was down to here.

TRAFICANT: Call the Bureau of Prisons and ask them if they allowed me to wear a hairpiece.



TRAFICANT: Can you in prison?


TISH TRAFICANT: He had a ponytail.

TRAFICANT: I had a long ponytail.

VAN SUSTEREN: You didn't cut your hair at all the time you were in prison?

TRAFICANT: I cut it myself. When the ponytail got a little longer I snipped it off.


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