Now starring as the Grinch: Jack Abramoff

As the lobbyist negotiates with prosecutors, there is fear in a lot of hearts on Capitol Hill.

Published December 22, 2005 4:36PM (EST)

If you happen to be sharing Christmas morning with Tom DeLay, Bob Ney or any number of other Republicans in Congress, don't be surprised if they keep excusing themselves from the festivities to check Google News. The Justice Department seems to be fairly far along in wrapping up a plea agreement with indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- a deal that could involve Abramoff's providing testimony about his business dealings with members of Congress.

One participant in the plea discussions tells the New York Times that a deal could be announced early next week. The Associated Press says the deal could resolve both cases in which Abramoff is implicated -- the criminal case pending against him in Florida as well as the investigation into his lobbying activities in Washington.

Not since the 1992 House banking scandal has a corruption probe "struck fear in so many hearts on Capitol Hill," the AP's Pete Yost writes. Even without Abramoff's testimony, Yost says prosecutors are looking into the actions of as many as 20 members of Congress and their aides. Under any plea deal involving the Washington investigation, Abramoff would get a reduced -- but still lengthy -- prison sentence in exchange for telling everything he knows. "And," Yost writes ominously, "he knows a lot."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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