Reports: Abramoff deal is done

Sources say the lobbyist will plead guilty to corruption charges. What damage can he do?

Published January 3, 2006 2:38PM (EST)

If the Republican Party was hoping that the first business day of 2006 would be a time for some kind of fresh start, it may be time to think again. Lawyers for indicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff will be on the phone this afternoon for a conference call with the judge in the criminal case pending against him in Florida, and a formal announcement of a deal with prosecutors in Washington could come shortly thereafter.

The Houston Chronicle reported this morning that Abramoff has reached a tentative agreement with prosecutors investigating his lobbying activities in Washington and is still working toward a deal in the Florida case. CNN just reported that, as part of the deal, Abramoff is expected to plead guilty to charges of corruption and other crimes related to his lobbying work. But the Associated Press has a different version of the tale, quoting Abramoff's lawyer as saying that he has reached a plea agreement in the Florida case and will agree to cooperate with prosecutors in the Washington case.

In the logic of criminal prosecutions, a deal for Abramoff in the Washington case could only mean one thing: He's willing to give prosecutors there some even bigger fish to fry. "I believe he has to be giving up members of Congress," Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor and head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, tells Bloomberg. "Otherwise, Abramoff is as high as you go." Or, as the Chronicle puts it, a deal with Abramoff would give federal prosecutors "the ultimate insider witness in a probe into any possible favors the one-time king of Washington lobbyists gave members of Congress and their staff members."

By Tim Grieve

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

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