- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Key Democrats are pressuring embattled Louisiana Rep. William J. Jefferson to resign from the Ways and Means Committee, and may strip him of the seat if he keeps refusing.

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer yesterday joined the call for Mr. Jefferson, the subject of a growing bribery probe, to step down or be removed from the powerful committee.

“If he doesn’t step down, I think our caucus needs to take action,” the Maryland Democrat said. “He sits on a tax-writing committee and he had $90,000 found in his freezer. I think he’s got a tax problem, if nothing else.”

Mr. Jefferson, 59, has not been indicted or charged. FBI investigators found cash wrapped in foil and stuffed in Tupperware containers in Mr. Jefferson’s Washington apartment. The House ethics panel also is investigating his conduct.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declined to comment last night after a Democratic steering policy committee meeting, where lawmakers said Mr. Jefferson was discussed.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, New York Democrat, said it was a good discussion.

“We want to do the right thing. We certainly don’t want to protect any wrongdoing because the culture of corruption is what we want to stop here,” she said.

Mrs. Pelosi has asked Mr. Jefferson to resign from the Ways and Means Committee, a request he rebuffed, saying his role on the panel helps him secure funds for hurricane recovery in his New Orleans district.

Mr. Jefferson can be officially removed from the committee only by a full House vote.

The steering committee can recommend that the Democratic caucus take a no-confidence vote to try to persuade Mr. Jefferson to step down from the panel. Lawmakers leaving the private meeting said last night that he may be invited to address them.

Meanwhile, documents released in the probe yesterday further detailed the investigation’s wide net.

The probe focuses on deals Mr. Jefferson is accused of making with Nigerian officials, including Vice President Atiku Abubakar, on behalf of IGate Inc., which was seeking contracts to build a broadband network in Africa.

An affidavit to secure a warrant to search the Potomac home of Mr. Abubakar’s wife contains statements Mr. Jefferson is purported to have made to a business partner — who was acting as an FBI informant.

Mr. Jefferson told the informant that Mr. Abubakar agreed to take bribes, including 50 percent of IGate’s Nigerian profits and $500,000, in exchange for helping the company secure approval, the court documents show.

The affidavit says Mr. Jefferson accepted $100,000 in cash from the informant, who secretly recorded several conversations, including one in which the lawmaker is reported to have said that he arranged the deal to benefit his five daughters.

An attorney for Mr. Abubakar said the vice president is cooperating with authorities.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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