Monday, May 22, 2006

Rep. William J. Jefferson said yesterday that the FBI’s weekend search of his office was “outrageous” and insisted that he is not guilty, despite court documents that say he was videotaped accepting $100,000 during a bribery investigation.

“There are two sides to every story. There are certainly two sides to this story,” said Mr. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat.

He has not been charged with a crime, but the FBI on Sunday released affidavits that said Mr. Jefferson was videotaped accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant whose conversations with the lawmaker also were recorded. In August, the FBI found $90,000 in the lawmaker’s Washington home — wrapped in $10,000 packs and concealed in food containers and aluminum foil stuffed in his freezer, according to the court documents.

Mr. Jefferson, 59, said he “still maintains” that he is not guilty and said he will not resign. The eight-term lawmaker also said he intends to seek re-election in the fall.

At a press conference he called yesterday, Mr. Jefferson dodged questions about the investigation and the details disclosed in the FBI affidavit used to obtain a warrant to search his office, saying it was “not the time” to discuss the accusations.

“I cannot talk about the facts of the matter,” he said.

He also said he wanted to express “outrage” and “regret” over the search of his office, which investigators combed through for hours over the weekend.

“We are at a loss as to what has happened,” he said. “I believe that it’s totally inappropriate to use the police powers of the federal government to come into the office of a congressman. This hasn’t happened before,”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland last night said he has “grave concerns regarding the very serious constitutional issues” that the FBI search raised. Other House leaders echoed these concerns.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, when asked about the Jefferson search at an unrelated press conference yesterday, said: “I will admit that these were unusual steps that were taken in response to an unusual set of circumstances.”

In a statement last week, Mr. Jefferson defended himself, saying his actions under scrutiny are not illegal.

“Unfortunately, the government seems inclined to view the facts in the worst possible light, and to characterize events that could be explained, or are exculpatory, in ways that tend to incriminate,” he said.

The chief executive of IGate Inc. pleaded guilty earlier this month to paying Mr. Jefferson more than $400,000 in bribes. The purported bribes were in exchange for the congressman’s lobbying Nigerian government officials on behalf of the Louisville, Ky.-based technology firm, which wanted to operate a broadband network in Africa.

Mr. Jefferson’s former aide, Brett Pfeffer, in January pleaded guilty to helping bribe a public official.

The scandal is one of several tainting Congress, with members from both parties implicated in bribery schemes or under investigation for ties to dirty lobbyists.

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

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