Railroaded: The Trials, Populism, Brutal Honesty, Imprisonment and Redemption of Rep. James Traficant

Traficant on the Congressional Floor

In my previous article, I wrote about reporters, insiders, researchers, and various whistle-blowers of one stripe or another, who paid the ultimate price for attempting to tell us (the American public) the truth about corruption, malfeasance, and coverups in high places. Rest assured, the powers that be (sociopaths and psychopaths that they are) have no qualms about killing someone or even large numbers of people in order to squash a bombshell truth from being released and then predictably calling it an accident or a suicide. However, there are occasions when the figure in question is simply what you could call a nuisance and outspoken “troublemaker” or radical critic of government overreach even within the corridors of power itself. And, when this occurs, there are often less deadly ways of getting rid of them.

So, for instance, if they can’t be bribed, cajoled, or blackmailed by people above them…they might simply be fired and their homes ransacked the way former NSA whistle-blower Thomas Drake was after he protested their unconstitutional domestic spying operations before the Ed Snowden leaks became common knowledge. Or, perhaps they’ll be drug through a long, arduous, and costly legal battle the way former Assistant Secretary of HUD (Housing and Urban Development), Catherine Austin Fitts, was for attempting to audit her department’s fraudulent financial statements. Fortunately, she was able to finally win her case and eventually learn about how departmental agencies such as hers were being used as slush funds for CIA black budget operations…legally!

If you’re in the US Congress, you’re expected to play the game of mindless ineptitude, corporate graft, and other partisan “business as usual” bullshit so indicative of life on Capitol Hill. You’re obviously not supposed to cause too much consternation and problems for the Pentagon, the FBI, the CIA, the IRS, or any other ingrained and entrenched bureaucracy of US imperial empire. However, a few intrepid souls do just that, and that’s when the heat comes down on their heads whether they expect it or not. For Rep. James Traficant, it was perhaps only a matter of time and opportunity as to when the Department of Justice (a misnomer if there ever was one) went after him on bogus, trumped-up charges of bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion until they had him in front of a congressional ethics committee fighting not only for his seat in the House but to remain a free man.

It was a fight that he unfortunately lost, and he was forced to serve 7 years in a federal penitentiary beginning in 2002. However, it’s what led up to his railroading out of the US Congress and imprisonment that interest me and hopefully you, since his case is very instructive in many ways. Interestingly enough, Jim Traficant gained significant notoriety for successfully representing himself in a RICO case where he was accused of taking bribes from the mob that he maintained was part of an investigatory sting operation. As the city’s tough no nonsense Sheriff of Mahoning County, Traficant was popular with his solid working-class constituents, especially when he refused to evict people from their homes after severe economic conditions created a lot home foreclosures. Jim Traficant decided to run for a US congressional seat in the Youngstown district and won. He quickly became a pariah on the Hill for his brash comments often hilariously aimed at his congressional colleagues.

Once, after being trounced on the floor of the House by fellow Congressmen for his style and manner, he walked to the podium and proclaimed- “As far as I’m concerned, you’re all a bunch of political prostitutes!” This caused a scandal that echoed through the halls of the capitol like a donkey having sex with an elephant (which has fascinating political implications all it’s own). The normally sedate House was suddenly aroused sufficiently from its intellectual slumber to stir itself into a combination of confusion as to what exactly he had said and anger over what some had actually heard. When he was corned outside by reporters, one news stringer asked him pointedly, “Tell us how you really feel, Sheriff.” He very sardonically replied, “I’d like to apologize to all the hookers of America for associating them with the US House…” So, you’ve got to the love the guy just for his sharp humorous wit, and it would be often in his career when humor alone would seem to alleviate the seriousness of the charges leveled against him.

Over the years, he would tackle some very thorny and controversial issues with his characteristic bravado, swagger, and brutal honesty. During the Clinton years, he would make a lifelong enemy of Attorney General Janet Reno and the FBI by vehemently criticizing their catastrophic debacle at Waco and Ruby Ridge (as I profiled in an earlier post). Both Ruby Ridge, where the FBI killed Randy Weaver’s wife as she held her infant in the doorway, and Waco, where the Branch Davidian compound was burned to the ground after Bradley tanks shot CS gas into the building that easily ignited, were public relations disasters for the FBI. However, for all their bluster, coverups, corruption, and now mass homicide, very little was done to actually punish the guilty parties responsible and rein in the abuse of the FBI, along with what some saw as heavy handed assaults on the US citizens’ liberty. By being one of the FBI’s staunchest critic to anyone that would listen, Traficant was no doubt “Public Enemy #1” within the US Congress and very likely targeted in a covert effort to entrap him in some kind of scandal.

Targeted- James Traficant

He also went after the hated IRS and their fraudulent wage garnishments, property leins, and home seizures, particularly since their jackboot tactics and audits were ruining peoples’ lives. According to Jim Traficant, the thing that he is most proud of is passing a bill with then Texas Congressman Bill Archer, which puts the burden of proof of tax liability on the IRS rather than on the citizen. This single piece of legislation was able to reduce the number of houses seized by the IRS from 10,073 down to 57 in one year!! Given that the IRS is really the enforcement arm of the Federal Reserve that supplies the Treasury with “notes” that it expects to receive interest on, the US government uses the IRS to collect on the debt that it creates every time it borrows money and then fleeces the public to pay back. As the late, great Aaron Russo once said about IRS (an acronym), “It Really Sucks!” So, anytime anyone in government does something to rein in the IRS besides merely protecting Wall Street crooks in hiding their money in off-shore accounts…I applaud them.

The next potentially grave enemy that Jim Traficant made was with the state of Israel and the very powerful lobby AIPAC (American Israeli Political Affairs Committee). While you might not have ever heard of AIPAC, the truth is that America’s unwavering allegiance, support, and loyalty to Israel in the face of global criticism for their treatment of the Palestinians is no accident. It is the result of powerful lobbies such as AIPAC, Mossad spy infiltration of the US, and other Zionist front groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and B’nai B’rith. One point of major controversy in the already contentious career of Rep. Jim Traficant came when a family approached him and asked that he look into a case that they were fighting on behalf of a man that had been charged with being a prisoner guard at one of the Nazi concentration camps during WWII.

The Israelis claimed that he worked at Treblinka and was known as “Ivan the Terrible”, based on his sadistic enjoyment of torturing the prisoners there. However, the family told Trafficant that this man, who went by the name of John Demjanjuk, was not “Ivan the Terrible” as the Israelis had claimed. According to photos that the family showed Traficant of both Demjanjuk and “Ivan the Terrible”, there was a prominent scar on the neck of the Ukrainian guard but not on Demjanjuk’s. The family of Demjanjuk had told Jim that they approached him last about it because they knew how much the Congress hated him, but they didn’t know where else to turn as everybody else in the House and Senate had turned down their request to look into the case. Traficant was sufficiently convinced of their case that he took the evidence to Tel Aviv and presented it to the Israeli Supreme Court, who finally agreed that Demjanjuk was not the right guy and (to their credit) released him from prison into Traficant’s custody on a plane back to the US. For this act of courage and justice, he was smeared by the press as someone who, to even care about the case, was thought to have “anti-Semitic blood”.

Demjanjuk in Israeli Court

I heard about all this one night while watching C-SPAN back in early 2001 before 9/11 would irrevocably change the world and political landscape. Jim Traficant recounted many stories he had had throughout his colorful career at Cleveland’s City Club, and I’ve still got most of his talk on VHS tape somewhere (see the whole hour long speech archived by C-SPAN in the hyperlink to follow). It’s still a great talk, full of interesting anecdotes, humorous asides, and emotional statements like “What happened to America? What is America? Do people still govern here? I think not. The government is coming after people, and this needs to stop.” Shortly after 9/11, he would be charged in the House with breaking the rules of the Ethics Committee by accepting money through his staffers that the House claimed he was unable to account for. These hearings were also largely televised on C-SPAN, and I recorded all the ones that I could as I knew at the time that they were really the result of what he had been talking about before.

When his case went before a judge in an Ohio criminal court, he wasn’t even allowed to cross examine the so-called witnesses against him that he later found out were pressured by the FBI to give false testimony. He also wasn’t allowed to bring in his own witnesses and evidence that would clearly have exonerated him in the eyes of the jury and was essentially convicted in a kangaroo court, where a grave miscarriage of justice served him into an 7-year prison sentence. However, now that he’s out, he continues to fight the good fight against what he sees is criminal corruption within the White House, court system, FBI, and US Congress among other usual suspects on shows like Greta van Sustern and Alex Jones. And, to top it all off, he even ran for his old congressional seat, which would have been another first. I can see the headlines now- “Ex-Felon James Traficant Wins Old Seat in the House next to Soon to Be Felons”. Now, you know just about the only guy that I would consider voting for. Traficant for President in 2016!

Traficant before Reporters

 

 

 

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4 responses to “Railroaded: The Trials, Populism, Brutal Honesty, Imprisonment and Redemption of Rep. James Traficant

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