“I believe Israel has a powerful stranglehold on the American government. They own the Congress.”
James Traficant to Greta Van Susteren
The former congressman from the Valley said, ‘I’m going to say what I think is right.’
By DAVID SKOLNICK and RICK ROUAN
YOUNGSTOWN — Ex-U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. told Fox News host Greta Van Susteren that his chances of running for Congress again are “50-50.”
“I have a lot of people who are encouraging me to run because there are a lot of disenfranchised people here,” Traficant said in an interview recorded Wednesday that aired on Thursday’s “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren” on Fox News.
Traficant said that his old district is “fractured” and that he needed to find out if he was a viable candidate who could gain the support needed to return to Washington, D.C.
The ex-representative was expelled from Congress and served more than seven years in federal prison for racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. The Thursday broadcast was Traficant’s first interview since being released from federal prison Sept. 2.
Traficant said he “forfeited my future” by being critical of the federal government, but that he has no regrets, despite spending seven years in federal prison.
“I didn’t give a damn what they did to me,” Traficant said
“And from this day forward, I don’t give a damn what anybody does to me,” Traficant said. “I’m going to say what I think is right. I’m going to do what I think is right.”
Traficant, who spent 17 years in Congress, maintains his innocence, and says he won’t be silenced.
“If it offends some people, then so be it,” he said of his criticism of the federal government. “You see, because I’m still, I guess, the same jack--- I was.”
The embattled former congressman spoke extensively on the relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
He said that the U.S. is furthering the “expansionist policy” of Israel in the Middle East.
“I believe Israel has a powerful stranglehold on the American government,” Traficant said. “They own the Congress.”
When asked by Van Susteren if he was an anti-Semite, Traficant said he was not, adding, “What I am is an American.”
Traficant told Van Susteren that life in prison “was tough” and he was “put in a position to be hurt.”
Traficant said he was purposely placed in Allenwood [Pa.] Federal Prison because “there were a lot of illegal immigrants there. They knew I had the troops on the border.”
While in Congress, Traficant spoke in favor of putting military troops on the United States-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration into this country.
“Before long, I was in the hole,” Traficant said.
Traficant was placed in lock-down isolation because he refused to work in the prison kitchen, according to Vindicator files.
Traficant was first sent to Allenwood in August 2002 and transferred to a prison in Ray Brook, N.Y., in March 2004 and in December of that year to the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., where he served the rest of his time.
Traficant referred to Ray Brook as “the Gladiator School. There’s a lot of violence. Well, it was a medium high [security prison] ... most political figures go to some camps in country clubs. I didn’t.”
The Federal Bureau of Prisons lists Ray Brook as a medium-security facility.
“I mean, I was a prisoner, but I understood the dynamics of prison life,” he told Van Susteren. “And now what you have is — they want to keep the prisons open, keep the jobs going. They’re putting 20, 30 years on some of these young people, and it’s out of hand.”
Traficant had nice things to say about the Rochester facility, where he served most of his prison time.
“A lot of good guys there,” he said. “They’re sort of like family in a way. It’s a different experience.”
Traficant said that he shared 10-by-14-foot room with three other men and that toilets were public.
“The prison system is very crowded,” Traficant said. “It’s not very flattering. Quite frankly, it didn’t bother me at all.”
Responding to Traficant’s comments about his time in federal prison, Traci Billingsley, BOP’s chief public information officer, told The Vindicator: “James Traficant was treated just as every other inmate in the Bureau of Prisons. Designations to institutions are based on a variety of different factors, including the specific security, management, and program needs of the offender.”
When asked about Traficant’s time in “the hole,” Billingsley said: “As for the reference to being placed in our special housing unit, there are a variety of different reasons that inmates can be placed in this unit. Specific information regarding an inmate’s disciplinary record are privacy protected and we would be unable to provide information about this without a signed release from the offender.”
Traficant said that he did not want his wife, Tish, or any other members of his family to see him while he was in prison. He said he wanted them to remember him as he was.
Traficant told Van Susteren that he has not received much support from politicians because they are afraid to be associated with him.
“They’re scared to death,” he said. “If you’re a politician and you support me, you’re in trouble.”
He added that he has “some grudges, and I want to go at them ... they came to me and said if I said I was guilty, I might even get a pardon. And I told them to shove the pardon up their derriere sideways.”
Traficant maintained that he’s proud of his time as a congressman and that he was targeted.
“If they don’t beat you at the polls, they’ll put you in jail,” he said.
Since Traficant’s release from prison, the outspoken former congressman is keeping himself busy.
He attended an appreciation dinner Sunday in his honor speaking to about 1,200.
While it couldn’t be confirmed, it’s believed Traficant will attend today’s Sept. 11, 2001, commemorative event in Austintown at the township’s 9-11 Memorial Park on Raccoon Road.
Traficant is confirmed as the keynote speaker at a Taxed Enough Already [TEA] party to protest government spending and taxation at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Firestone Park in Columbiana.
Traficant will also be back in the radio talk show host chair from 10 a.m. to noon Monday on WKBN, 570 AM.
Traficant is filling in for Dan Rivers, who is also the station’s operations manager and will be in Washington, D.C., early next week.
Rivers said he contacted Traficant requesting he fill in, and the former congressman agreed.
While under indictment, Traficant hosted the station’s morning show from May 29 to June 1, 2001. He was also a guest host on WKBN in late December 2000.