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Traficant criticizes Congress but not Obama on ‘Hardball’

Published: Thu, September 24, 2009 @ 12:06 a.m.

The ex-congressman called Congress ‘a big whorehouse.’

By David Skolnick

YOUNGSTOWN — James A. Traficant Jr. played “Hardball” during an interview on MSNBC, but the questions asked of the former congressman were more of the softball variety.

During the 11-minute interview, “Hardball” host Chris Matthews asked only a few questions, including one already asked several times by others: “Are you running for office again?”

“You never know, I may,” Traficant responded Wednesday.

Traficant spoke about several of the same topics he’s discussed since his Sept. 2 release from a federal prison after serving a sentence of seven years and one month.

Those topics included the elimination of the IRS and going to a flat-tax system, the trade deficit, that he was “targeted by the Justice Department since 1983,” and the plight of retired Delphi salaried workers who are facing the loss of their retirement and health-care benefits.

Matthews made a few statements when talking to Traficant.

In one case, he said, “You sound like a Republican.”

In response, Traficant said, “If it’s good for America, I support it. This is the problem in Washington. Too many of these people walk like little lemmings over the cliff with so-called leaders. Chris, I’ve got to tell you something. I’ve never seen such weak leadership [in Congress] in my life.”

Traficant, of Poland, described Congress as a “big whorehouse.”

But he was respectful of President Barack Obama.

“As far as Obama’s concerned, I tell these TEA [Taxed Enough Already] Party groups, ‘Hey, look I don’t think you should be going after President Obama. I think his hands are pretty much tied. I think his heart’s in the right place.’”

Traficant has also appeared on cable television news shows on Fox News and CNN.

Traficant, expelled from the U.S. House after more than 17 years as a congressman, was found guilty in April 2002 on 10 felony convictions including racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.

Matthews asked if Traficant was “in any way guilty as charged.”

“No, I was not guilty ... in any way, in any way,” Traficant responded.

Traficant claimed that “four of the seven people who testified against me now it’s come out that they lied.”

There were more than seven people who were defense witnesses and none have publicly stated they lied during Traficant’s 2002 corruption case.



1UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Jimbo we need you - please run again and get rid of one of the slackers Wilson & Ryan. Neither has done anything to help us with good paying union jobs in the valley.

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2valleyred(1103 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

He is fueled by populist anger. He certainly sounded like a Republican, with the exception he didn't attack Obama.

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3saddad(655 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Doesnt anybody remember where Jimbo "sits"? The mobsters were on tape talking about which faction he sat with. But he goes on TV and claims to be an innocent man. Any responsible news outlet would have the tapes or transcripts at hand when asking him if he was a guilty man.

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4ConservativeView(1 comment)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

For years I have been trying to figure out the people of this valley. Many of you call yourselves Democrats, and you refuse to vote for ANYONE with an R at the end of their name. Yet the majority of the people that I speak with have extremely conservative viewpoints? Do any of you realize that the current Democratic regime is the most liberal the party has been ever in the history of politics? They want to give everything away and they want you to pay for it! It amazes me that people who live in this valley and absolutely hate what the inner cities have become and talk in such disgust about those who have ruined the once great city of Youngstown, would want to turn around and hand those same people more for free. The problem in this town is that none of you WANT it to change for the better. You would all rather sit around and boo hoo about the good old days when the skies were black with smoke from the many steelmills that were in operation. Guess what, that time is over. This valley needs to move on. Jim Traficant did more for bringing money to this area than Tim Ryan will ever dream of! The convocation center, 7/11 connector, TWO federal courthouses, and many other projects, were the result of Traficant's hard-charging, take-no-crap attitude in Congress. Ryan is Nancy Pelosi's playtoy and will never have the guts to stand up for his own valley, in fear of losing his precious position in the party. Jim Traficant may or may not have been guilty for his actions, but you always know where Jim stood on the issues. I dont mind someone getting their share of they pie, as long as I get a slice too. Right now, Congress is eating the whole pie, and the Mahoning Valley isnt even getting the crumbs. People of this valley, WAKE UP! We need to stand together and we need to take our country back! I think that Jim Traficant would be the best man to lead that charge.

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5DoctorGonzo(728 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

"In response, Traficant said, “If it’s good for America, I support it. This is the problem in Washington. Too many of these people walk like little lemmings over the cliff with so-called leaders. Chris, I’ve got to tell you something. I’ve never seen such weak leadership [in Congress] in my life.”

- No argument here.

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6EliotNess_DC(86 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

To: saddad
Subject: Traficant evidence

You wrote: "Any responsible news outlet would have the tapes or transcripts at hand when asking him if he was a guilty man."

I reply: "Any responsible news outlet would have pursued interviews with Detore and Okolo, witnesses kept away from Traficant's trial, whose sworn testimony is that they were outrageously pressured by the DOJ to lie about Traficant."

The Vindicator is NOT a "responsible news outlet." It has not bothered to drive a few miles in order to interview witnesses Ferrante, Nemenz, Sugar, et al. or jurors Grodi and Glaser.

Instead, the Vindy taunts Traficant, daring him to give them an interview.

Sad. Desperate.

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7EliotNess_DC(86 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Here's a link to the audio of Jim's interview with Chris Matthews:


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8Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Now if I was Jim Traficant I would assess that if you were mired in quicksand perhaps a base to stand on would be good . Now with a view of the past so called good old days perhaps the business of building a base to stand on would be good . Not confronting Obama is good as a Presidential pardon may be had by keeping him in a good mood .

PR is everything and even Bill Clinton knows that . Local PR should start with making peace with the Vindy . Exposure in the news is good . The only bad publicity is no publicity .

So if you want to present your side of the past the place to start would be a Jim Traficant museum and art gallery . It would be sure to hit the news and assure a steady stream of visitors . The logical place would be exit 223 off I 80 . This would get the tourists and the locals .

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9Attis(1134 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Kudos to The Honorable Jim Traficant! He did all America, except the traitors among us, a world of service with his sacrifice and courage. His case has the potential to finally rip the facade off that House of ill Repute in D.C., the one that stripped him, an innocent man of the We The People, of his duly elected congressional seat and helped send him, AIPAC #1 target, to prison for seven long years for simply speaking the truth to power. Shout it from the rooftops, Jim. America is listening.

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10Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

So Chief, how has Youngstown benefited from Tim Ryan particularly?

Did Tim Ryan start downtown in the right direction? Hmm, no, that was Jim Trafican't securing those millions for the Chevy Center that helped start that revolution. Thank you Congressman Traficant.

Did he provide better access between Warren and Youngstown? No, I think that was Traficant with the 7-11 connector. If I recall, getting to Warren from Youngstown was a pain without it, and I remember many people complaining about it regularly. Thank you Congressman Traficant.

Who helped fund the Youngstown Business Incubator? It was Jim Traficant who helped secure that $500,000 grant for its development. Jim Traficant, not Tim Ryan. Ryan may be prancing around right now taking credit, but it was Traficant that helped get that ball rolling. Thank you Congressman Traficant.

Has Tim Ryan helped mediate or resolve any strikes? No, but Traficant did, and on several occasions. Some individuals in the local unions say Ryan took an interest in local strikes only when presidential candidate John Kerry showed up. They are saying Ryan was nowhere to be found before that.

At best, Tim Ryan simply has continued and taken credit for things he had no involvement with prior to Traficant's tenure in Congress.

Spare me your "if that is all Traficant did" line of crap. Name me some things Ryan has did that has not been a direct line to Traficant's original work in Congress. Ryan certainly has learned to kiss ass on his own, but what jobs has Ryan brought to this area that has not been connected in some way to Traficant?

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11rocky14(837 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

He is again calling congress a " big wh house.Do you remember when he said that when he first went to Congress? Then he backed off and said he didn't mean that.All he was doing was listening to his leaders.
He now says that 4 people that testified against him said they lied.That in itself is a lie because none of them said they lied.

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12Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Who would publicly admit to lying in a court of law? The sentence for perjury is a felony that can result in a prison sentence for a number of years.

I think that is a pretty good reason why no one would be willing to come forward. From a purely logical and rational standpoint, it would not make sense to put yourself at risk.

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13msweetwood(179 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Let's be clear, Eliot: The Vindicator would only seek to ask Jim Traficant serious questions, not fawn over him like supporters or Greta, et al. That is what is at issue here. He knows, as he has always known, that the only way to regain true credibility is to sit down and take hard questions from professional, working journalists who are very familiar with the record and have the insight to press him on facts.

Unfortunately, those very same hard questions are why you'll see him on ANY TV show from Jerry Springer on down before you'll see him sit still for this newspaper or, say, journalists from The Washington Post, etc.

If you are going to be honest, then you have to admit he is ducking The Vindicator and choosing the friendly fire of outdoors radio shows and "On the Record" and such so he can hit softballs out of the park while controlling the setting.

Skolnick, Mangan, de Souza, et al would welcome his appearance at a meeting of the editorial board. In fact, one technological evolution since he was sent to prison, is that we can now video-record our editorial board meetings so they can be posted online. We'd be happy to record such a meeting with Jim. That pretty much eliminates the oft-stated concern that somehow he would get over-edited. Skolnick has further offered that we also run his interview in verbatim in print as we did with Marc Dann in May, but to no avail.

Mark Sweetwood
Managing Editor

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14paulydel(1607 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

I believe that Jim was railroaded because he wouldn't play nice wiath his fellow politicians. We need more people who speak their mind and not follow the morons who wnat to lead this country into total bankruptcy. I hope he he will see Obuma for what he is a socialist liar who should have an asterisk by his name.

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15Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago


I would be interested in hearing some of the tough questions to the Vindicator would like to ask. Seriously, if you could provide an example or two (I'm not asking you to give everything away), I would appreciate it.

In the past, particularly in regards to Mr. de Souza, this paper has not been friendly to the former Congressman. I am a frequent reader of the Vindicator, and this paper has been highly critical and opinionated of him. I do not think there is any question about where Mr. de Souza stands in regards to the former Congressman, and I am sure Mr. Traficant realizes that just as much as I do. I doubt an interview would change the opinions of the editorial board in the slightest if you want my honest opinion.

Traficant views the Vindicator as a hostile environment given the past coverage. While I understand you want an interview, what will the nature of these tough questions be? Will they be about his involvement with organized crime and the nature of his relationship with local political figures who were indicted back in the 80s and 90s? Will they be primarily about the investigation? Or will these questions be aimed at trying to catch Traficant in a lie or looking bad for the benefit of the paper?

I do not believe making Traficant look bad is the primary goal, but certainly I can see his point of view on the matter and how he might believe that.

I agree, if Traficant is going to challenge the Vindicator, the least he can do it sit down and have an interview. Just given how this paper has covered him in the past, I can see why he would be hesistant.


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16Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

I would like to see Jim do a book on mafia dealings in The Valley and their control of the politicians . Many unanswered questions remain in his dealings with JJ Cafaro also .

An interview with the Vindy could be a start in baring the past and charting a course for the future . This would be good for Jim and the Vindy . A series of articles and interviews would be appreciated by the readers who have followed the issues in the Jim Traficant saga . Jim's side of the story could be presented on a personal local level .

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17EliotNess_DC(86 comments)posted 6 years, 10 months ago

Reply to Mark Sweetwood, Vindy Managing Editor

1) If the Vindy were to provide a real 'reporter' (like Patty Meade was) then it might get an interview with Traficant.

2) DeSouza and Skolnick are not 'reporters.' They are are 'editorial' writers (not that there's anything wrong with that!). Traficant is not giving interviews to editorial writers.

3) Bertram has always been a junior prosecutor who simply cannot rest until Traficant confesses and apologizes for some sort of crime.

4) Skolnick apparently considers his audience uniformed. Every article contains a formulaic recitation like this: "Traficant was found guilty in April 2002 on 10 felony convictions including racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion."

5) Skolnick is nearly as pugnacious as Bertram. For example, he wrote "because we won’t throw softballs, I’m sure Traficant — who certainly talks big — will continue to duck."

That's not reporting. It's advocacy (not that there's anything wrong with that!).

6) Skolnick noted that Traficant "claimed" to Chris Matthews that “four of the seven people who testified against me, now it’s come out that they lied.”

Skolnick then editorialized: "There were more than seven people who were defense witnesses and none have publicly stated they lied during Traficant’s 2002 corruption case."

Skolnick failed to mention that Traficant has real live tape recordings and affidavits and witnesses that impeach the testimony of witnesses against him, and that these were not allowed into evidence at the trial.

7) I've encouraged Skolnick to interview the local jurors and the local witnesses. And I've encouraged the locals to talk to Skolnick. But it's probably too late. Traficant is clearly fed up with the Vindy's ankle biting reportage. No 'news' ... just a persistent 'drum beat' that Traficant is guilty-and-unrepentant.

8) N.B. that after six years and $15 million and hundreds of FBI agents, witnesses who steadfastly refused to lie about Trafciant (Okolo, Detore) ... and a also witness that Traficant caught in perjury (Nemenz) ... were kept away from Traficant's trial by the DOJ.

Witnesses who succumbed to intense DOJ pressure to lie about Traficant were put on the stand but Traficant's evidence of their perjury was never allowed before the jury.

9) As soon as the jury heard Detore one juror publicly recanted his 'guilty' verdict. But the Vindy has ignored Detore [and Okolo].

10) The Vindy is going to miss out on the political story of the year ... Traficant's conjuring of fire and brimstone to rain down on Pennsylvania Avenue here where DOJ is HQ'd ... as the Press and public finally learn about the suppressed witnesses, Okolo and Detore. (Traficant's friends have been shouting about them for years, but Jim's got the big microphone that we lack.)

11) If the Vindy were to hire a reporter to cover the Traficant story, it might get some traction.

Meanwhile, enjoy the show!

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18xytown(63 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago


WELL SAID! The Vindicator is and alway's has been a rag.

Again excellent overview...

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19msweetwood(179 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago


1.) Since he was released from a prison medical facility, Jim Traficant has also refused interviews with Vindicator reporters Harold Gwin and Jon Moffett. So, Eliot, your premise is flawed.

2.) Sean Hannity is not an opinionated "editorial writer?" Go here: http://www.hannity.com//Article.asp?i...

3.) Bertram joins others who expect Mr. Traficant to come completely clean. Obfuscating this legitimate viewpoint with "So-and-so was pressured!" or "Every politician is a crook; Jimbo just got caught!" clearly will not quell every opinion.

4.) Every one of your posts contains a formulaic recitation like this: "the Vindy has ignored so-and-so who was pressured" as if being "pressured" whether externally or internally to testify is mutually exclusive with "telling the truth." Could it have been possible for people to both feel pressured AND to have told the truth? Further, in the version you portray, everyone who felt pressured is automatically guilty of lying under oath BUT they never lied when they told Mr. Traficant they felt "pressured." Really?

5.) Your pugnacious advocacy is acceptable, but Skolnick stating the actual record is somehow an affront?

6.) Again, Dave was stating the actual record. However, we would be happy to review any of Mr. Traficant's recordings or evidence. If they are as legitimate as the mob tapes, we'd be happy to post them online, too.

7.) That drum beat you hear is also reflective of a large segment of the population.

8.) See No. 4. You are repeating your methodology.

9.) Ditto.

10.) Retrying a trial seven years after a guilty verdict and a prison sentence is not going to get much traction after the "Jimbo is back!" novelty wears off. The "they-had-to-cheat-to-get-me" logic raises another battle of the mutually exclusives: Even if he was a high-profile target of the Justice Department, had he walked the straight-and-narrow, they would not have been able to get so many people close to him to testify to
wrong-doing. It is possible that both "They were out to get me!" and "Jim broke the law!" are true. The first doesn't cancel the second unless your remaining point is reduced to: "Even if Jim Traficant was guilty, the prosecutors broke the law therefore Mr. Traficant should have been freed on a technicality." Which, of course, is entirely different from "not guilty of any wrong-doing whatsoever."

11.) I am suggesting an editorial board meeting before several editors similar to the endorsement interview process that scores of local politicians are undergoing right now. You make it sound as if he is afraid of Bertram and Dave, let alone Harold and Jon.

Eliot, I don't mind shadowboxing with some proxy, but I've stated our case. Either Jim sits down with us or he doesn't. We'll be fine either way. But if he chooses to continue to duck The Vindicator, no one, yourself included ­will be fooled as to why.

Mark M. Sweetwood
Managing Editor

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