WAPO – In Jefferson trial, defense acted as though all DC politicians were on trial
“We all occupy the gray area — it’s just part of human nature,” Trout explained, as if former congressman William Jefferson’s proposal to bribe the vice president of Nigeria were an everyday occurrence.
“We’re going to make mistakes . . . we may do reckless things,” the lawyer continued, as if having $90,000 of the FBI’s money in Pillsbury pie crusts in the Louisiana Democrat’s house was tantamount to exceeding the speed limit.
To illustrate this curious analogy, Trout displayed a graphic for jurors. On one side of a yellow line, in bold red letters, was the word “CRIME.” On the other side of the yellow line were the words “recklessness,” “negligence” and “mistakes” — and a headless man in jacket and tie raising his hands in a shrug.
“The point here is what members of Congress are expected to do in their jobs,” Trout told the jurors. “If seeking political help was a crime, you could lock up half of metropolitan Washington, D.C.”
He likened Jefferson’s work to promote companies in which his family members had stakes to constituent casework — “something to be expected of our members of Congress.” Trying to persuade foreign governments to do deals with those companies? Part of “a congressman’s customary use of his office” to boost U.S. businesses. “It is clearly a matter of settled practice for congressmen to pitch products” of American companies.