There he goes!
Sen. Conrad Burns' (R-MT) campaign manager has proudly announced
that his boss has confirmed he is not
a "target" of the Abramoff investigation.
As we've learned from previous scandal figures, that can only mean one thing: the investigators are making progress.
"The Department of Justice told Sen. Burns' counsel that no, in fact, he is not the target," Burns' spokesman said yesterday afternoon. The comments came after Time Magazine reported
that a source "close to the investigation" said that Burns was getting "particular scrutiny" in the wake of Rep. Bob Ney's (R-OH) guilty plea.
It's a statement finely tuned to sound like Burns has been exonerated. But of course, it doesn't really mean anything except that prosecutors won't be knocking down his door tomorrow. As the Great Falls Tribune noted
"Target" is a specific term indicating that a prosecutor or grand jury likely has evidence linking someone to a crime.
In other words, the Feds ain't got the goods. Yet.
As a former federal prosecutor noted when Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) tried the same line, "If she's not a target, that's nice, but that doesn't mean she's not under scrutiny....It's sort of a play on words." Among others, Tom DeLay has insisted he's "not a target" of the Abramoff investigation.
In fact, the "not a target" line is such a beloved instrument of the mucked-up pol that we've incorporated it into our TPMmuckraker Political Scandal Process (TM).
For those uninitiated to the TPSP, Stages I-III include:
- Allegations of wrongdoing appearing in media
- Hiring of expensive lawyer
- News of federal investigation appearing in media.
Stage IV is the denial that the lawmaker is, in fact, a target. We'll see how much further up the process Burns goes. Note also that Burns was named one of the three most corrupt senators in Congress by the D.C. watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.