The new indictment of Jim Tobin in the 6-year-old New Hampshire phone jamming case, which we first reported today at TPMmuckraker, requires some reconsideration of whether the Justice Department has been insufficiently aggressive in the case — or perhaps whether new hands at DOJ are taking a more aggressive tack.
The big question in the case has always been how high up in the GOP political apparatus did knowledge of and involvement with the phone jamming scheme go?
At the time of the 2002 scheme, Tobin was the New England regional political director for the RNC and regional director for the NRSC. As the phone jamming case heated up, Tobin was forced to resign as New England campaign chairman for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign.
On Election Day 2002, as the scheme was falling apart, Tobin made 12 calls between 11:20 a.m. and 11:42 p.m. EST to the White House political office, then run by Ken Mehlman, who later became RNC chairman. (Mehlman has denied that any of the calls that day had anything to do with the phone-jamming scheme.) The RNC has spent nearly $3 million defending Tobin against the criminal charges. (Two other GOP operatives did jail time over the incident.)
The case looked all but dead earlier this year. Tobin won his appeal of his conviction so convincingly that the trial judge felt he had no choice but to acquit him. The government’s appeal of that decision is pending, but frankly looked like a long shot. If the feds were inclined to let this case die a natural death, you would have expected it to end with that appeal.
For the government now to come back with a new indictment based on new facts completely unrelated to the initial phone jamming incident, but instead focused on Tobin’s alleged false statements to FBI agents investigating the case (presumably to avoid the double jeopardy trap), is definitely an aggressive move, especially less than a month before the next election.
Are the feds taking another look at the RNC and the White House, too?