We told you it was likely to happen. And now it has.
John Ashcroft’s top aide from the Justice Department has pleaded the fifth in the trial of a member of Team Abramoff.David Ayres, called as a defense witness in Kevin Ring’s trial, repeatedly invoked his right to avoid self-incrimination, responding to questions from defense lawyers by declaring:
Based on the advice of counsel, I respectfully decline to answer, invoking my constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment.
Ayres was being asked about prosecutors’ claims that, while Ashcroft’s chief of staff at the Justice Department, he reversed an earlier decision by green-lighting federal money for a prison project sought by an Abramoff client — then accepted sought-after college basketball tickets from Ring.
Ring is on trial for allegedly using meals, drinks, and tickets to events to influence public officials. David Safavian, the former chief procurement officer for the Bush administration, is the only person to go on trial in connection to the Abramoff scandal. He was convicted of lying to investigators. Sixteen other people have pleaded guilty
Ayres parlayed his time at the Justice Department into a lucrative private-sector gig. He teamed with Ashcroft and a former Dick Cheney aide to found The Ashcroft Group, a law and “strategic consulting” firm. Ayres currently serves as the firm’s CEO.
Ayres did not respond to TPMmuckraker’s request for comment. He has not yet spoken publicly about his role in the case.