Safavian’s Big Day

We’ve been quiet about it so far, but privately we’ve been training, focusing, air-boxing to the Rocky theme music — let the era of the Abramoff trial begin!

Opening statements in the trial of Abramoff pal David Safavian are tomorrow, and Justin will be there at DC’s E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse to get the sights and sounds. (Running up the steps in a sweatshirt — Rising up, back on the street/Did my time, took my chances. . . )

Jack himself won’t be showing up – prosecutors have chosen to let his emails speak for themselves. (As a consolation prize, Rep. Bob Ney’s (R-OH) former staffer Neil Volz will take the stand.) And this isn’t exactly a bribery trial. Safavian, a former General Services Administration official, is charged with lying to GSA ethics officials, the GSA’s Inspector General, and investigators from the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. So it’s not really a good indicator of how prosecutors will fare in court when they go after members of Congress.But it’s the first Abramoff trial, and the only first Abramoff trial we’re ever going to get. (Doing one-armed pushups in a mountain cabin — Went the distance, now I’m not gonna stop/Just a man and his will to survive. . .)

What to expect? Simply put, Safavian’s lawyers will be arguing that he didn’t lie. Prosecutors will argue that he did. Repeat for two weeks or so.

The whole case (here’s the indictment) revolves around a golf trip to Scotland Safavian took while he was with the GSA. Safavian asked GSA ethics officials if he could fly there on Abramoff’s dime, saying that the lobbyist had “no business before the GSA.” The official said OK based on that assurance. Prosecutors say that was a lie.

The case expands from there, but that’s the basic issue: the definition of “business.” Safavian, who went way back with Abramoff, was corresponding regularly with him, and giving him all sorts of advice on how to obtain GSA properties (more on that later). Prosecutors say that constitutes business before the GSA – so Safavian lied. Safavian’s lawyer will try to split hairs and argue that Safavian’s help didn’t rise to the technical definition of “business.”

So, yeah, it’s a technicality. But there’s no telling what else prosecutors may pull out of their hat to press their case. We’ll be there to find out. (And he’s watchin’ us all in the eye . . . of the tiger!)