‘Downton Abbey’ Rep Remains Defiant: I Was Targeted Because I Was ‘High Profile’

If former congressman-turned-indicted felon-turned-free-man Aaron Schock (R-IL) could travel back in time, he might not have posed shirtless, parading his six-pack for the cover of Men’s Health magazine.

That, along with his age, Instagram account and infamous “Downton Abbey” office decor made him a “high profile” member of Congress, he told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” hosts on Thursday. And, he added, an easy target.

“I could have done a better job of overseeing my office,” he admitted. “I also think when you are the youngest member of Congress, as I was, and you’re very high profile, as I was, and you do things that are nontraditional, by the way, that aren’t illegal, right? Being on the cover of Men’s Health gets you a lot of attention. Being one of the first members of Congress, 10 years ago, that was on Instagram gets you a lot of attention, right? Now some of that stuff is not as sizzley.”

Schock, sitting for an interview for the first time since the federal charges against him were dropped and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge — which essentially amounts to filling out paperwork wrong — thinks those factors are what led to a “fishing expedition” that culminated in a 24-count felony indictment against him. Among many other things, the 2016 indictment alleged that Schock reimbursed himself for thousands of miles he never drove; used government and campaign money to remodel his apartment, his office and take a private plane to a Chicago Bears game; and spent congressional money on camera equipment for himself and his personal photographer.

“They used 30 federal agents, they subpoenaed over 100 witnesses and flew them in to Springfield, Illinois to testify in the grand jury,” he said. “Everything from my mother, my brother, my sister, my father, to all of my good friends, to my business associates who I bought a house with when I was 18 all the way up to my current business associates all the way out in California who I never even worked with until I left Congress and it became a massive fishing expedition in the pursuit to try to find anything that they could charge me with.”

In a stroke of dumb luck, Schock’s four-year-long felony case was moved from Springfield to Chicago six months ago and the case was set to go to trial in June. Schock faced up to 100 years in prison for the charges. But in a surprise hearing on Wednesday, the charges were dropped and U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly approved the misdemeanor deal at prosecutors’ urging. Prosecutors said it was a “fair and just” resolution to the case after they conducted a review, according to the Chicago Tribune. 

Schock lamented the anxiety the case had brought to his life and he relitigated some of the issues he faced with the federal prosecutors handling his case. Before the charges were dropped this week, Schock had been through three federal prosecutors. Two were removed from the case for misconduct.

“It’s the first morning I’ve woken up today that I’m not facing 80-100 years in prison,” he told MSNBC. “Am I excited about that? Sure. Am I bitter about what has happened to me over the last couple of years? I think any American would.”

Schock told “Morning Joe” he plans to meet with former colleagues to discuss justice system reforms. After that, his future is wide open.

“Now that I’m not an alleged felon, I think there are more opportunities that I can explore,” he said.

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