We've all seen the video and heard Marianne Gingrich, talk about the tawdry details of her relationship, marriage and subsequent divorce with Newt. As sensational a story as that is, and potentially damaging to Newt, the story that broke on December 13th, 2011, by Joseph Trento, DC Bureau, appears, at least to me, to be more significant.
I was aware of many of Newts' activities, during his Speakership, as were many of you, but I don't remember this story. There's a reason for that;
That May 1995 phone call from Bennett to Soghanalian resulted in a two-year FBI investigation so sensitive that details have never before been made public. The goal of the investigation, according to a Justice Department official, “…was to see if Gingrich, through his then wife, was involved in an attempt by political associates to solicit bribes.” One of the team of FBI agents involved in the case says, “The investigation was called off before we were permitted to finish making a case.” Another agent says it was just “too politically sensitive. We got so close and when the target was in sight, we were stopped by Washington.”http://www.dcbureau.org/...
The Washington Post covered this 6,400 word post, a few days later. It lacks the many details, Joseph Trentos' includes in his verification, rich, investigative piece. It might be worth the read, if only to support, a vanishing craft.
On October 5, Sarkis Soghanalian, once the world’s largest private arms dealer, died at 82. He had sold weapons to scores of dictators including Saddam Hussein, and he took many secrets with him to his grave. But one secret he did not take involves Newt Gingrich when he was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. DCBureau has learned that Gingrich was at the center of a U.S. Justice Department criminal investigation in the late 1990s for a scheme to shake down the arms dealer for a $10 million bribe in exchange for Gingrich using his influence as Speaker to get the Iraq arms embargo lifted so Soghanalian could collect $54 million from Saddam Hussein’s regime for weapons he had delivered during the Iran-Iraq War.
Soghanalian was an FBI informant and was responsible for launching one of the most sensitive and secret investigations in FBI history involving the former Speaker and his second wife. According to Marianne Gingrich, it took the direct intervention of then FBI Director Louis J. Freeh to “get the investigation called off.” Freeh did not return emails and telephone calls for comment.
Here's some background;
A convicted felon with a long history of working with United States intelligence, Soghanalian cooperated with the FBI in the two-year investigation which included secretly taping emissaries with connections to Newt and Marianne Gingrich.
For several years, FBI agents instructed Soghanalian to get beyond the men who claimed to have ties to Gingrich and insist upon meeting with Gingrich and his former wife directly to prove that they could deliver the Speaker. But just before Soghanalian was to meet Gingrich and his former wife at a private Miami Beach fundraiser on June 8, 1997, arranged by one of these men, FBI headquarters called off the investigation. Washington ordered the FBI in Miami not to secretly tape record the fundraiser and to stop Soghanalian from attending.
From the Washington Post;
FBI agents began preparing to bug the meeting, but Neil Gallagher, then deputy chief of the FBI’s criminal division, ordered the investigation closed prior to the fundraiser, people familar with the case said. They said local agents were upset by Gallagher’s move.
“I’d have to refer any comment back to the FBI,” Gallagher said Thursday.
The FBI special agent in charge in Miami at the time, Paul Philip, who signed the document, said he could not recall the case. After reviewing the document, he said he could understand why the case did not progress.
“When you’re dealing with elected officials, you have to be real careful,” he said. “Not that they can do anything to us. But their reputations are so fragile, if you don’t really, truly try to do the right thing, you could really shaft somebody.”
Some insight into Marianne Gingrichs', relationship with Newt;
The FBI document states that Soghanalian, Marianne Gingrich, Ash and Bennett spent several days together in Paris. Gingrich said “her relationship with her husband was purely a relationship of convenience,” the document states. “She told [Soghanalian] that she needed her husband for economic reasons, and that he needed to keep her close because she knew of all his ‘skeletons.’ ”http://www.washingtonpost.com/...
“She also told [Soghanalian], ‘It’s time for me to make money using my husband, and after we get started doing this, it will be easy,” the document says.
Some more background regarding Marianne Gingrichs' involvement;
In January 1996, the document states, Soghanalian said he received a call from Bennett, who said he was acting on behalf of Marianne Gingrich and asked for $10 million to get the embargo lifted. Bennett wanted more than $1 million in advance, $300,000 in cash. The rest of the money was to be wired into Bennett’s bank account so that it could be transferred to the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, an Israeli-based think tank with offices in Washington where Ash was a fundraiser, according to the document.
“Bennett stated that the way they had the deal structured nobody would ever be able to prove it was anything illegal,” the document states. “Bennett stated that it would be handled like a campaign payment and ensured the source that [Marianne] Gingrich knew what she was doing. Bennett stated that the money was for Gingrich and her husband and that they needed buffers to protect them.”
Included in Trentos' post, is a five and half page PDF memo, presumably from the FBI to the DOJ, requesting recording and monitoring device, authorization. It has five signatures at the bottom of the page and explains, in detail, the monitoring request.
Marianne Gingrich said Thursday, “All that’s hogwash.”
Bruce Udolph, the former chief federal corruption prosecutor in Miami, said he could not confirm the existence of the investigation but added, “With respect to Speaker Gingrich, I am not aware of any direct, credible evidence linking him to any conspiracy to receive a bribe from anyone.”
The Justice Department referred calls to the FBI, which declined to comment on the case.
Democracy Now covered the story on December 16th;
FBI Probed Gingrich for Bribery After Wife Met with Convicted Arms Dealerhttp://www.democracynow.org/...
Newt Gingrich is facing a new potential controversy with the disclosure the FBI considered targeting him in a bribery-related sting operation in the late 1990s. It emerged this week the FBI investigated Newt Gingrich after an arms dealer claimed Gingrich’s wife, Marianne Gingrich, had floated the idea of a $10 million bribe for his backing to lift the arms embargo on Iraq. The arms dealer, Sarkis Soghanalian, nicknamed "The Merchant of Death," said Marianne Gingrich told him she could obtain legislative favors through her husband during a meeting in Paris in 1995. Marianne Gingrich has acknowledged meeting with Soghanalian but says she was seeking investment for her employer at the time.
I thought this was an important story, that doesn't seem to be getting much attention.
If it's been posted here before, I apologize, I must have missed it.