Report: FBI 'Buried' Its 1990s Gingrich Probe

 

The FBI investigated in the 1990s reports that then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich was at the center of a $10 million bribery plot involving his second wife, Marianne. But the FBI dropped the investigation before determining if any money might change hands after the bureau's director concluded the FBI lacked sufficient evidence to pursue a sting Newt Gingrich-Wikipediafor evidence.

That's the central allegation of a report Dec. 13 by DC-based investigative reporter Joseph Trento, who reports that the FBI "buried" the probe. The Washington Post addressed the matter also in a column published Dec. 16.

Marianne Gingrich and her attorney say the family name was misused by arms traffickers -- and there was no bribe, conspiracy or other reason for the FBI to investigate.

Trento, a longtime journalist who writes for the non-profit DC Bureau on national security matters, broke the story in the 6,000-word piece, Newt Gingrich, Marianne and the Arms Dealer: A Buried FBI Investigation.

The column was based on extensive interviews, including with prominent arms dealer Sarkis Soghanalian, who died at age 82 in October. "He had sold weapons to scores of dictators including Saddam Hussein," Trento wrote, "and he took many secrets with him to his grave. But one secret he did not take involves Newt Gingrich."

"DC Bureau has learned," Trento continued, "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."

Louis Freeh
In FBI Considered A Sting Aimed At Newt Gingrich In 1997, Post reporter James V. Grimaldi wrote that "a series of second- and third-hand conversations alleging that the top man in Congress might be for sale" caught the attention of federal investigators. “There are so many falsehoods,” Marianne Gingrich, Gingrich's second-wife, told Grimaldi Thursday. “The FBI, they should have been protec
 
ting me, not going after me. This is scary stuff.” Grimaldi wrote that Gingrich’s presidential campaign did not provide immediate comment.
 
The FBI director from 1993 to 2001 was Louis Freeh, at right in his official photo. He has been apponited a special investigator into allegations of sexual abuse by former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The DCBureau and Washington Post reports on this are excerpted below. "I think they did a good job with the space they had," Trento commented to me Dec.16 on the Post followup to his scoop. "It's a very complicated story."

 

 

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Joseph TrentoDC Bureau, Newt Gingrich, Marianne and the Arms Dealer: A Buried FBI Investigation, Joseph Trento (at left), Dec. 13, 2011.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.
 
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 investigNewt Gingrichation called off.” Freeh did not return emails and telephone calls for comment. 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. The cast of characters include personalities no Hollywood screenwriter could invent.
 
Washington Post, FBI Considered A Sting Aimed At Newt Gingrich In 1997, James V. Grimaldi, Dec. 15, 2011. It is a curious case in the annals of the FBI: The bureau considered a sting operation against then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich after sifting through allegations from a notorious arms dealer that a $10 million bribe might get Congress to lift the Iraqi arms embargo. The FBI ended up calling off the operation in June 1997.
 
It decided there was no evidence that Gingrich knew anything about the conversations the arms dealer was secretly recording with a man who said he was acting on behalf of Gingrich’s then-wife, Marianne, according to people with knowledge of the investigation. But details of the case, which became public this week in an article and documents posted online by a nonprofit journalist, show how a series of second- and third-hand conversations alleging that the top man in Congress might be for sale caught the attention of federal investigators. “There are so many falsehoods,” Marianne Gingrich said Thursday. “The FBI, they should have been protecting me, not going after me. This is scary stuff.” Her lawyer, Victoria Toensing, said: “There was no basis whatsoever for an investigation. These were people puffing, which means they were making up access to a high-level government person.” Gingrich’s presidential campaign did not provide immediate comment when asked for response Thursday. (Gingrich is at right in his official portrait at the House.)
 
DC Bureau, The Death of The Merchant of War, Joseph Trento, Oct. 13,2011. In late summer 1995, a fax arrived at my office. The written invitation came by mail a week later. Sarkis Soghanalian, the international arms dealers, had been released from an American prison and had set up shop in Paris. He was hosting his coming out party. A larger than life character, he wanted the world to know he was back in business. He also wanted to thank his friends and family who had stood by him through that awful ordeal. I was included because I had kept in touch with him throughout his prison term, bringing journalists to interview him. I knew if the media was watching, the authorities would be less reticent to try something sinister.