Jesse Jackson, Jr. does not have to talk to federal investigators about his role in the U.S. Senate selection process that led to criminal charges against the Illinois governor. But in a desperate attempt to save his political career, the congressman will submit to an interview with federal agents at great risk.
In Chicago on Thursday morning, Jesse Jackson, Jr. would not answer questions. There was no more talk about the allegation made in the Blagojevich criminal complaint that an un-named emissary offered the governor up to one million dollars to appoint the South Side congressman to the U.S. Senate.
"On the advice of counsel, I am going to have to defer any questions that you might have to him," Jackson said Thursday. "He is more than capable and more than willing to express my point of view."
On Friday or Monday, Jackson and his lawyer will go to the Dirksen Federal Building for an interview at the U.S. Attorney's office where FBI agents will take notes.
"It's a very hazardous situation for anyone," said Michael Monico, defense laywer.
Monico is a former federal prosecutor who has participated in such sessions on both sides. He says Jackson will be questioned but will not know everything that his interrogators already know about the case.
"Very often, prosecutors don't tell the interviewee much of what they know because they want to test the truthfulness of the interviewee," said Monico.
Jackson will be exposed to section 1001 of Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code that says anyone who lies or conceals the truth from a federal agent "shall be fined under this title, and/or imprisoned not more than five years."
Monico says politicians create other problems for themselves when they use the fifth amendment to avoid answering questions.
"Potentially if it comes out that they had declined to answer questions, it would be damaging to their political career," said Monico.
If true to form, federal investigators will not make any public statements about Jackson's interview leaving it up to the congressman to report what happened.
Political consultant Delmarie Cobb believes Jackson can survive the scrutiny because she says he has no history of corruption.
"He has done nothing in his prior record that would suggest anything, that there has been any scandal in his public career," said Cobb.
In another development on Thursday afternoon, Jesse Jackson, Sr., the congressman's father and civil rights leader, told ABC News that he was not the emissary who made the alleged offer to buy the U.S. Senate seat from the governor.He confirmed Wednesday that he is unidentified Senate Candidate 5 in court documents in the government's case against Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Jackson, Jr. back in Chicago Thursday morning
The congressman came and went from his South Shore neighborhood home Thursday morning. He came back at about 10 a.m. after flying back to from Washington D.C.
Jackson's car pulled into the driveway, and as the congressman got out, he seemed to be in a casual, relatively good mood as he greeted reporters. One of the first things he did was offer to bring us some coffee for the journalists waiting for him out in the cold.
Jackson stopped for a very brief interview, essentially politely declining to answer any questions.
"On the pending matters that are before the United States Attorney's Office, on the advice of counsel, I really can't comment. I spoke yesterday and shared with you my thoughts," Jackson said.
Jackson was asked when he was meeting with federal authorities.
"Please contact my counselor, Mr. Jim Montgomery. I'm sure he would be more than happy to share that information with you. I will be meeting with my lawyer today, however, shortly," Jackson said.
Jackson said he did not know when he was meeting with the feds.
"My lawyer will have all of the information. He would be more than willing to share it," Jackson said.
Many Thursday editorials following Jackson's news conference say that he actually raised more questions than he answered during his Wednesday news conference.