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Saturday, August 02, 2008

More on Trent Lott

While I have no sympathy whatsoever for State Farm, nor any other insurance company that sought to deny Katrina claims over semantics (i.e., if Category 5 force hurricane winds lift up the goddamn Gulf and slam it into your house, is that wind or flood damage?), I also think that an acting Senator (at the time) using his stature to influence the players in a pending legal case is pretty foul.

Anyway, Wednesday night, I posted an AP news item on a State Farm attorney introducing the prospect that Trent Lott, on behalf of his brother-in-law (and in his own self-interest as a claimant in the case against State Farm), may have urged witnesses to give false information. Under questioning on the issue, Zach Scruggs invoked the 5th.

On Thursday, that attorney, Jim Robie, talked with LegalNewsLine:
"Clearly, the record couldn't be more plain that Sen. Lott and his associates were talking to people that were key advisers to Mr. Scruggs, paid consultants and those who were creating an illusion that simply doesn't have any basic fact," Robie told Legal Newsline on Thursday.

Robie said he will continue his efforts to depose both Richard and Zach Scruggs, during which he will probe the influence of Lott.

"I expect to follow-up deposition of both Zach and Dick, which will now have to take place in a federal penitentiary," Robie said. "They clearly had a close liaison with Sen. Lott."

Robie said Lott, a leading Republican, initiated contact with people surrounding this case, something unprecedented for a U.S. Senator.

"Have you ever had a U.S. Senator call you?" he asked rhetorically.

Bret Boyles, a spokesman for Lott's lobbying firm The Breaux Lott Leadership Group, told Legal Newsline the former senator had no interest in justifying the implication with a response....

...Both Zach and his father invoked their Fifth Amendment right to virtually every question asked of them during their deposition last week. The pair filed a motion Friday asking the court to seal their testimony to State Farm, claiming it could hurt them in future criminal proceedings, and compromise their Fifth Amendment rights.

"There are no seal orders," Robie said. "We filed our motions to compel and they are public record."

Lott's name surfaced during the Scruggs legal odyssey when one of the convicted attorneys testified that Scruggs instructed him to offer a bribe to influence a county circuit judge, not with cash as in the case he pleaded guilty to, but "the influence of Mr. Scruggs' brother-in-law, who was Sen. Trent Lott, to put him on a list to be considered for a federal vacancy.''

Lott did place a call to the judge, but did not nominate him, according to published reports.

Lott unexpectedly announced his resignation from the Senate just days before Richard Scruggs was indicted last November. At the time, CNN reported that Lott's resignation was due in part to an act that took effect at the end of 2007 forbidding lawmakers from lobbying for two years after leaving office.

Lott said his desire to spend more time with family, not the new law, influenced his decision to resign. Less than two months (later) he opened his lobbying firm.

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