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In the Crossfire

Congress beams up Traficant

(CNN) -- James Traficant became the second U.S. House member to be kicked out since the Civil War, after his colleagues voted 420-1 to expel him on Wednesday. The nine-term Ohio Democrat was convicted of federal corruption charges in April. Traficant has said he is the victim of a vendetta by federal prosecutors. In an impassioned final speech, Traficant declared, "I'll go to jail before I resign and admit to something I didn't do." Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-California, steps into the "Crossfire" with hosts James Carville and Tucker Carlson to discuss Traficant's allegations.

CARLSON: In contrast to -- most of your Congressmen coddled Mr. Traficant over the years. You've been hard on him. And he was asked about this last night on the Connie Chung show here on CNN.

I want you to listen to what he said.

[Videotape begins]

TRAFICANT: The reason Loretta Sanchez is doing that, is if you recall, she was embroiled in an election with Bob Dornan, that there was questionable illegal aliens that possibly voted in there.

And I was the only Democrat that voted to, in fact, have a new election. I don't think illegal aliens should determine the outcome of a federal election.

[Videotape ends]

CARLSON: Now, it's pretty clear this is payback, isn't it? You're going after him.

SANCHEZ: No, Tucker, this is about Americans having confidence that their people in the House of Representatives, their representatives, are honest and that they have integrity.

And certainly Traficant doesn't, and that's why we need to get him out.

CARLSON: But Congresswoman, this is really news from nowhere. I mean, he's been exploding on the House floor for, you know, almost 20 years now. He's written magazines -- he wrote a piece for a Holocaust denial magazine. He defended a Nazi war criminal. He was indicted in 1982 for bribery.

And people have known a lot about Traficant for a long time. Democrats have said nothing about it, lo these many years. Why not?

SANCHEZ: Tucker, this isn't anything about erratic behavior. I mean, you can have erratic behavior and be in the Congress.

This is about a guy that has done something very illegal, has been convicted of it, is a felon, should be serving prison time, and certainly should not be collecting a paycheck from the taxpayers.

CARVILLE: I just want to clear up one thing; doesn't he vote with the Republicans like 90 percent of the time?

SANCHEZ: He certainly votes with the Republicans.

But this is really about his bad behavior, about illegal activities. And in particular I think most of my colleagues are very upset at this whole issue of kickbacks from his staff.

CARVILLE: Let me show you a clip from Tucker's ideological soul mate here and something else he said that I want to give you a chance to respond to.

[Videotape begins]

TRAFICANT: And I wouldn't be surprised if I'm elected from a jail cell, because people know I got railroaded back here.

[Videotape ends]

CARVILLE: Do you think he was railroaded, or do you think that he was convicted in federal court for a crime, and it's time for him to shut up and pay his debt to society?

SANCHEZ: I believe, in particular, he was convicted. If there is one thing that has nothing to do with railroading, and that is the fact that he required his staff to give him money back for having a job with him.

That's totally unacceptable. There are too many young people who come here to the House of Representatives who want to serve in public service, want to learn the system, you know, are just great to work with.

And the last thing we need is an example of a congressperson giving them a job and taking money for that.

CARLSON: Wait a second, Congresswoman. Shouldn't this really be up to the voters of District 17 in Ohio?

Democrats for decades in that district have voted willingly, under no pressure, for Congressman Traficant. I bet, knowing Democratic voters, they'll vote for him again, even if he is in Leavenworth.

Shouldn't they be allowed to represent the Democrats of Ohio 17? Why not?

SANCHEZ: Tucker, I just can't believe that you're defending a felon. But let me tell you why...

CARLSON: I'm defending a choice that Democratic voters have made...

CARVILLE: Isn't this hilarious, that a Republican is defending voters after they steal a presidential election?

CARLSON: I'm defending voters, the people, James.

But seriously, the question stands. Shouldn't they be able to choose?




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