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Inside Politics

Feds interview N.J. governor

Source: McGreevey complained of blackmail

From Jonathan Wald

N.J. Gov. James McGreevey announced that he was gay at a news conference earlier this month.
James McGreevey
New Jersey
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

(CNN) -- FBI agents have interviewed New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey as part of the agency's investigation into his complaint that a former aide tried to blackmail him, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Separately, McGreevey's attorney confirmed the FBI interview, but provided few details about it.

McGreevey spoke voluntarily with two FBI agents for about an hour and a half Friday at Drumthwacket Mansion, the governor's official residence in Princeton, New Jersey, said criminal lawyer, William Lawler III, who was present during the interview.

"It was very well handled," Lawler said. "They were experienced agents who asked good questions and focused on the issues. They seem like they're moving promptly, and I'm confident that they will resolve this."

The governor announced his resignation August 12, disclosing that he was gay and saying that he had engaged in an extramarital homosexual affair. He said he will step down November 15, but he is under pressure by Republicans and some in his own party to leave office immediately.

The governor's announcement came, sources said, after Golan Cipel, a homeland security adviser to the governor in early 2002, threatened to file a lawsuit charging McGreevey with sexual harassment. Cipel's attorney has said Cipel is not gay.

McGreevey never named Cipel in his resignation announcement. He described a "consensual" affair with an unnamed man, but said remaining in office would leave him "vulnerable to rumors, false allegations and threats of disclosure."

A source familiar with the FBI investigation said there are concerns about Cipel's willingness to cooperate. "Cipel's giving mixed signals on his stated willingness to participate and his apparent unwillingness to participate," the source said.

"I mean, he's in Israel at the moment" and there is "very solid information that he will not talk to investigators," the source said.

But Cipel's lawyer, Allen Lowy, insisted that Cipel would "welcome the chance to speak to federal investigators" and said the FBI has not contacted his client.

Federal investigators interviewed Lowy recently, but he declined to comment on what was discussed. "I welcomed it. I answered all their questions and I look forward to assisting them again," Lowy said.

Cipel, an Israeli native and citizen, went back to Israel on August 17.

"I have had a very difficult time. I have come to Israel to be with my family at this time. I cannot expand on anything for legal reasons," he said at the time.

A federal law enforcement source said McGreevey's office contacted the FBI on the same day the governor made his announcement to say that Cipel had demanded millions of dollars to keep the matter out of court.

"We referred this investigation to federal authorities and naturally we are cooperating with it," said Micah Rasmussen, spokesman for McGreevey.

But Lowy denied his client was trying to extort money from McGreevey with the threat of a lawsuit "That is wrong," Lowy told CNN. "This was never about money. This was about justice."

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