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Sources: Two lawmakers could face charges in Abramoff probe

Rep. Ney among a half dozen who could face charges

From Kelli Arena and Kevin Bohn
CNN Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Up to a half dozen people, including two members of Congress, could face charges after high-powered lobbyist Jack Abramoff's plea deal with the Justice Department, sources with knowledge of the investigation tell CNN.

Abramoff has been cooperating with Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents for several months in their investigation of his dealings, including his allegations of exchanging gifts for political favors.

Authorities have focused on about 20 people who possibly committed wrongful acts, government sources have previously told CNN. The number is a moving target as new information comes in.

Sources with knowledge of the investigation say at least two members of Congress are under scrutiny as part of the ongoing investigation. One is Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, who sources say was the person identified in Abramoff's plea agreement as the official who took action for Abramoff after receiving from him such things as a golf trip to Scotland.

Ney has steadfastly denied wrongdoing, has pledged to cooperate with the investigation and has said he is confident he will be cleared.

The sources would not identify the other member, and they told CNN that no charges appear imminent.

DeLay staffers under scrutiny

Also under scrutiny, the sources say, are some current and former congressional staffers, including at least two people who used to work for then-House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay. DeLay, R-Texas, and Abramoff had a long working relationship.

Investigators are also examining the activities of some officials at the Interior Department and the General Services Administration, sources tell CNN. One former GSA official, David Safavian, was indicted in October on charges of obstructing a GSA proceeding, obstructing a U.S. Senate proceeding and making false statements in connection with the investigation.

Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges January 3 and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. About 30 to 40 FBI agents and other staff are working full-time on this investigation, which officials have said is a high priority for the government. (Full Story)

Legal experts have said while there may be some evidence of ethical violations, it is very hard to prosecute government officials for acting on a bribe, because it is standard operating procedure for lobbyists to do favors for those in power hoping to get something in return. They say it is very hard to bring a court case to prove someone acted as a direct result of a bribe.

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