Thursday, September 15, 2005

New Orleans Congressman Uses National Guard To Go To His Home

Amid the chaos and confusion that engulfed New Orleans after..." This is an ABC story, by the way. "Amid the chaos and confusion that engulfed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck, a congressman used National Guard troops to check on his property and rescue his personal belongings — even while New Orleans residents were trying to get rescued from rooftops, ABC News has learned.
William Jefferson
On [Friday] Sept. 2 — five days after Katrina [vanden Heuvel] hit the Gulf Coast — Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who represents New Orleans and is a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, was allowed through the military blockades set up around the city to reach the Superdome, where thousands of evacuees had been taken. Military sources tells ABC News that Jefferson, an eight-term Democratic congressman, asked the National Guard that night to take him on a tour of the flooded portions of his congressional district. A 5-ton military truck and a half dozen military police were dispatched. Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard tells ABC News that during the tour, [Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA)] asked that the truck take him to his home on Marengo Street, in the affluent uptown neighborhood in his congressional district. According to Schneider, this was not part of Jefferson's initial request. Jefferson defended the expedition, saying he set out to see how residents were coping at the Superdome and in his [affluent] neighborhood. He also insisted that he did not ask the National Guard to transport him. He said..." In fact, here's what he said. I don't know where this is from but we have the audio anyway. This is what he said.

JEFFERSON: I did not seek the use of military assets to help me get around my city. There was shooting going on; there was sniping going on. They thought it needed to be secured by some military guards.

So he didn't seek the use of military assets to help him get around the city. He says, "There was shooting going on. There was sniping going on. They thought I should be escorted by some military guards, both to the convention center, the Superdome and uptown." Now, when they got to the affluent neighborhood where the Democrat Congressman William Jefferson lives, the water they found reached to the third step of Jefferson's house. This, again, according to the a military source familiar with the incident. "The vehicle pulled up onto the front lawn" of the affluent William Jefferson's home "so that he wouldn't have to walk in the water." Jefferson -- the affluent William Jefferson, Democrat, Louisiana -- went to his house alone in the affluent neighborhood, the source says, "while soldiers waited on the porch for about an hour, while [Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA)] from an affluent neighborhood in New Orleans, was inside his home for one hour. Finally, according to the source, Democrat Congressman William Jefferson, Louisiana, emerged from his affluent neighborhood home with a laptop computer, three suitcases, and a box about the size of a small refrigerator, which the enlisted men loaded up into the truck. Two weeks later, the vehicle's tire tracks were still visible on the lawn of Congressman William Jefferson's affluent neighborhood home. 'I don't think there's any explanation for an elected official using resources for their own personal use, when those resources should be doing search-and-rescue or they should be helping with law enforcement in the city,' said Jerry Hauer, a homeland security expert and an ABC News consultant." Democrat Congressman William Jefferson "said the trip was entirely appropriate. It took only a few minutes to retrieve his belongings from his home [in an affluent neighborhood] and his truck stayed for an hour in part to assist neighbors." "'This wasn't about me going to my house,' said ]Democratic Congressman William Jefferson.] 'It was about me going to my district.' The Louisiana National Guard told ABC News that the truck became stuck as it waited for [Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA)] to retrieve his belongings. The soldiers signaled the helicopters in the air for aid. Military sources say a Coast Guard helicopter pilot saw the signal and flew to the home of Democrat Congressman William Jefferson while he was inside the home in his [affluent] neighborhood returning gifts and items from the home to the truck. The chopper was already carrying four rescued New Orleans residents at the time that it came to the front yard of the home of" Democrat Congressman William Jefferson in his affluent neighborhood. "After spending approximately 45 minutes with [Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA)] the helicopter went on to rescue three additional New Orleans residents before it ran low on fuel and was forced to end its mission. 'Forty-five minutes can be an eternity to somebody that's drowning, to somebody that's sitting on a roof and it needs to be used, the primary purpose during an emergency, 'said Hauer, the ABC consultant." So the helicopter had to come get the truck unstuck that was stuck in the yard of a home of William Jefferson (D-LA) in his affluent, uptown neighborhood, while it had four people rescued aboard the helicopter. The Coast Guard commander, Brendan McPherson, told ABC News, "We did have an aircraft that responded to a signal of distress where the congressman was located. The congressman did decline rescue at the time so the helicopter picked up three other people. I can't comment on why the congressman decided not to go in the aircraft," McPherson said. "'Did it take a little time to send the rescue swimmer back a second time? Yeah. You'd have to ask the congressman if it was a waste of time or not.' The Louisiana National Guard then send a second five-ton truck to rescue the first truck that was still stuck in the front yard of the home of William Jefferson (D-LA), [in his affluent uptown neighborhood of New Orleans]. Jefferson said his personal items were returned to the Superdome. Schneider said he couldn't comment on whether the excursion was appropriate. He said, 'We're not in a position to comment on an order given to a sold. You're not going to get a statement from the Louisiana National Guard saying whether it was right or wrong. That was the mission we were assigned.'" Now remember William Jefferson (D-LA) claimed that he was going to go to his neighborhood anyway, and the Guard said, "Oh, no, no. There's sniping going on out there. There's shooting going on out there. You have to go with us." But everybody on the other side claims that he ordered them to take them, and they can't rescind and refuse this kind of an order. Jefferson, Congressman William Jefferson, Democrat, Louisiana, insisted the expedition did not distract from rescue efforts. He said, "They actually picked up a lot of people while we were there." The young soldier said, "It's a good thing we came up here because a lot of people would not have been rescued had we not been in the neighborhood." I don't know how that works out since it took two trucks and a helicopter and apparently all that resulted in three additional people getting out. "In an unrelated matter, authorities recently searched Jefferson's property as part of a federal investigation into the finances of a high-tech firm." Now, listen to this, folks. "In an unrelated matter, authorities recently searched [Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA)]'s property as part of a federal investigation into the finances of a high-tech firm. Last month FBI officials raided [the home of William Jefferson, Democrat, Louisiana,] as well as his home in Washington, D.C., his car and his accountant's house." William Jefferson, Democrat, Louisiana, "has not commented on that matter, except to say he is cooperating with the investigation. But he has emerged as a major voice in the post-Katrina political debate." He's gone to the floor of the House. He's complained and moaned about the levee system and how people didn't care enough to get it fixed. Last week he set up a special trust fund for contributions to his legal defense. This is last week! Last week, in the midst of the recovery efforts, William Jefferson, Democrat, Louisiana, set up a special trust fund for contributions to his legal defense in light of the FBI investigation! "A senior federal law enforcement source told ABC News that investigators are interested in learning if [William Jefferson (D-LA)], moved any materials relevant to the investigation," out of his house during the rescue.