Safavian first to fall in Abramoff scandal

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It's the first conviction in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal that leads directly into the administration–and one source close to the investigation tells me that this means more shoes will drop, and probably quickly.

The jury verdict found that David Safavian–a former top official with the General Services Administration–lied to federal investigators about his dealings with Abramoff. Don't forget: Abramoff has been singing to the feds– weekly–about his dealings with his former cronies. So this verdict is actually good for Abramoff, who is cooperating because he wants to reduce his prison term–about nine years alone for the congressional scandal.

Ironically, I'm told that Safavian was actually offered a plea deal–which included no jail time–but turned it down because he felt that he had done nothing wrong. "The government wants cooperation, and if you cannot cooperate or cannot agree that you're guilty, you can't plea," one of his attorneys, Barbara Van Gelder, said today. Maybe they're rethinking that strategy now.

That's what the feds hope others are doing; they want to cut some deals. High on their list is Ohio Republican Bob Ney, a former powerful House chairman who did business with Abramoff and who was mentioned repeatedly in the Safavian trial. Ney took a private jet to Scotland in 2002 with both Safavian and Abramoff, and today's verdict doesn't bode well for him–and gives the Justice Department more influence intrying to pressure him to get what it wants. If Safavian had gotten off, it would be a different story.

But he didn't–and Abramoff continues to sing. Stay tuned as this corruption scandal winds up, probably before you leave for your summer vacation.