In a plot ripped from a spy novel, the FBI weighed a sting operation against Newt Gingrich in 1997 based on allegations from a shady arms dealer about a bribe. The information comes from a recently-uncovered document the FBI filed to obtain a wiretap and it's quite a story. According to The Washington Post, convicted arms dealer Sarkis Soghanalian alleged that Gingrich's second wife, Marianne, offered to have her husband, then speaker of the House, provide legislative favors—for a price. In this case, lifting the Iraqi arms embargo:
The investigation began after the arms dealer, Sarkis Soghanalian, told federal prosecutors and FBI agents in Miami that Marianne Gingrich said during a meeting in Paris in 1995 that she could provide legislative favors through her husband. The case progressed to the point that it was deemed a major investigation requiring approval in Washington.
Soghanalian, a convicted felon who is now dead, said he wanted the speaker’s help in getting the arms embargo lifted so he could collect an $80 million debt from Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, according to an FBI document filed to obtain continuing wiretap authorization for the case
After that Paris meeting, Marianne, through a representative, allegedly took Soghanalian up on the offer. The terms of the agreement, according to the FBI document, were "10 million dollars to get the job done, five million of which would go directly to Marianne Gingrich." Among other things, the document also has Marianne saying some revealing things about her marriage with Gingrich.
“Her relationship with her husband was purely a relationship of convenience,” the document states. “She told [Soghanalian] that she needed her husband for economic reasons, and that he needed to keep her close because she knew of all his ‘skeletons.’ ”
“She also told [Soghanalian], ‘It’s time for me to make money using my husband, and after we get started doing this, it will be easy,”
‘It’s time for me to make money using my husband, and after we get started doing this, it will be easy,”
The Gingrich campaign did not respond immediately to the Post's questions. The FBI declined to comment. The former chief federal corruption prosecutor in Miami told the newspaper “With respect to Speaker Gingrich, I am not aware of any direct, credible evidence linking him to any conspiracy to receive a bribe from anyone.” Read the whole story here.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.