By David A. Patten
D.C. super lawyer Cleta Mitchell fired back Friday evening at reports that Sen. Mike Lee has gotten tangled up in a corruption probe along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“I think this is a smear,” Mitchell told Newsmax, “and you can quote me on that. I think this is a smear. Mike Lee is as honest as the day is long.”
A well-known figure in conservative politics, Mitchell advised Lee on the short-sale of his former Alpine, Utah home. That transaction is at the center of what she sees as a transparent attempt to impugn Lee’s reputation.
“He talked to me at the time to make sure that he didn’t break any rules, that whatever he did was done completely in accordance not just with the rules and the law, but to make sure there was no appearance of impropriety,” she stated.
Brian Phillips, Lee’s communications director, issued a one-sentence statement Friday regarding the latest developments as reported by Washington Times editor and vice president John Solomon.
"The article doesn't present any new information about the senator and, as it relates to his house, the senator filed all the required documentation,” Phillips stated.
In May 2012, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Lee had sold the home he had bought for approximately $1.1 million while working for a private law firm.
The newspaper reported several factors that led Lee to sell the home under distressed circumstances. Lee took a pay cut to become a senator, and home prices in the region plummeted. Also, Lee said his former law firm had owed him a significant amount of money when it went bankrupt.
Lee sold the home for approximately $720,000. J.P. Morgan Chase had to write off the loss.
According to Mitchell, Lee “was doing his dead-level best to make the most of a difficult financial situation, and to sell his house and find another place for his family to live that he could afford.”
She added: “He’s not the only American who went through that, and you compound it with the fact that his law firm went broke and filed for bankruptcy, owing not only him but also his law partners substantial sums of money.”
One issue that raised some eyebrows: The purchaser of Lee’s home was reportedly a contributor to his campaign.
According to Solomon, the Justice Department blocked an FBI bid to launch a broader federal probe into the activities of both senators. But Solomon reports the Justice Department, in an unusual development, is allowing the FBI to work with local prosecutors to help them gather more evidence.
Solomon told Newsmax Friday evening how the activities of Lee and Reid came to be associated in media reports.
“A single, wide-ranging corruption investigation developed two separate investigative leads [related to] two separate senators, from the same pool of witnesses,” he said.
Local prosecutors are reportedly interested in why Reid reversed his opposition to online poker, an important issue in Reid’s home state of Nevada. He reportedly announced his change of heart at a Las Vegas fundraiser attended by online-gaming executives.
According to Solomon’s reporting, Reid, a Democrat, introduced online poker legislation that did not win Senate approval about a month after he survived a hard-fought 2010 re-election battle.
Reid’s representatives have said the senator’s position on online poker simply evolved. They have characterized the probe into allegations of possible undue influence as “a publicity stunt.”
Although Solomon stated that a common pool of witnesses is providing leads about each senator, Mitchell maintained Friday that the issues affecting Reid and Lee “are absolutely unrelated.” She added that she has confirmed this “with sources.”
“There’s no relationship between Harry Reid and Mike Lee on this,” Mitchell told Newsmax. “… These are two completely different scenarios that have somehow gotten reported as the same thing, when they’re absolutely unrelated.”
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