Jewish World Review June 3, 2011 1 Sivan, 5771
Weiner and the Law's Peril
By Roger Simon
Weiner is a brash and bright Democratic congressman who represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens. Up until recently, he was considered a leading contender to become New York City's next mayor, a race for which he has already bankrolled $3.9 million.
He can save his money.
A few days ago, a close-up picture of a man in his underpants was sent from Weiner's Twitter account to a 21-year-old college student in Washington state. She says she does not know Weiner. Weiner says he does not know her and did not send the picture. He says his Twitter account was "hacked" by a "prankster."
It is no crime to send a lewd picture to an adult, and Weiner is under no known investigation by any law enforcement agency or the House Ethics Committee.
But he is in deep, deep trouble.
It is not enough for a politician to be innocent, he also must appear to be innocent. In fact, it is often better to appear to be innocent than actually be innocent.
In all his TV appearances so far, Anthony Weiner has looked about as innocent to me as O.J. No, strike that, some people think O.J. really is innocent. Nobody could possibly watch Anthony Weiner and think he is.
He couldn't look more guilty if he ran down Pennsylvania Avenue at high noon wearing nothing but a pair of bulging gray underpants.
Some quick asides: It is my intention to avoid all double or even single entendres in this column. They are juvenile and tiresome, two things I occasionally steer clear of. Second, the "lewdness" of the photograph in question is subject to debate. If you have ever watched an Olympic swimming event or seen a man on a public beach in a Speedo, you have seen more lewdness. Third, the degree of lewdness doesn't really matter. If a congressman takes a picture of himself in his underwear and sends it to a college kid, that congressman has some serious issues.
Now back to Weiner, who has publicly said the same things over and over: He is innocent of sending the picture, he can't say with "certitude" that the picture is not of him, he does not wish to speak to federal law enforcement officials about it, and he is hiring a private firm to investigate the matter.
Alarm bells began clanging in my head.
O.J. Simpson said in 1995 he was going to hire a private firm to find out who "really" killed Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman. We are still awaiting the report.
After being accused by 15 women of having molested them over the years, Arnold Schwarzenegger said in 2003 he was going to hire a private firm to investigate their claims and clear the air. We are still awaiting the report.
And now Anthony Weiner says he is going to hire a private firm to find out how his Twitter account was hacked, even though Weiner could easily go to the U.S. Capitol Police or the FBI and ask them to do it.
Asked repeatedly why he refuses to do so, Weiner replies the whole matter is a "prank" and not "a federal case."
The sound you continue to hear is the clanging of bells.
It is no crime to lie to the press. If caught, all you face is a few disgruntled reporters, and most reporters are always disgruntled.
It is no crime to lie to the public. If caught, all you face are a few shrugs, and maybe (though maybe not) defeat in the next election.
It is no crime to lie to your wife. If caught, all you face is shame and maybe (though maybe not) divorce.
But if you lie to federal agents, even if you are not under oath, you could face three to five at Allentown.
The relevant law is Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001, which states in part that "whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully — (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact; (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years ... ."
And that is why it could be perilous for Weiner to sit down and make any statements whatsoever to any federal agents. Sending a picture of himself in his underwear to an adult is no crime. Lying about it to federal investigators is.
Which could be why he prefers to hire a private firm rather than letting the U.S. Capitol Police or FBI agents do their job.
Will this story go away, replaced by more important stories about Medicare, the federal debt limit and bloodshed in the Mideast?
A story about sex and a politician? Just go away while there are still questions to be asked and stories to be done? Are you kidding me?
I said Anthony Weiner is bright, and he is. But bright people can do dumb things. And to have a bright political future, Weiner needs to be more than innocent. He needs to start acting like it.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate