After yesterday’s show, I attended a function hosted by my law firm at which I was talking with one of its white collar criminal defense lawyers. Specifically we were talking about the False Statements Act –18 U.S.C. Section 1001.
Simply put, it is a crime to make a false statement to any official representative of the federal government.
This is the statute that has got to weigh heavily on the minds of hundreds if not thousands of VA employees this morning. Yesterday Senator John McCain racketed up the stakes by stating that the VA scandal wasn’t a scandal involving just ethical or performance failures, but a criminal matter.
“Today,” declared McCain, “I believe that this issue has reached a level that requires the Justice Department’s involvement. These allegations are not just administrative problems. These are criminal problems. We need the FBI and the Department of Justice to be involved in this investigation.”
The IG report makes clear that there is a culture of routine deception and manipulation within the Phoenix VA, a culture that is suspected of existing in other facilities in other states. (Some facilities, like the Long Beach VA, have stellar reputations, as you will hear in hour three of my show today when I talk about the Fisher House being built there.)
When numerous Democrats seeking Senate seat are obliged to call for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation, you know the bell is tolling for him. (Inexplicably, Arkansas’ Mark Pryor has not yet done so –leading Congressman Tom Cotton to comment on yesterday’s show that this is the latest example of Pryor sticking blindly by the president in whatever the president does, or in this case, doesn’t do. Cotton’s new ad in his campaign against Pryor rightly hammers Pryor for his silence on this scandal.)
The False Statements Act is why this scandal will now metastasize beyond anything that Eric Holder and his troops at Main Justice can control and contain as they have the IRS, Fast & Furious and every other Obama-era scandal. The VA facilities suspected of wrongdoing are far-flung across many jurisdictions and many U.S. Attorneys’ offices. The phones should have already begun to ring with low-level bureaucrats who do not want to end up as part of a massive indictment for routinely falsifying reports. There are a lot of incentives to be the first man or woman who turns up, lawyer at their side, to cooperate with the federal investigation.
Be the whistle-blower, not the person on whom the foul is called and the investigation opened.
So to those folks in the VA across the country who know what is coming, don’t wait and hope it will miss you. Track down an experienced former federal prosecutor (not the guy or gal who handled a friend’s DUI a few years back, or your brother-in-law’s college roommate, but a former Assistant United States Attorney in town or close by or if you are SES or higher, in D.C.) and get them informed of your circumstances and calling the FBI on your behalf. Lawyer up, in other words. This one isn’t going to pass you by.