By Thomas C. Nash
COLUMBUS, Ohio — New details continue to emerge in the lead-up to the scheduled September 3 hearing in a case pitting US Rep. Jean Schmidt against an Armenian-American opponent who claims she took “blood money” in exchange for efforts to deny the Armenian Genocide.
Schmidt gave a deposition on August 24 detailing her involvement with the Congressional Caucus on Turkey and Turkish Americans, of which she is a co-chair, in preparation for an Ohio Elections Commission hearing on her complaint that David Krikorian falsely accused her of taking money from the Turkish government.
Schmidt, a Republican incumbant representing Ohio’s second district, initiated the case after taking issue with the Krikorian campaign’s distribution of a flier in November 2008 stating she had taken $30,000 in “blood money” to “deny the genocide of Christian Armenians by Muslim Turks.”
After winning the election, Schmidt filed false claims charges against Krikorian shortly after he announced he would seek the Democratic nomination in the 2010 election. He had run as an independent in 2008, winning 18 percent of the vote.
Krikorian said his legal team, which includes lawyer Mark Geragos, has asked for the September 3 hearing to be moved so that FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds can testify in person. On August 8, she gave a deposition about her knowledge of treasonous activities committed by US government officials, including members of Congress who have taken bribes from the Turkish government.
Edmonds initially made waves four years ago after revealing the inner workings of the FBI and the influence peddling of Turkish officials in the US government. A naturalized US citizen originally from Turkey, Edmonds was hired in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks to translate for the FBI.
During her time there she discovered and reported shoddy work, a large backlog of untranslated work and the hiring of employees with questionable alliances. As a result, she was fired. In July 2002, she filed suit against the FBI. However, she is gagged by the government despite findings that she was fired for reporting serious security breaches and misconduct in the agency’s translation program, and that many of her allegations were supported.
Schmidt Denies ‘Quid Pro Quo’
In Schmidt’s deposition, also requested by Krikorian’s attorneys, Krikorian said she denied any relation between her acceptance of money from Turkish organizations and her position on the Armenian Genocide.
“She suggested that she had no idea that she was the leading recipient of Turkish lobby money in ’08,” Krikorian said. “She said that she never spoke of the Armenian Genocide resolution at any of the Turkish lobby fundraisers held on her behalf, which from my perspective is laughable.”
“She’s a liar; she’s not credible,” Krikorian added. “I think it’s obvious that two weeks after receiving $11,000 of Turkish lobby money she joins the Turkish caucus — and claims there’s no quid pro quo. She’s an embarrassment to the district and to the country. She was basically programmed by the Turkish lobby for that sworn deposition and it’s a shame to see a sitting congressional representative act in the way she acted yesterday.”
Also on August 24, the National Whistleblowers Center released all five and a half hours of Edmonds’ testimony on the Turkish government’s influence in the US government.
In addition to detailing the activities of several members of Congress, including former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Edmonds said it was likely Schmidt participated in a similar arrangement.
“[B]ased on my first hand information, my own knowledge, anybody who strongly comes and denies [the Armenian Genocide] and also has that kind of relationship with the Turkish sponsored PACs and organizations, et cetera, at least in the past, has been exactly for this particular reason,” Edmonds said in the testimony. “[They have] been representing the other foreign interest and not being [an] objective representative of the United States’ interests.
“I don’t know anything about this lady, but it fits the modus operandi of all the others who were on the payroll one way or another. To just do this — they were on the payroll of the Turkish government entities.”
New Details on Charges
A copy of the motion to dismiss filed by Schmidt attorney Donald Brey in late July focuses on the four charges related to Krikorian’s claim that Schmidt denies the Armenian Genocide. According to Brey’s argument in the memorandum, he determined Krikorian made the assertion out of ignorance about her position after he gave a deposition on the issue to Schmidt’s legal team.
“Although those statements [by Krikorian] were and are false,” the memorandum stated, “the evidence produced at [the] deposition suggests that he may not have known those statements were false at the time that he made them.”
Brey added that Krikorian alluded to third-party sources in citing Schmidt’s position, although she is on record as saying there is not enough historical data to classify the Armenian massacres as a “genocide.” [See sidebar below.]
Since Krikorian relied on others’ characterizations of Schmidt’s position, Schmidt’s legal team says it would be difficult to prove “he made those statements with reckless disregard of their truth or falsity.”
The accusations regarding Krikorian’s “blood money” claim — including that it is a matter of public record — remain in the complaint. Campaign disclosure forms show she has taken money from several Turkish organizations.
Added to the list of false claims was a statement from the November campaign season from Krikorian in which he tied in Schmidt’s activities with attacks on US soldiers.
“I ask the people of Ohio’s second congressional district to ask themselves if our Representative should be taking money from a foreign government that is killing our soldiers?” Krikorian wrote in a letter posted on his campaign’s blog.
Asked why the claim had been omitted from the original complaint, Brey said he had intended to submit it with the others.
“I realized that I failed to include it,” he said.
The Ohio Elections Commission has not made a decision on whether to allow a delay in the hearing, which is still scheduled for September 3.
E-Mails Reveal Prior Conflict
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The election fight over whether US House Rep. Jean Schmidt denies the Armenian Genocide had its origins in a 2007 e-mail exchange between her staff and soon-to-be challenger David Krikorian, case documents reveal.
Following an Armenian National Committee of America lobbying effort in March 2007, Krikorian wrote Schmidt staff member Ben LaRocco asking if a visit to her office had won her support on the Armenian Genocide Resolution.
In the string of e-mails exchanged over the course of a few days, supplied by Schmidt’s legal team in its election complaint, Krikorian first wrote: “I see [the Armenian Genocide resolution] as an opportunity for Congresswoman Schmidt in several ways including:
1.Reaffirming her commitment to moral leadership by doing the right thing. Millions of Christian Armenians and Greeks were slaughtered by Ottoman Turks during the genocide. How do the Christians of America benefit by denying this horrible event?
2.Aiding in the defense of our country by not allowing superfluous threats from Turkey to register as credible. Turkey will remain our ally (If that’s what you call them today)
3.Taking a stand on Human rights and the facts of history.
Can we count on her vote?”
LaRocco responded that he had looked into the issue and while noting the deaths were a “tragedy,” Schmidt “does not have enough information to characterize these deaths as genocide or the atrocities of war,” adding, “it is more important that we learn from this tragedy than to try to place blame, especially when those responsible are long dead.”
He concluded the e-mail by stating the Turkish government should take responsibility for the events, while insisting it not be punished “for the sins of its fathers.” LaRocco also noted that Schmidt took exception to Turkey’s threat to withdraw support for the “War on Terror” over the Genocide resolution.
Krikorian’s follow-up did not mince words. “Please try to understand the insulting nature of any attempts to deny the Genocide,” he wrote. “The Muslim Turks butchered 1.5 Christian Armenians. End of discussion!
“It would be a shame to see a Patriot like Congresswoman Schmidt supporting genocide against Christians all in the name of a fake ally in Turkey.”
In response, LaRocco said, “I don’t think anyone, especially not me, is denying that a very large number of Armenians were killed by the Turkish government during World War I. The question comes to the definition of genocide, and I don’t think we are comfortable making that attribution at this time.”
In the final e-mail Schmidt provided in her complaint, Krikorian wrote, “It should be criminal to deny this horrible tragedy as a Genocide! I understand the pressure from the US state department and paid Turk lobbying firms….but is the Congresswoman really not able to determine that this was Genocide?”