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Barabak: Indicted ex-Congressman TJ Cox plays the victim card

In 2018, Democrat TJ Cox had the distinction of winning the nation’s closest congressional race, an 862-vote squeaker over incumbent Republican David Valadao.

Cox, a Fresno businessman and developer, faced ethical issues during the campaign, including controversy over his primary residence. (He claimed two of his homes for tax purposes, which is illegal, and repaid a $692 tax credit he received from Montgomery County, Maryland.)

Still, Cox managed to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the midterm election, capping a national surge that gave Democrats control of the House and shrunk California’s GOP congressional delegation to the size of of a small dinner – only seven members.

On Tuesday, Cox made a more dubious distinction. The former congressman was arrested by FBI agents and briefly jailed after the feds released an indictment accusing him of defrauding business partners and several companies that Cox owned for at least 1, 7 million dollars. Some of the money was reportedly used to help fund his 2018 campaign.

Cox was also accused of fraudulently obtaining a $1.5 million construction loan.

His arrest made national news. But the allegations came as no huge surprise to those in Washington and the Central Valley who were aware of Cox’s messy personal finances and lingering questions surrounding his business operations.

During his one and only term in Congress, he was dogged by other unsavory revelations: he owed employees back wages and nearly $145,000 in unpaid federal income taxes, and had a lien for unpaid state taxes. In 2020, Cox narrowly lost his re-election bid to Valadao, largely due to the negative headlines and bad odor that have clung to the freshman lawmaker during his short time in office.

More surprising and laughable was Cox’s response this week to his federal indictment.

After a brief stint behind bars, he walked out of Fresno County Jail — blue shirt, no tie — and spoke to reporters. He began by praising the professionalism of the FBI and federal prosecutors, a notable and welcome contrast to a certain irritable, document-stealing ex-president. In a tone more sad than angry, Cox proclaims his innocence and swears to lead a vigorous defense.

Then, cynically, he presented himself as a victim of political persecution. “Politics is a tough game,” Cox said. “I wouldn’t be in this position without politics. I think we know that.

Actually no.

The claim is ridiculous on its face, unless one assumes that the Justice Department under President Biden has been armed with the purpose of prosecuting his fellow Democrats, including those like Cox who have left office and do not are particularly relevant.

With an airport carousel’s worth, Cox wisely chose not to pursue a rematch with Valadao this year. Instead, he endorsed State Assemblyman Rudy Salas, whom Democrats had worked for years to recruit as their best hope to claim the Central Valley seat. Salas’ race against Valadao — one of only two Republicans who survived their primaries after voting to impeach Trump — is considered one of the most competitive in the nation.

(Salas isn’t waiting for a jury to deliver its verdict on the former congressman. “TJ Cox has disgraced himself,” he said in a statement shortly after the deed was unsealed. federal prosecution.)

Cox is, of course, considered innocent until proven guilty. Faced with 28 counts and the prospect of decades in prison and fines exceeding $1 million, he is fully entitled to say whatever he thinks will benefit his case.

But there is something sordid and cynical about pandering to those who believe the worst of government and its institutions just as a former president of the United States is leading a reckless attack and inviting violence against the forces of order, including the Department of Justice and the FBI. .

The office says it is investigating an unprecedented number of threats to its staff and property after a legal search for classified documents wrongly hidden in former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. The FBI also issued a joint intelligence bulletin with the Department of Homeland Security warning of violent threats to federal law enforcement, courts, and government employees and facilities.

A good lawyer could win Cox’s case in court or spare the ex-congressman an extended prison sentence and a ruinous fine. But the best legal defense will not save his reputation or preserve his personal integrity if he continues to make baseless and inflammatory accusations.

Especially in these dangerously charged times.

Los Angeles Times

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