Jesse Jackson Jr. mystery deepens
The mystery surrounding Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. deepened on Tuesday as speculation swirled around the Illinois Democrat’s health and political future.
Democratic sources say Jackson — who has not been on Capitol Hill since June 10 — may not return to the House until after the August congressional recess.
Jackson’s office said in a June 26 statement that the lawmaker was suffering from exhaustion and would take a“medical leave of absence” to receive treatment for the condition. No date has been given for Jackson’s return, and Democratic lawmakers and aides now believe it could last weeks or even months longer.
“I don’t think he’s coming back until at least September, if he comes back at all,” said a Democratic source close to the situation. “I think it’s all up in the air.”
ABC News also reported that Jackson “will likely not return to Congress until after Labor Day,” citing an unnamed source.
But the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., in an interview with POLITICO, pushed back on an unconfirmed report that his 47-year-old son attempted suicide.
The elder Jackson was responding to a “rumor” broadcast by an Illinois radio station Tuesday. WLS of Chicago cited “two high-ranking people on the Democratic side of the aisle, in both fundraising and in the legislative branch,” as the source of this information, none of which had been confirmed with Jackson’s office or family.
“No, that’s not true,” Jackson Sr. told POLITICO. “He’s with his doctor and getting treatment, regaining his strength. That’s all I really want to say at this point.”
Jackson Sr. added that there is “no truth” to the WLS broadcast. “None at all,” he said.
An aide to the congressman also said the WLS report is inaccurate.
“I have no such information. It’s my understanding that it’s now being reported that they were reporting rumor, not fact,” the aide said.
Yet Jackson, first elected to the House in 1995, faces growing pressure to provide further information on his medical condition and plans to remain in office. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Louis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) both called on Jackson to clarify why he’s missing from Washington.
Jackson is under scrutiny by the House Ethics Committee for his role in the scandal that took down former Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And the Justice Department indicted Raghuveer Nayak, an Illinois businessman and political fundraiser with ties to Jackson, on June 20 on an array of federal fraud and tax charges.
According to the Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent ethics watchdog, Jackson reportedly directed Nayak to raise as much as $6 million for Blagojevich’s reelection campaign if the governor would appoint Jackson to the seat vacated by then-Sen. Barack Obama following his victory in the 2008 presidential race.
“There is probable cause to believe that Rep. Jackson either (1) directed a third-party, most likely Mr. Raghuveer Nayak, to offer to raise money for Gov. Blagojevich in exchange for appointing Rep. Jackson to the Senate seat, or (2) had knowledge that Nayak would likely make such an offer once Rep. Jackson authorized him to advocate on his behalf with Gov. Blagojevich,” OCE stated in a July 2009 report to the Ethics Committee.
Jackson has denied any wrongdoing in his dealings with Nayak, saying he did “nothing illegal, unethical or inappropriate” in lobbying Blagojevich for the Senate appointment. Blagojevich is now serving 14 years in prison after his 2011 conviction on federal corruption charges, including trying to “sell” the Obama Senate seat.
Nayak paid for two round-trip airline tickets for a “social acquaintance” of Jackson’s, a Washington hostess, to fly to Chicago. Jackson later issued a public apology for his interaction with Giovana Huidobro but never explicitly admitted to an extramarital affair.
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