A former congressional representative of Flagstaff and northern Arizona is looking for a presidential pardon for a conviction that he says was the result of misconduct on the part of the FBI and prosecutors.
A lawyer for former GOP congressman Rick Renzi sent a letter to the Department of Justice last month asking the department to open an investigation into alleged misconduct on the part of investigators who put Renzi away for about two years.
In an email, a spokesperson for Renzi called the original investigation of the congressman a “witchhunt,” comparing it to the claims by President Trump that the FBI illegally spied on his campaign. According to the Associated Press, the director of the FBI has said any surveillance on the Trump campaign was conducted legally.
In 2013, Renzi was convicted by a Tucson jury of 17 out of 32 counts for corruption including wire fraud, conspiracy, extortion and lying to insurance regulators.
According to the prosecutors, Renzi had used his position to enrich himself and help fund his 2002 political campaign by embezzling money from an insurance company and orchestrating a federal land swap.
Renzi entered the prison system in February of 2015 and was released in January of 2017, but maintained his innocence throughout that time.
And now, from his home in Virginia, Renzi is working to clear his name.
Last year, the former congressman formed a nonprofit called Abuse of Power that, according to the organizations website, is dedicated to exposing abuses of power within the government.
In addition to the letter sent to the Justice Department, two weeks ago, the organization also released a nearly eight-minute documentary on YouTube. The documentary makes the case for Renzi’s innocence and alleges the investigation into the land swap was politically motivated, although it does not touch on the conviction of insurance fraud in the same way.
The letter sent to the Justice Department alleges investigators illegally wiretapped conversations between Renzi and his attorneys, concealed evidence and introduced false testimony into the trial.
“We submit that the prosecution and investigation of Mr. Renzi’s case violated his basic constitutional right to a fair trial,” the letter from Renzi’s lawyer reads.
Renzi was not available for comment, but Blake Gober, a spokesman for both Abuse of Power and Renzi, wrote in an email that neither Renzi or his lawyer have received any response from the Justice Department other than that the letter has been received.
The push has been supported by some members of Congress, including Republican Rep. Paul Gosar.
Renzi’s push for an investigation comes in the wake of the president’s own insistence that the FBI illegally spied on his campaign, spurning the recently concluded investigation by a special counsel.
And Gober said he believes that context makes the case for an investigation stronger.
“The actions of some in agencies like the FBI have been so political that they have sullied the reputation of the entire agency. This is exactly the case in Congressman Renzi's situation. Just like the attorney general has started an investigation into the genesis of the witch hunt against President Trump, it only makes sense that the attorney general should do the same into the genesis and actors in the witch hunt against Congressman Renzi,” Gobar wrote. “I believe that when the President and his pardon attorneys look at the case of Congressman Renzi, they will experience deja vu.”
This is not the first time Renzi has fought the charges of corruption since the original conviction -- he appealed his conviction all the way to the Supreme Court, who decided against hearing the case, upholding his conviction.
Renzi represented Arizona’s first congressional district from 2003 to 2009 when he did not seek a fourth term in office because of the controversy. At the time, the district covered almost half of the state’s land -- most of northern and eastern Arizona including Flagstaff, Prescott and Winslow in the north and Florence and Casa Grande to the south.
Adrian Skabelund can be reached at the office at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (928) 556-2261 or on Twitter @AdrianSkabelund.