Rob Riley, the son of Alabama Governor Bob Riley, has been saying for several weeks that he and others would prepare affidavits to help counter Jill Simpson's sworn statements that the Don Siegelman prosecution was politically motivated.
Rob Riley was true to his word. He indeed presented an affidavit for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, as did retired Alabama Supreme Court Justice Terry Butts, and Birmingham attorney Matthew Lembke of Bradley Arant Rose & White. According to Simpson's testimony, Riley and Butts were on a conference call in which plans to "take care of" Siegelman were discussed. Lembke served as counsel to the Riley for governor campaign in the fall of 2002.
Affidavits from Rob Riley, Butts, and Lembke are available here, along with other documents presented for today's hearing on selective prosecution and the Bush Justice Department.
Did Riley & Co. make a wise move by presenting the affidavits? It's probably too early to know for sure, but early reports indicate it might not have been such a good idea. And that's mainly because Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) had a hard time buying what the three men were selling.
TPM Muckraker reports that Davis said Simpson had presented phone records contradicting Riley & Co.'s claims that the phone call never happened.
Left in Alabama presented a live blog of today's event, and that shines considerable light on what transpired. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) evidently referred to the affidavits from Riley & Co. and concluded that Simpson's testimony had been conclusively debunked.
Davis responded by entering Exhibit 4, which was a copy of Ms. Simpson's phone records, showing an 11-minute call on November 18, 2002, to (205) 870-9866, the number for the Riley Jackson law firm.
Was this a "gotcha" moment, one that trumps the Riley affidavits? We probably will be hearing more from Riley & Co. in the days ahead, but Simpson's phone records seem to present a problem for them.
Scott Horton, of Harper's, has an intriguing post today about The Birmingham News' recent series of articles that seemed to be a pretty clear attempt to cast doubt on Simpson's sworn statements.
Of particular note, Horton points out, is this line from a story by News reporter Brett Blackledge, whom Horton has labeled the "Attack Chihuahua:"
"Simpson told congressional lawyers last month she has no records, documents or other materials to corroborate her recollection of telephone calls and meetings with Rob Riley . . . "
That line immediately draws Horton's attention:
"Small problem with this series of statements. They're all untrue. Not only did she demonstrate that she had the records, she showed them to the journalists who asked for them. It seems that our ace reporter never bothered to ask her for them when he conducted his tape-recorded interview."
This raises a question: Did Riley & Co., acting on bad information from Blackledge, write their affidavits under the assumption that Simpson had no hard evidence to support her claims?
Did Davis essentially pull an October Surprise on the Riley camp?