Former GOP Leader Tom DeLay expressed relief Monday at the end of a federal investigation into his ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
DeLay criticized as "weak" the six-year probe by the Justice Department, which ended with no charges against the man nicknamed the "hammer."
DeLay said that the Justice Department's investigation of him was "so weak" that he was not interviewed by investigators and was not required to appear before a grand jury. He said he never met with Justice Department investigators, but turned over "everything I had" to the probe.
Asked what the Justice investigation centered around, DeLay said: "I don't know what they were doing."
He also decried what he called the "politics of personal destruction" and said that the press should not have been so quick to assume he was guilty.
"I know this is the price of leadership but frankly it doesn't have to happen this way," he said.
DeLay spoke a few hours after his attorney confirmed reports that Justice had ended its investigation of DeLay's ties with convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The controversy surrounding Abramoff helped end GOP control of the House, which they had held since 1994.
"While I will never understand why it took so long for the Justice Department to figure out I was innocent, I am nonetheless pleased," DeLay said.
DeLay, who stepped down as Republican leader in 2005 and resigned from the House the next year, still faces criminal charges in Texas for allegedly participating in a 2002 effort to funnel corporate money illegally to state campaigns. A hearing in that case is scheduled to occur Aug. 24 and a trial could begin in the fall.
DeLay said he didn't know whether he would make a political comeback, but promised he would emerge victorious from state prosecution. "I still have this trial I have to go through. I [have to] win that, I know I will," he said.
DeLay was critical of media coverage, saying he hoped the "press would do a little bit better job in not convicting somebody because they had a charge brought against them."
"The new politics is no longer good enough to beat you on policy, they have to drown you, put you in prison, ruin your reputation, hurt your family and your finances then dance on your grave," he said.
Abramoff was convicted of defrauding Native American tribes out of tens of millions of dollars and seeking to illegally influence several members of Congress and public officials.
Of Abramoff, DeLay said: "He never asked me to do anything untoward and I never did anything untoward or unethical."'
The Campaign for Fair Elections, a nonpartisan watchdog group, decried Justice’s decision to end its probe of DeLay, saying it underscores the extent to which corruption is accepted in Washington.
“The decision by the Department of Justice to drop its criminal investigation into former Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff is further evidence that the scandal is not what is illegal, but rather what is legally permitted each and every day in Washington, D.C.," the group's campaign manager David Donnelly said in a statement.