Murtha Rival Says Congressman's Top Aide Threatened to Have Him Court-Martialed
Talk about hardball politics.
Rep. John Murtha's opponent in the 2008 election claims the Pennsylvania congressman's chief of staff has threatened to have him recalled to active duty and court-martialed for campaigning while in the military, which is in violation of military code.
Bill Russell, an Iraq war veteran who served with the Army, told FOXNews.com that Murtha's chief of staff, John Hugya, made the threat on two occasions -- first to his former commanding officer and then to his face in March.
"It's a terrible, terrible threat to make," said Russell, a Republican who lost to the Democratic powerhouse in November but plans to challenge him again in 2010. Asked if Murtha is trying to bully him out of a rematch, Russell said: "It was a direct intent to intimidate."
Russell was on active duty for a three-month period -- from April to July -- of his campaign for Congress last year. But he said he did not campaign during that period, as Hugya was suggesting, and so did not violate military code that prohibits doing so.
"I'm very comfortable with the fact that I didn't do anything wrong and there's nothing to court martial me for if they try to do it," he said. But he said Murtha's reputation as a powerbroker on Capitol Hill puts him on edge.
"When you have a threat to be made so brazenly and openly ... you've got to take it seriously," he said.
Murtha spokesman Matthew Mazonkey wrote in an e-mail that his boss is "absolutely not" trying to intimidate Russell to get him out of the race.
"We take every challenge seriously, even challenges from people who have already been defeated by double-digits," he said, referencing Murtha's 16-point margin of victory last year.
But Murtha's office did not deny Russell's charge. Instead, the congressman and Russell offered conflicting accounts of the most recent encounter, in which Hugya broached the topic of Russell's active-duty stint at an NRA dinner in March.
Russell, who described the encounter as hostile, said he was working the tables at the event when Hugya threatened him, saying: "What are you gonna do when we have the new secretary of the Army seated and have your ass recalled to active duty for that s--- you pulled last summer?"
One of the supposed selling points for Murtha from his supporters is his great support of the military. Let's not forget either his maligning the Marines in the incident at Haditha.
I would like someone to step forward with any indication this man even respects the troops, let alone supports them.
To make this all more fun is the fact that Obama's Secretary of the Navy gave this SOB the Distinguished Public Service Award. To be fair though, by the standards of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party, this is support.