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Disgraced Congressman 'Wore a Wire'

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Washington's power players have always bragged about being well-wired, but for disgraced former congressman Duke Cunningham, "wired" wasn't just a figure of speech. In a week when legislators are focused on the question of who else might be brought down by ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoffĺs cooperation with prosecutors as he seeks lenient sentencing over his two federal guilty pleas this week, sources tell TIME that in a separate investigation, ex-Rep. Cunningham wore a wire to help investigators gather evidence against others just before copping his own plea.

Sources familiar with the situation say Cunningham, a California Republican who pleaded guilty Nov. 28 to taking $2.4 million in bribes—including a yacht, a Rolls Royce and a 19th-century Louis-Philippe commode—from a defense contractor, wore a wire at some point during the short interval between the moment he began cooperating with the feds and the announcement of his guilty plea on Nov. 28.

The identity of those with whom the San Diego congressman met while wearing the wire remains unclear, and is the source of furious—and nervous—speculation by congressional Republicans. A Cunningham lawyer, K. Lee Blalack, refused to confirm or deny the story, and wouldn't say whether Cunningham will implicate any other members of Congress. The FBI is believed to be continuing its probe of defense contractors involved in the Cunningham case. An FBI spokesman declined comment. Asked whether Cunningham, an ace Navy fighter pilot decorated for his service in Vietnam, had worn a wire, the spokesman said the response from a higher-up was, "Like I'd tell you."

—With reporting by Brian Bennett/Washington