The saga of the FBI’s warranted investigation of the Capitol Hill office of Louisiana Democrat Rep. William Jefferson has heated up with the bipartisan demand made by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) that the FBI return all of the files seized by the FBI from Jefferson’s office.
On the front page of today’s New York Times is another column by Carl Hulse laying out more about the ongoing fight between the GOP-led Congress and the Bush Administration’s Justice Department. The column opens:
The constitutional clash pitting Congress against the executive branch escalated Wednesday as the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House demanded the immediate return of materials seized by federal agents when they searched the office of a House member who is under investigation in a corruption case.
The demand, by Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Republican of Illinois, and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, underscored the degree of the anger generated among members of both parties on Capitol Hill by the search on Saturday night at the office of Representative William J. Jefferson, Democrat of Louisiana, who has been accused of accepting bribes.
So, other than the shaky argument that there was some sort of breach of the “separation of powers,” what’s their beef? Apparently, congressmen don’t like the comprehensive nature of the search of Jefferson’s office — too many documents, files, whatever were removed and that they should not be looked at.
Besides the immediate return of the material, the Congressional leaders also said the Justice Department must halt review of the documents, make certain that those who have reviewed them do not disclose their contents and make a formal request in court to void the original search warrant.
What if those documents contain proof that Jefferson was bribed?
Isn’t it amazing that, suddenly, when it affects them, congressmen don’t want the FBI doing what they always do.
Last night on Fox News’ “The Big Story” with John Gibson, Fox News Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano was asked about the FBI’s actions.
NAPOLITANO: One of the things that is outraging members of Congress here is that the FBI just came right in and took everything. You know what? That’s the way the FBI operates. This is the FBI that they have unleashed on everybody is now going after one of their own. Maybe it’s about time they do that.
GIBSON: The day this happened, I heard a comment from Denny Hastert was reported as saying he was upset they didn’t get a heads up. They didn’t get a warning?
NAPOLITANO: It’s illegal to give a head’s up. You can’t telegraph to a friend or colleague or acquaintance of the target that you’re about to raid the target’s premises. That would have been a crime on the part of the FBI agents. I suspect the congressman has to know this.
Of course, the entire search could have been avoided had Jefferson and the House cooperated with investigators from the beginning. According to Hulse:
The Justice Department said it had subpoenaed material last August but the response was delayed in negotiations with Mr. Jefferson and the House counsel, prompting the search. [emphasis added]
So, Congress not only doesn’t want the same rules to apply to them that apply to the rest of the country, but they also want to hide from their own culpability when things go haywire.