May 25, 2006

WaPo: Uproar Over FBI's Search of Jefferson's Office Is Overblown

In an editorial today, the Washington Post gets it right:

THE UPROAR over the FBI's search of Rep. William J. Jefferson's congressional office is understandable but overblown. A demand yesterday by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that the Justice Department return the papers it seized goes way too far. Constitutional provisions designed to protect lawmakers from fear of political retribution, such as the speech-and-debate clause, counsel restraint and caution in circumstances such as these. They do not transform congressional offices into taxpayer-funded sanctuaries.

No one wants to have FBI agents pawing through lawmakers' files. Prosecutors and agents need to exhaust other avenues of obtaining evidence before doing so. If a search is required, they must take care not to trample on lawmakers' privileged activities

It's not yet possible to make determinations about whether these principles were followed in the apparently unprecedented search of Mr. Jefferson's office. But the material for which agents searched had been under subpoena for eight months; Mr. Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat, resisted complying. Under those circumstances, seeking judicial approval for a search warrant is more reasonable. And while the "Saturday night raid," as Mr. Hastert called it, sounds melodramatic, it's less disruptive than having FBI agents in the House during normal business hours.

Mr. Jefferson was, according to the search warrant affidavit, caught with cold, hard cash: Agents videotaped him taking $100,000 in $100 bills from a Northern Virginia investor working undercover and then found $90,000 of it in his freezer. This was no fishing expedition.

Congress is not, nor should it be deemed to be "above the law". Moreover, Congressional offices should not be deemed to be "no search zones". Otherwise, can you imagine the lawlessness and corruption that would ensue?? It would make the Abrahamoff scandal look trivial.
If any one of us had refused to comply with a subpoena, we would be in jail. Yet, Jefferson was allowed to ignore his subpoena for over eight months?? Makes little sense to me.

Come to think of it... can you imagine what Congress would say if someone ignored a Congressional Subpoena?? They would find the person in contempt of Congress and have him put in jail.

These assholes can subpoena any executive branch employee to be present for days of ridiculous hearings on any subject or investigation that the Congressmen may deem appropriate. Of course, given their new found respect for separation of powers, I think that Congress would understand if a President refused to allow his subordinates to appear before Congress for "hearings".

Just a thought.
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