Saturday, May 27, 2006

Hastert: Oh, you meant that constitution
Official details FBI-Congress standoff

WASHINGTON - The constitutional showdown that followed the
FBI's search of a congressman's office came down to this: The House threatened budgetary retaliation against the Justice Department. Justice officials raised the prospect of resigning.

That scenario, as described Saturday by a senior administration official, set the stage for President Bush's intervention into the fight over the FBI's search of the office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., an eight-term lawmaker being investigated on bribery allegations.

During contentious conversations between the Department of Justice and the House, top law enforcement officials indicated that they'd rather quit than return documents FBI agents, armed with a warrant, seized in an overnight search of Jefferson's office, the administration official said.

Until last Saturday night, no such warrant had ever been used to search a lawmaker's office in the 219-year history of the Congress. FBI agents carted away records in their pursuit of evidence that Jefferson accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for helping set up business deals in Africa…

House leaders acknowledged Friday that FBI agents with a court-issued warrant can legally search a congressman's office, but they said they want procedures established…

In an editorial page article in USA Today on Friday, Hastert said he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have directed House lawyers "to develop reasonable protocols and procedures that will make it possible for the FBI to go into congressional offices to constitutionally execute a search warrant."…

First item on the Republican Caucus agenda for the 110th Congress (if they retain the majority, and that’s a big IF) should be: Elect a new Speaker and banish Hastert to the Council of Elders.

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