House Holds Hearing on F.B.I.'s Capitol Raid

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House Holds Hearing on F.B.I.'s Capitol Raid

Post by Corlyss_D » Tue May 30, 2006 6:13 pm

May 30, 2006
House Holds Hearing on F.B.I.'s Capitol Raid

Filed at 5:28 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner said Tuesday he will summon Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller before his House panel to testify about their decision to search a lawmaker's office.

''I want to have Attorney General Gonzales and FBI Director Mueller up here to tell us how they reached the conclusion they did,'' said Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican and one of President Bush's most loyal House allies.

Gonzales has said that the search of Rep. William Jefferson's offices was legal and necessary because the Louisiana Democrat had not cooperated with investigators' efforts to gain access to evidence in a bribery probe. An affidavit on which the search warrant was based said investigators had found $90,000 stashed in the freezer of Jefferson's house.

''We would certainly consider a request for a hearing if one were to be made,'' said Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse, ''We also hope that Congress recognizes it would inappropriate for a federal official to discuss the specific details of an ongoing criminal investigation in a public hearing.''

Even as Sensenbrenner, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, announced his hard line on the administration, congressional and Justice Department lawyers were working behind the scenes to meet on guidelines for any future searches. Several investigations are in progress that involve members of Congress, including an influence-peddling probe centered on convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Elsewhere in Congress, lawmakers who had once criticized the May 20 search of Rep. William Jefferson's office were backing off. Still others of both parties defended the search, saying an affidavit outlined charges that the Louisiana Democrat may have accepted bribes in exchange for his support of business dealings in Africa.

''I am extremely disappointed that some in this body, including the speaker and the minority leader, feel that somehow our actions are sacrosanct and above public scrutiny,'' said Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla. ''Congress is hiding behind a shield that is not available to the average American.''

Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., over the weekend backed off his statement of concern over the matter after meeting Friday with Gonzales. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said that there was precedent for one branch of government searching the quarters of another in a criminal investigation.

No one defended Jefferson. The eight-term congressman has denied wrongdoing.

The Justice Department filed court papers Tuesday opposing the congressman's demand that property seized in the office raid be returned. Such a step would be ''fundamentally inconsistent with the bedrock principle that 'the laws of this country allow no place or employment as a sanctuary for crime,''' the papers said, quoting language from a Supreme Court case nearly a century old.

Jefferson's interpretation would remove courts from their traditional role of ruling on privilege claims and would subvert the principle that members of Congress are not immune from ordinary criminal procedures, the department said in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.

Back on Capitol Hill, Sensenbrenner signaled that he would not be joining those who had softened their criticism of the raid and in fact planned two more hearings on the subject. He also suggested he might introduce legislation codifying any guidelines for such searches.

One hearing, Sensenbrenner said, would include Gonzales and Mueller.

''They didn't get it right this time,'' Sensenbrenner said during the first session, titled ''Reckless Justice: Did the Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution?''

Democrats supported the hearing and the prospect of a thorough, televised questioning of the Bush administration.

''We've never been told why the search had to be done in the middle of the night,'' said the committee's ranking Democrat, John Conyers of Michigan. ''We've never learned why the member in question was not permitted to have his attorneys present while his offices were searched for some 18 hours.''

The hearing comes more than a week after the FBI, without giving House leaders notice, conducted an overnight raid of Jefferson's suite in the Rayburn House Office Building as part of a bribery investigation. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi issued a rare joint statement last week protesting the raid as a violation of constitutional separation of powers protections.

One witness at the hearing, former Rep. Bob Walker, R-Pa., said Congress should play hardball in seeking answers to its questions by subpoenaing administration documents authorizing the raid.

''The American people should be deeply concerned that a decision to conduct a raid on Congress was made consciously and evidently at high levels inside the Justice Department and the FBI,'' Walker told the panel.

''If the Rayburn raid was a precedent for coming attractions and intimidating tactics, the way Congress responds initially must be improved,'' he said.

These guys just don't get it. The more this story stays on the news, the louder they bleat about their rights being violated, the deeper the public opinion of Congress falls. This whining about constitutional protections is not only specious but it sounds exactly like the old boys club protecting their right to commit crimes. These people in Congress are clueless.
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Post by Reed » Wed May 31, 2006 4:42 pm

I would agree with Corlyss. I'm a flaming liberal, but one tenant of that is (or should be) no one is above the law, President, Senator, Janitor.

The Senate should concern itself more with the Constitution being shredded, people held for years without charges, torture, our phone records being collected, phones tapped without warrants, people sent to foreign countries to be tortured, secret prisons--these are unAmerican.

An office being searched, with a warrant and probable cause, is an example of the system working, not the reverse.

This makes them seem more concerned with their own privilege then with the rights of the rest of the American people.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed May 31, 2006 9:10 pm

I emailed Sensenbrenner that they are so caught up in their legislative princeliness that they are losing sight of the damage their constantly roiling this issue is doing to Congress' approval ratings and to Republicans generally. If I were Pelosi (God forbid!), I'd tell my buddies NYT & WaPo that this merely underscores the Republican "Culture of Corruption."

May 31, 2006
Ruffled Republican Feathers
By Tony Blankley

With Congress out of town for a week, it gives the nation a chance to lick our wounds before having to endure the next round of damaging blows to the body politic.

I have tried hard to maintain a polite apathy in the face of the more recent congressional and White House episodes of their opera bouffe. But short of having my hands tied to my chair so as to stop me from typing, I rather fear that my more feral political instincts must be given a little room to run.

Watching Speaker Denny Hastert attempt to defend Congress's separate powers, I was reminded of H.G. Wells' criticism of Henry James's writings. He likened it to: "a hippopotamus in a room resolved at any cost upon picking up a pea."

Was the assertion of a remarkably weak legal point (the burden of legal opinion weighs against the speaker's legal judgment) really worth the vast and conspicuous political damage?

As a former wrestling coach, Hastert surely understands how the application of kinetic energy at a key fulcrum point can move a larger mass with a smaller intruding mass.

In a perverse inversion of this principle he has taken the massive, unalloyed Democratic embarrassment of Congressman William Jefferson (considering everything, it is impossible not to mentally finish with the syllables Clinton) keeping $90,000 of bribes in his freezer, and by the application of just a few words by the speaker push it out of the public mind.

In its place Congress has now elevated to high visibility the apparent new Republican constitutional principle of the right of a crooked congressman to be secure in his person, papers and effects even from reasonable searches supported by a warrant issued on probable cause.

What makes this lamentable episode so curious is that Denny Hastert is a decent and sensible man. Not usually given to errant flights of whimsy or exotic theories, Denny has been as solid and steady a leader as a congressional party under siege could hope for.

Pray that he will let this matter quietly disappear during President Bush's 45-day cooling-off period. The damage has been done, but there is no need to add to it. However, Hastert can be a determined man, and there is a danger that he will persist in trying to vindicate the rightness of his decision.

Regarding which I refer the Speaker to the sad end of King Pyrrhus of Epicus, who won the battles of Heraclea and Asculum against the Romans in 279 B.C., but who comes down to us only as the eponymous participant in the phrase "pyrrich victory" -- and of course, the loser of the Pyrric War.

While not an excuse for the speaker's suddenly found taste for recherche constitutional manners, it must be noted that this sorry episode need never have occurred if Attorney General Gonzales had possessed a shrewder, more worldly understanding of Washington ways. If he had called up the speaker and asked for the House sargeant at arms to formally execute the search warrant with the assistance of the F.B.I., surely there would have been no sense of traduced congressional prerogatives.

The attorney general (indeed anyone who has been in town an hour and a half) should know better than to needlessly ruffle the feathers of such a large and ungainly bird as Congress. While it cannot gain flight, its sheer wing flapping can cause violently turbulent air across the continent.

It is hard to believe that the speaker's unlikely outburst was entirely motivated by the incident in question. Rather -- though the speaker may not yet recognize the fuller source of his passion -- it may be simply the last straw.

The previous hundred bales of straw may well have been the White House's unseemly firing of Hastert's good friend CIA Director Porter Goss -- another event that occurred without the White House having the courtesy and common sense to previously inform the speaker.

Other bales of straw may include the Dubai Port deal, the president's egregious immigration initiative and last year's failed Social Security initiative (which was hotly, if privately, opposed on political grounds by Hastert's House).

It has been a hard year for House Republican/ White House relations. And it will get worse if the leaders of both institutions don't get a grip.

This is no time for the president, the speaker, their senior teams and their ranks and files to fall into political lassitude, and just let their working relations drift further apart. It may feel good to vent spleens and bellow away in outraged wrath. But sterner stuff is required, or it will feel even worse on Nov. 8.

Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate
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