Google
 
Web rhymeswithright.mu.nu

May 23, 2006

Are Congressmen And Senators Above the Law?

To read this article, that is precisely the claim that is being put forward by members of both bodies from both sides of the aisle.

An unusual FBI raid of a Democratic congressman's office over the weekend prompted complaints yesterday from leaders in both parties, who said the tactic was unduly aggressive and may have breached the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Rep. William J. Jefferson (La.), who is at the center of a 14-month investigation for allegedly accepting bribes for promoting business ventures in Africa, also held a news conference in which he denied any wrongdoing and denounced the raid on his office as an "outrageous intrusion." Jefferson, who has not been charged, vowed to seek reelection in November.

"There are two sides to every story; there are certainly two sides to this story," he said at a Capitol Hill news conference. "There will be an appropriate time and forum when that can be explained."

The Saturday raid of Jefferson's quarters in the Rayburn House Office Building posed a new political dilemma for the leaders of both parties, who felt compelled to protest his treatment while condemning any wrongdoing by the lawmaker.

The dilemma was complicated by new details contained in an 83-page affidavit unsealed on Sunday, including allegations that the FBI had videotaped Jefferson taking $100,000 in bribe money and then found $90,000 of that cash stuffed inside his apartment freezer.

So what is the problem that some folks are pointing to here? Is there one at all? I’ll let some of them tell you. Some are elected officials, some are former staffers, and some are legal scholars.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) expressed alarm at the raid. "The actions of the Justice Department in seeking and executing this warrant raise important Constitutional issues that go well beyond the specifics of this case," he said in a lengthy statement released last night.

"Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this Separation of Powers line, in order to successfully prosecute corruption by Members of Congress," he said. "Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement that "members of Congress must obey the law and cooperate fully with any criminal investigation" but that "Justice Department investigations must be conducted in accordance with Constitutional protections and historical precedent."

* * *

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), in an e-mail to colleagues with the subject line "on the edge of a constitutional confrontation," called the Saturday night raid "the most blatant violation of the Constitutional Separation of Powers in my lifetime." He urged President Bush to discipline or fire "whoever exhibited this extraordinary violation."

Well, if we were going to deal with issues of historical precedent, then Jefferson would be cooperating with the investigation. He isn't, prompting the more adversarial approach.

Legal experts are divided on the issue.

Many legal experts and defense lawyers agreed with Gingrich. Charles Tiefer, a University of Baltimore law professor who served as solicitor and deputy general counsel of the House for 11 years, called the raid "an intimidating tactic that has never before been used against the legislative branch."

"The Framers, who were familiar with King George III's disdain for their colonial legislatures, would turn over in their graves," Tiefer said.

Washington defense lawyer Stanley M. Brand, a former general counsel for the House who has represented numerous lawmakers accused of wrongdoing, also questioned the government's strategy.

"This is really an over-the-top move, and it could create some real blow-back problems for them in the courts," he said.

But Viet D. Dinh, a former assistant attorney general in the Bush administration who is now a Georgetown University law professor, said that "the raid on his offices itself does not define a constitutional issue."

The constitutional privilege for lawmakers does not "expand to insulate everything that goes on in a congressional office, especially if there's allegations of abuse of process or bribery," Dinh said. ". . . The fine line is whether or not it relates to a legislative process or not, not whether they've raided his office."

So what constitutional provision are they referring to that they believe gives Jefferson immunity from the same laws that apply to every other American? It is found in Article I, Section 6, Clause i.

Article I, Section 6, Clause i The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place. (italics added)

Now let’s break this down.

The FBI had a valid warrant issued by a federal judge or magistrate, authorizing the search under the provisions of the Fourth Amendment. The limits placed upon the agents conducting the search were meticulously designed to keep from interfering with any privileged materials. So far, we are seeing actions in conformity with the Constitution, and special deference being given based upon the respect due a co-equal branch of government.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, asked about the search, said he understands the concerns raised about FBI agents raiding a congressional office. "I will admit that these were unusual steps that were taken in response to an unusual set of circumstances," Gonzales said.

The search warrant affidavit spells out special procedures put in place to ensure the search did not infringe on privileged material. The procedures include use of a "filter team" of prosecutors and FBI agents unconnected to the investigation. They would review any seized items or documents and determine whether the documents are privileged and therefore immune from the search warrant.

If the status of a document is in doubt, the filter team will give the documents to a judge for a definitive ruling before giving them to case prosecutors, according to the affidavit.

There is the question of whether these charges can be brought while Congress is in session. In light of the fact that the matter at hand (accepting bribes) is a felony, Representative Jefferson is subject to indictment, arrest, and trial while Congress is in session. Such charges and arrest are therefore clearly contemplated and permitted by the Founders – and therefore an investigation is equally permissible. And in light of historical precedent, the investigation and bringing of charges are accepted practice.

What is more, the search is for materials related to an alleged felony, not words in a speech or a debate on the floor of the House of Representatives. It is not Jefferson’s words, but his actions, that led to this search, and a search of his offices is a legitimate exercise of police powers to the degree that his action (accepting a bribe) may have impacted the operations of his Congressional office. Again, given the meticulous procedures put in place when the warrant was issued, there can be no legitimate question regarding the respect shown for the co-equal legislative branch. Not only is this not a case of the Executive and legislative branches operating outside of their proper spheres, it is a case of them operating within those spheres to serve as a check and balance upon Congress.

Nothing in Article I, Section 6, Clause i can be legitimately interpreted to apply to the current situation – nor can this provision of the Constitution be held to exempt the criminal conduct of a lawmaker from the ordinary operation of the law in this situation. I therefore find the outrage expressed at this search to be specious in nature, premised not upon the text of the Constitution itself but rather upon the belief that the separation of powers confers a degree of immunity beyond that which the blueprint of American government provides.





|| Greg, 05:46 PM || Permalink || Comments (2) || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Trackback Information for Are Congressmen And Senators Above the Law?

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/169356
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference 'Are Congressmen And Senators Above the Law?'.

Comments on Are Congressmen And Senators Above the Law?

I'm glad that Jefferson is a democrat, so I can agree with you without appearing guilty of partisanship. My suspicion is that those defending Jefferson would throw him under a bus if they didn't fear the bright light of investigation themselves.

|| Posted by Dan, May 23, 2006 11:02 PM ||

It's tough to see what exactly the defense is when the FBI finds $90,000 in marked bills in your freezer.

I kinda think if it were me I'd be sitting in jail right now. And I'm not partisan either. Well I am, actually, but I have no sympathy for folks like Jefferson.

|| Posted by NYC Educator, May 24, 2006 06:26 PM ||
Post a comment

Remember personal info?


 

 





AnotherMunublogSmall.jpg





Winner - 2014 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards
Winner - 2014 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2013 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2012 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2011 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2010 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2009 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Posts by Category

Announcements (posts: 13)
Blogging (posts: 187)
Border Issues & Immigration (posts: 421)
deferred (posts: 4)
Education (posts: 685)
Entertainment & Sports (posts: 483)
Guns & Gun Control (posts: 65)
History (posts: 329)
Humor (posts: 88)
Israel/Middle East (posts: 44)
Medical News (posts: 54)
Military (posts: 273)
News (posts: 1570)
Paid Advertising (posts: 234)
Personal (posts: 108)
Politics (posts: 5261)
Race & Racism (posts: 281)
Religion (posts: 819)
Terrorism (posts: 884)
Texas GOP Platform Reform Project (posts: 4)
The Courts (posts: 310)
Watcher's Council (posts: 482)
World Affairs (posts: 345)

Archives

January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
December 0000



MuNuviana



Licensing

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Powered By

Powered by
Movable Type 2.64
AnotherMunublogSmall.jpg

Administrative Stuff

Email Me
Syndicate this site (XML)

Advertising Disclosure

adpolicy.gif

About Me

NAME: Greg
AGE: 50-ish
SEX: Male
MARITAL STATUS: Married
OCCUPATION: Social Studies Teacher
LOCATION: Seabrook, TX
DISCLAIMER: All posts reflect my views alone, and not the view of my wife, my dogs, my employer, or anyone else. All comments reflect the view of the commenter, and permitting a comment to remain on this site in no way indicates my support for the ideas expressed in the comment.

Search This Site


Support This Site



Recent Entries

Who Is Regan Theiler And Why Was She Allowed To Spend Public Funds On A Sole Source Contract For Her Part-Time Employer?
Not My Idea Of A Stimulating Evening
About Trump's Liberty University Speech
Do Not Place The Secessionist "Texas Independence" Measure On The 2016 Republican Primary Ballot
Conservatives Vs. Liberal On Those Engaged In Violent Political Activity
Tom Mechler Makes His Case Against Moving The 2016 RPT Convention
Jared Woodfill Makes His Case For Moving The 2016 RPT Convention
Questions About Moving The 2016 RPT Convention
Reject The Call To Move 2016 Republican Party Of Texas Convention
It Is Too Bad That Political Parties Cannot Reject Voters Who Seek To Join, Stop Would-Be Candidates Who Want To Run

Blogroll


Watchers Council
  • Ask Marion
  • Bookworm Room
  • The Colossus of Rhodey
  • The Glittering Eye
  • GrEaT sAtAn"S gIrLfRiEnD
  • The Independent Sentinel
  • JoshuaPundit
  • Liberty's Spirit
  • New Zeal
  • Nice Deb
  • The Noisy Room
  • The Razor
  • Rhymes With Right
  • The Right Planet
  • Simply Jews
  • Virginia Right!
  • Watcher Of Weasels

  • Political & Religious Blogs