Wednesday, May 24, 2006

FBI Raid Violates Constitution?

The constitutional battle continues as lawmakers assert that an FBI raid on the office of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) (who has been asked to resign his comittee seat) violated the seperation of powers between the executive branch and the legislative branches of government.

Raid Divides G.O.P. Lawmakers and White House
NY Times

Published: May 24, 2006

WASHINGTON, May 23 — After years of quietly acceding to the Bush administration's assertions of executive power, the Republican-led Congress hit a limit this weekend.

Resentment boiled among senior Republicans for a second day on Tuesday after a team of warrant-bearing agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation turned up at a closed House office building on Saturday evening, demanded entry to the office of a lawmaker and spent the night going through his files.

The episode prompted cries of constitutional foul from Republicans — even though the lawmaker in question, Representative William J. Jefferson of Louisiana, is a Democrat whose involvement in a bribery case has made him an obvious partisan political target.

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert raised the issue personally with President Bush on Tuesday. The Senate Rules Committee is examining the episode.

Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House majority leader, predicted that the separation-of-powers conflict would go to the Supreme Court. "I have to believe at the end of the day it is going to end up across the street," Mr. Boehner told reporters gathered in his conference room, which looks out on the Capitol plaza and the court building.

A court challenge would place all three branches of government in the fray over whether the obscure "speech and debate" clause of the Constitution, which offers some legal immunity for lawmakers in the conduct of their official duties, could be interpreted to prohibit a search by the executive branch on Congressional property.


The FBI states that the raid was warranted (no pun intended) as Jefferson and his attorneys had previous refused to comply with a subpoena for those same documents.

F.B.I. Officials Defend Raid on Lawmaker's Office
Amid Uproar on Capitol Hill, Gonzales Says Jefferson Search Was Done Carefully

By Dan Eggen and Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 24, 2006; Page A04

Justice Department and FBI officials yesterday vigorously defended a weekend raid on the Capitol Hill office of Democratic Rep. William J. Jefferson (La.), arguing that the unprecedented tactic was necessary because Jefferson and his attorneys had refused to comply with a subpoena for documents issued more nine months ago in a bribery investigation.

At the same time, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and other administration officials sought to quell a growing uproar among Republican and Democratic lawmakers, many of whom view the Saturday night search in the Rayburn House Office Building as a clear violation of constitutional language and case law protecting lawmakers from intimidation by the executive branch.


Odds are this is going to the Supreme Court and while I'm no legal scholar I think it will be upheld as a violation of the constitution unless the fact that Jefferson failed to comply with a order from the Judicial branch becomes the key legal issue in which case one of two things will happen:

1: The search will be declared legal since it was enacted due to a failure to comply with an order from the Judicial Branch

2: The court will rule that Jefferson should have jailed for contempt of court until the documents were produced and therefore the search was invalid.

It'll be interesting to see how the court rules as it will set the tone for an administration that has repeatedly pushed executive powers to their (and many say beyond) their limits.