Last Saturday, after obtaining a search warrant, the FBI raided the Rayburn office of U.S. Representative William Jefferson to find most of an $100,000 bribe. Almost immediately, members of Congress including House Speaker Dennis Hastert started screaming about how the search was unconstitutional. The details were included in this article from the Hill.com.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) told President Bush yesterday that he is concerned the Federal Bureau of Investigation?s (FBI) raid on Rep. William Jefferson?s (D-La.) congressional office over the weekend was a direct violation of the Constitution. Hastert raised concerns that the FBI?s unannounced seizure of congressional documents during a raid of Jefferson?s Rayburn office Saturday night violated the separation of powers between the two branches of government as they are defined by the Constitution.
Republican objections are independent of any facts in the corruption probe against Jefferson. Their complaints pertain solely to constitutional questions about the raid itself.
The issue is not clear-cut for both parties. Republicans have repeatedly cited the Jefferson probe as an example of Democratic malfeasance in the face of charges about their own ?culture of corruption.? On the Democratic side of the aisle, the investigation itself undermines the effectiveness of their efforts to tar Republicans with the corruption issue.
Jefferson is being investigated to see if he influenced legislation in exchange for a number of elaborate, illegal payment schemes, including a single cash payment of $100,000, most of which was discovered in his freezer during a later raid of his home.
The FBI had recorded Rep. Jefferson on video taking payoff money then obtained a legal warrant from a judge to search his office. I don’t see where the problem is.
I understand the argument of the separation of powers and that the legislative branch is seperate from the executive branch. However, when someone does something illegal, the police still has the legal right to go through the steps of investigation as long as all of the procedures are followed. The part of the U.S. Constitution that they are citing I believe is Article I, Section 6, but it specifically states that it does not give exception in the case of a felony.
When senators and representatives complain about the investigation of one of their own before the facts come out, the Congressmen appear to put themselves above the law. These senators and representatives should remind themselves that they are citizens as well and have to answer for crimes just like the rest of the American public.