Skip to comments.Hastert tells President Bush FBI raid was unconstitutional
Posted on 05/23/2006 5:57:29 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) told President Bush yesterday that he is concerned the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) raid on Rep. William Jeffersons (D-La.) congressional office over the weekend was a direct violation of the Constitution.
Hastert raised concerns that the FBIs unannounced seizure of congressional documents during a raid of Jeffersons Rayburn office Saturday night violated the separation of powers between the two branches of government as they are defined by the Constitution.
The Speaker spoke candidly with the president about the Federal Bureau of Investigations raid over the weekend, Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean said yesterday in confirming his bosss remarks.
Hastert told reporters yesterday that he understands the reasons for the investigation but objected to the manner in which the raid was conducted.
My opinion is they took the wrong path, Hastert said. They need to back up, and we need to go from there.
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.
Calling the Saturday-night raid an invasion of the legislative branch, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) predicted the case would eventually be resolved in the Supreme Court and hinted that Congress would take further action. The majority leader said Hastert would take the lead on the issue because he is the chief constitutional officer in the House.
I am sure there will be a lot more said about this, Boehner said.
The Jefferson raid is the most recent flare-up between Congress and the White House. In a statement distributed Monday night, Hastert made it clear that he was not given a heads-up about the FBIs raid on Jeffersons office.
In the Speakers lengthy statement, Hastert complained that the seizure of legislative papers, no matter how innocuous, was a violation of the the principles of Separation of Powers, the independence of the Legislative Branch, and the protections afforded by the Speech and Debate clause of the Constitution.
Hastert also singled out Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in that statement: It would appear that the Attorney General himself was aware that Separation of Powers concerns existed because in seeking the warrant the FBI suggested to the judge procedures it would follow to deal with Constitutionally protected materials.
During a news conference with reporters, Gonzales defended the FBI raid but said he and leaders on the Hill are involved in private discussions about what can be done to alleviate lawmakers concerns.
I obviously personally, and the Department collectively we have a great deal of respect for the Congress as a coequal branch of government, as a separate and independent branch of government, and [were] obviously sensitive to their concerns, he said.
He noted that discussion to try to address lawmakers concerns began Monday evening and continued yesterday.
We respectfully, of course, disagree with the characterization by some, Gonzales said. We believe we have been very careful, very thorough in our pursuit of criminal wrongdoing, and thats whats going on here. We have an obligation to the American people to pursue the evidence where it exists.
Congress has both investigative and budgetary oversight of the executive branch, but there was no word as of press time about oversight hearings into the raid or its constitutionality.
Democrats were supportive of Hasterts criticism and appear to support the Speaker in pursuing further action.
No member of Congress is above the law, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters yesterday. I am concerned about the unprecedented exercising of authority over a separate branch of government and the execution of a search warrant without any communication with the leadership of this House.
Hoyer said he agrees with Hasterts concerns and was less than defensive of Jefferson.
The institution has a right to protect itself against the executive branch going into our offices and violating what is the Speech and Debate Clause that essentially says, Thats none of your business, executive branch, Hoyer said.
During his own briefing, Boehner joked with reporters that he was withholding his own strong reservations about the raid because of a staff request that he do so.
I would like to say more, but I have been advised by my advisers that I shouldnt, Boehner said.
But after repeated questions, the majority leader expressed his full reservations about the Justice Departments action.
When I raise my right hand and swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States, I mean it, Boehner said, referring to the oath members take at the beginning of each Congress. [Justice Department employees] take the same oath, so somebody better start reading the Constitution down there.
Leaders in both parties have said this is the first time in the 219-year history of the United States that the Justice Department has taken these actions.
The should all burn in hell.
In other words .. all congress people are above the law ..?? I don't think so!
Should have been done many, many times over the last 219 years.
No wonder Congress has a lower approval rating than the Prez.
xrp to Hastert: Whatever, fatboy.
My real response to this would get me banned.
Jefferson's nothing more than a common criminal. What was the FBI supposed to do?
Just a Beltway Clan Squabble.
Must be something in the DC Capitol air.. get me Jack Bauer
I bet if Democrats were in charge and there were FBI raids on Republicans, they'd keep thier fat mouths shut.
No one is above the law.
This was settled in 1972 or so.
They don't have a leg to stand on.
"In other words .. all congress people are above the law ..?? I don't think so!"
Well, sensible people like you and I may not think so, but it is a fact that Congress exempts itself from many of the laws it passes.
Representative William Jefferson, Democrat, Louisiana
Read Byron York on this very topic- fascinating..
I never watched the show but I know about the evil President. What happened? Did Jack get him?
The only real mistake was stopping at raiding ~just one~ office.
protecting their own...
this is just unreal. unreal. what do they want, the Congress to be above the laws? anything goes, they can hide money in their offices even? and its the Republican leadership doing this.
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