Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Congress not above the law

A judge has ruled that the FBI did nothing wrong when it searched the Congressional offices of Rep. William Jefferson, who is under suspicion of soliciting bribes.

U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan, in an anxiously awaited 28-page opinion, said politicians were not above the law, and he rejected arguments from the Louisiana Democrat that the search violated the Constitution's "speech or debate" clause, which protects speech and documents related to legislative activity.

"Congressman Jefferson's interpretation of the Speech or Debate privilege would have the effect of converting every congressional office into a taxpayer-subsidized sanctuary for crime," Hogan wrote, rejecting the request to return the seized materials.

Ya think? It kind of boggles my mind that anyone would think Jefferson's defense could hold water. There is a legitimate debate about which documents the FBI can seize, but if criminality is suspected, the fact that the documents are "related to legislative activity" should not be an absolute protection.

The battle isn't over, of course:

Robert P. Trout, Jefferson's lawyer, vowed to appeal the ruling. He said he also planned to request a stay to keep the seized documents under seal pending appeal. If granted, the stay could further delay FBI investigators, who have been waiting to examine the potential evidence in the 15-month probe.

"The raid on Congressman Jefferson's office was unprecedented, unnecessary and unconstitutional," Trout said in a statement, adding that "we respectfully disagree" with the judge's ruling.

Good luck with that.

Jefferson has yet to be charged with anything, so we shouldn't jump to hasty conclusions. But things sure don't look good for him.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Douglas said...

I am grieved at how much Dennis Hastert has stood up for Jefferson.

7/11/2006 7:51 PM  
Blogger JP said...

I remember thinking how well spoken Jefferson was when he ran for mayor in New Orleans (and lost) back in the day. I've lost alot of respect for him at this point.

7/11/2006 10:47 PM  

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