The FBI seized boxes of material from Congressman Jefferson's office investigating a bribery offense:
In a rare bipartisan action, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and minority leader Nancy Pelosi demanded yesterday that the Justice Department immediately return documents that were seized when federal agents raided the office of Representative William Jefferson as part of a bribery probe.
Pointing out that ``no person is above the law, neither the one being investigated nor those conducting the investigation," Hastert, an Illinois Republican, and Pelosi, a California Democrat, asserted that the Justice Department must cease reviewing the documents and ensure that their contents are not divulged. Once the papers are returned, ``Congressman Jefferson can and should fully cooperate with the Justice Department's efforts, consistent with his constitutional rights," the statement said.
The demands by Hastert and Pelosi further escalated a separation-of-powers conflict between Congress and the White House. The raid last weekend on the office of Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat, was the first time in history that the FBI has executed a search warrant on the Capitol Hill office of a sitting lawmaker.
The Justice Department initially signaled an unwillingness to return the documents. But White House officials are concerned about the complaints of the congressional leaders and have pressed the Justice Department to find a way to placate Congress and defuse the controversy, according to a Justice official.
Many Republicans and Democrats contend that the unprecedented raid on a congressional office was unduly aggressive and may have breached the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government that are meant to shelter lawmakers from administrative intimidation. However, legal scholars are divided on this issue, and some said yesterday that the raid does not violate the letter of the Constitution or subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court.
Read the rest of this article at the link above as reprinted in the Boston Globe or go to the
Washington Postwhere it was originally published. The number of gridlocks developing over constitutional questions of balance of power or separation of power is getting mind-boggling.