Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.)--FBI agents found $90,000 in his freezer-- is the subject of a long-running corruption probe. Jeffersons' severe ethics problems make it harder for Democrats to accuse GOP lawmakers of a ``culture of corruption'' in the wake of the scandals surrounding convicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Over the weekend, FBI agents raided Jeffersons' Capitol Hill office. On Monday, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) slapped the FBI--not to defend Jefferson, but to protest ``overreaching and abuse of power by the Executive Branch.''
Speaker Statement Regarding the Federal Bureau of Investigation Search of Congressional Office, followed by link to actual FBI warrant
(Washington, D.C.) Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) issued the following statement today regarding the recent Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) search:
"It is the duty of the Justice Department to root out and prosecute corruption wherever it is found, including in the U.S. House of Representatives. I believe that all Members of the House should cooperate fully with any criminal investigation.
"That being said, I am very concerned about the necessity of a Saturday night raid on Congressman Jefferson's Capitol Hill Office in pursuit of information that was already under subpoena and at a time when those subpoenas are still pending and all the documents that have been subpoenaed were being preserved.
"The Founding Fathers were very careful to establish in the Constitution a Separation of Powers to protect Americans against the tyranny of any one branch of government. They were particularly concerned about limiting the power of the Executive Branch. Every Congressional Office contains certain Legislative Branch documents that are protected by the Constitution. This protection-as the Supreme Court has repeatedly held-is essential to guarantee the independence of the Legislative Branch. No matter how routine and non-controversial any individual Legislative Branch document might be, the principles of Separation of Powers, the independence of the Legislative Branch, and the protections afforded by the Speech or Debate clause of the Constitution must be respected in order to prevent overreaching and abuse of power by the Executive Branch.
"While all the facts surrounding Saturday night's raid have not yet been shared with me, it would appear that the Attorney General himself was aware that Separation of Powers concerns existed and that the Justice Department was treading on Constitutionally suspect grounds because in seeking the warrant the FBI suggested to the judge special procedures it would follow to deal with Constitutionally protected materials. However, it is not at all clear to me that it would even be possible to create special procedures that would overcome the Constitutional problems that the execution of this warrant has created.
"The actions of the Justice Department in seeking and executing this warrant raise important Constitutional issues that go well beyond the specifics of this case. Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this Separation of Powers line, in order to successfully prosecute corruption by Members of Congress. Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years.
"Once I have more information about this raid made available to me, I have had an opportunity to carefully consider the long-term ramifications for the Legislative Branch of this action, and I have consulted with the appropriate bipartisan leaders of the House, I expect to seek a means to restore the delicate balance of power among the branches of government that the Founders intended."
to see FBI document click