Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan handed down a decision today on the matter of the FBI conducting search warrants inside congressional offices. Specifically, the search of William Jefferson's office on suspicion of bribery.
If you are a resident of the United States worried that congress might find some "above the law" justification that the court might buy, worry no more:
In a 28-page opinion, Hogan dismissed arguments by Jefferson and a bipartisan group of House leaders that the raid violated the Constitution's protections against intimidation of elected officials.
Hogan acknowledged the "unprecedented" nature of the case. But he said the lawmakers' "sweeping" theory of legislative privilege "would have the effect of converting every congressional office into a taxpayer-subsidized sanctuary for crime."
A member of Congress is bound by the same laws as ordinary citizens, said the judge, who had approved the FBI's request to conduct the overnight search of Jefferson's office.
Frankly I don't understand why this would be a partisan issue, although it is likely to play as one. The Left will cry "abuse of power" and bemoan the new Culture of Intimidation or some such nonsense.
This is a pretty good comment thread on the matter. It actually starts fairly reasonable, but quickly degenerates into statements like these:
A raid on a Republican would not be legal. What we do is legal. What is done to us is illegal.
Of course the raid was fundamentally political in nature-- in over 200 yrs of Congressional misconduct there's never before been a raid on a Congressman's office? Why now all of a sudden?
and my personal favorite:
Today, the bush admin can officially pursue every single item that ever came across a democratic representative’s desk.
Let the political raids begin I guess. Might I suggest John Kerry's military records for starters? He's been promising those for years. Maybe we could find the redacted pages of the Cisneros probe. No doubt by the end of the week Chimpler will be exercising his new found power all over Congress.
The thread wasn't a total loss however. A courageous lone wolf did provide the heavy breathers with a link to the actual decision and a taste of what the court had to say on the argument that the search violated the Speech or Debate Clause:
The existing broad protections of the Speech or Debate Clause — absolute immunity from prosecution or suit for legislative acts and freedom from being "questioned" about those acts (including privilege from the testimonial act of producing documents in response to a subpoena) — satisfy the fundamental purpose of the Clause to protect the independence of the legislature. The Court declines to extend those protections further, holding that the Speech or Debate Clause does not shield Members of Congress from the execution of valid search warrants. 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. Such a result is not supported by the Constitution or judicial precedent and will not be adopted here.
Are we really going to argue that searching Jefferson's office was somehow a breach of Congressional privilege by the administration? Another "power grab" by the Executive? I sure hope not.
Surely an actual platform and unified positions on both Iran and Iraq would be a better use of Democrats' time. I think.