Congressional double standard on display in appeals court
FBI agents who raided Rep. William J. Jefferson's Capitol Hill offices last year in a bribery investigation did not violate the law when they seized papers and electronic files, the government argued yesterday in documents filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.What a bogus double standard the legislative branch is trying to perpetrate here to cover up the illegal activities of one of its members that was found to have bribe money stuffed in his freezer. It makes the investigation of the legal firing of the US Attorneys look even more bogus. Congress appears to be the only branch that has a separation of powers privilege. It certainly does not recognize one for the executive. Is it the only branch for which there is no effective oversight, or is this privilege just for corrupt Democrats?
The government said that although members of Congress have protection for some public offenses, they have no immunity from the execution of a validly obtained search warrant. It noted that the warrant sought only non-legislative materials.
"[The warrant's] design provided for careful procedures to screen arguably protected legislative materials from prosecutors and, as implemented under orders of this court, it will result in no executive branch official having any further access to the seized materials," the government said.
"The narrow issue presented is whether the incidental review of arguably protected legislative materials during the execution of the search warrant so taints the activity that a constitutional violation must be found and then remedied by the return of all documents to Rep. Jefferson -- including documents as to which he has not asserted or cannot sustain a claim of privilege," it said.
In an 85-page motion, the government said the execution of the search warrant was constitutional and procedures used by the FBI during the search were sufficient to protect Mr. Jefferson's rights.
Attorneys for the Louisiana Democrat asked the court in February to order the Bush administration to return all documents seized during the unprecedented 18-hour search last May, saying the Justice Department violated Congress' right to withhold certain information from the executive branch.
Mr. Jefferson said 19,000 pages of documents and electronic files were seized, all of which were covered by Congress' separation of powers privilege to shield certain legislative material from executive review.
"The only remedy that will vindicate and protect the fundamental principles of separations of powers and legislative independence ... is return of all of the seized materials," he said.