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Alberto Gonzales Violates the Constitution - Approves Unprecedented Search of Office of a Member of Congress

Reported by Marie Therese - May 23, 2006

Last night during FOX's On the Record host Greta van Susteren and her guests discussed the fact that Alberto Gonzalez, Attorney General of the United States and the highest law enforcer in the land, authorized a search warrant at the Rayburn House Capitol Building at 7:00 PM Saturday May 20th in violation of 218 years of separation of powers guaranteed by the Constitution.

Van Susteren and three members of her panel of lawyers - Jim Hammer, Jeff Brown and Bernie Grimm - all agreed that Alberto Gonzalez had gone too far. Both Dennis Hastert and Nancy Pelosi have condemned the action. None of the FOX News legal eagles had a problem with that part of the search warrant that authorized a search of Jefferson's home. However, van Susteren said the search of the Congressman's Capitol Hill office is the first action of its kind in the history of the Congress.

Ted Williams made all kinds of excuses for Gonzalez' actions, claiming that Jefferson was caught dead to rights in a videotaped shake down and somehow this justified the warrant. He was definitely in the minority on this topic.

Van Susteren responded, "The Speaker [Dennis Hastert], the Leader [Nancy Pelosi] and the former Speaker of the House [Newt Ginrich] and, I think, the rest of us, you know, agree if you looked at the Constitution, you know, that seems to be an easy one."

To which Jeff Brown replied, "Good. Well then walk right up to Alberto Gonzalez and tell him to start raiding Tom Delay and Bob Ney's office!"

Van Susteren ended the segment by saying "... you can't trample on Constitutional rights as you do it."

COMMENT
The FBI agents searched ONLY ONE OFFICE, that of Mr. Jefferson, a Democrat. Two other Congressmen, Republicans Tom Delay and Robert Ney, are both facing similar charges of bribery and corruption, yet the Republican Attorney General did not authorize searches of their offices.

Alberto Gonzalez is a disgrace. Like J. Edgar Hoover before him, he seems to think that he's above the law he's supposed to represent.

I keep asking myself when the rubber-stamp Republicans will finally get sick and tired of defending the illegal actions of this rogue administration. Isn't it time for them to roll up their sleeves and clean house?


Statement by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert

"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."

Alberto Gonzalez' response (from the Kansas City Star):

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, asked about the search, said he understands the concerns raised about FBI agents raiding a congressional office.

"'I will admit that these were unusual steps that were taken in response to an unusual set of circumstances,' Gonzales said.

"The search warrant affidavit spells out special procedures put in place to ensure the search did not infringe on privileged material. The procedures include use of a 'filter team' of prosecutors and FBI agents unconnected to the investigation. They would review any seized items or documents and determine whether the documents are privileged and therefore immune from the search warrant.

"If the status of a document is in doubt, the filter team will give the documents to a judge for a definitive ruling before giving them to case prosecutors, according to the affidavit.

Hastert said those protections may not be enough.

"'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,' he said.

"Jefferson has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing, but two of his associates have pleaded guilty to bribery-related charges in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

"The House Ethics Committee has opened an inquiry into the case."

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