Tuesday, May 23, 2006


AP: FBI oversteps in congressional office search - May 23

By MARY DALRYMPLE, Associated Press Writer -- Tuesday, 3:37 AM ET

Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., makes a statement upon his arrival at Washington's National Airport, Monday, May 22, 2006. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)WASHINGTON - The FBI's weekend search of the House office of Rep. William Jefferson, right, a Louisiana Democrat under investigation for bribery may have overstepped Constitutional boundaries, House leaders said as the congressman under investigation pledged to stay in office.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert said the Justice Department had never before crossed a line that separates Congress from the executive branch by searching a congressional office while investigating a member of Congress.

The search warrant was issued by a federal district judge in suburban Virginia, based on an affidavit from FBI investigators outlining some of the evidence that have accumulated in the case, including video tape of the congressman accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant, who agreed to have her conversations with the congressman taped.

Agents later found all but $10,000 of the cash — in marked bills — hidden in a freezer in one of the congressman's homes, according to the affidavit.

His homes in New Orleans and the Washington area were searched by FBI agents last August.

"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," Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said in a statement Monday.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said congressional independence from the executive branch protects Americans from abuses of power.  "Justice Department investigations must be conducted in accordance with Constitutional protections and historical precedent," she said.

Rep. William Jefferson (news, bio, voting record), whose office was searched over the weekend in connection with allegations of bribery, called the weekend search of his office an "outrageous intrusion."

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.

Full AP-Yahoo News story.  M.C.: Maybe they should search the Prairie Chapel Ranch for drug paraphernalia or other illegal acts.

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