Thursday, May 25, 2006

Above the law?

I cross posted this at Just Citizens with a great followup blog from Brad and at Liberty Zone.

That's what our elected Representatives appear to believe themselves to be...

...Above the law.

As you may well have read here, Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana is the subject of a federal bribery investigation. The FBI raided Jefferson's Capitol Hill office a few nights ago and took documents pertaining to their investigation.

Jefferson was caught on tape accepting bribes. Hidden money was found in his freezer, and two staffers implicated him in wrongdoing. Nonetheless, instead of vocally condemning these alleged actions, Congressmen and women on both sides of the aisle are screaming that the FBI violated the Constitution by carrying out this raid!!!

That's right, readers. Worse yet... they're demanding the FBI return documents taken in the raid of Jefferson's office.


"The Justice Department must immediately return the papers it unconstitutionally seized," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement.


Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas -- while admitting that what Jefferson has allegedly done is reprehensible -- claimed on Fox News that... well... you know... Article 1, Section 5 and 6 of the Constitution "talks about privilege and some of the things it does place, you know, some privileges there. The procedure is important."

Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution states, in part:

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.


Hmmm. Would taking $100,000 in bribes as a public official be considered a felony? Just wondering.

Additionally, according to Judge Andrew Napolitano -- and I concur -- the paragraph was placed in there to prevent the President from interfering with a vote he didn't want to happen. It says NOTHING about members of Congress being above the law. Nothing.

Napolitano also added in a Fox News interview that the Constitution says that each House will be the judge of its own members, meaning it can sensor a member or kick a member out for violating ethics. "It does not say they're not subject to the criminal laws, and only the house to which they belong will address criminal activity. Congressman Jefferson is subject to the same laws we're all subject to."

Exactly. Members of Congress are rushing to the defense of their own, citing NOT laws, but historical precedent, as cause for their demand that the FBI return evidence they seized.

Is the procedure more important than the rule of law, Congressman Gohmert? Is historical procedure more important than justice? Than forcing a criminal to face the consequences of his actions? Apparently, Rep. Gohmert thinks so!

First, they tried screaming about the FBI's alleged violation of the "separation of powers" principle. Only one problem with that: when the Founders wanted to ensure a balance of power among the three branches of our government, they certainly NEVER intended to make members of Congress exempt from criminal prosecution.

Then, they tried to claim that the search, which followed an 89-page warrant to the letter, violated a provision in the Constitution that was meant to protect members of the legislative branch against strong-arming by the executive in order to influence a vote!

Neither excuse flies with this blog. Nor should it fly with any rational mind. Congress is not above the law. Article 1, Section 6 does not make them exempt - especially not if they allegedly committed a felony! Their insistence on rallying behind this obvious criminal leads me to believe there are personal interests at stake here.

Gotta send a shout out to Senator David Vitter, one of the few Louisiana politicians with any integrity, apparently.

Louisiana Senator David Vitter, in letter obtained by Bayoubuzz.com, rejected any defense of Bill Jefferson--or condemnation of the raids--by members of his own party. Addressing the note to leaders of the U.S. Senate GOP caucus, Bill Frist and Mitch McConnell, Vitter states, "I write to disagree in the strongest possible terms with the statements of some Congressional leaders which suggest that the court-approved search warrant which allowed the FBI to search a Congressional office is an abuse of power, something illegal or unconstitutional because of separation of powers. I urge you not to make such arguments or propose any policy that would bar or require notice for such court-approved search warrants in the future."

"In offering these views," Vitter continues, "I make no judgment whatsoever on the ongoing Jefferson investigation; that is for the justice system to sort out. And I agree with the practical, common sense rule that such searches of Congressional offices should be used sparingly and after very careful, apolitical review by both the prosecutors involved and an appropriate judge. But no location should be off limits and no one should be above the law."

The Louisiana Senator continued in the document to point out that the separation of powers arguments coming from Congress, in his view, had little basis in law.


There are plenty of issues in Vitter's voting record that give me heartburn. But he's dead on with this one! No one is above the law. No one.

And especially not someone who is elected and receives his salary from hard-working taxpayers.

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