Hastert Demands FBI Return Documents in Jefferson Case

House Speaker Dennis Hastert is demanding the FBI return documents from a search of a corrupt congressman’s office and take the Agents involved off the case.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert demanded Wednesday that the FBI surrender documents it seized and remove agents involved in the weekend raid of Rep. William Jefferson’s office, under what lawmakers of both parties said were unconstitutional circumstances.

“We think those materials ought to be returned,” Hastert said, adding that the FBI agents involved “ought to be frozen out of that (case) just for the sake of the constitutional aspects of it.”

While immediate ignorance on this issue would be excusable when the story broke, Hastert and his staff have now had ample time to figure out that the Constitutional argument is pure bunk. I was able to confirm that before my first cup of coffee yesterday morning.

The prospect of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is getting less scary with each passing day.

Update: Every passing minute:

Democrats, meanwhile, sought to get Jefferson to resign his seat on the House’s most prestigious panel. “In the interest of upholding the high ethical standard of the House Democratic Caucus, I am writing to request your immediate resignation from the Ways and Means Committee,” wrote House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in the one-sentence correspondence.

Jefferson was defiant. “With respect, I decline to do so,” he wrote back to Pelosi.”I will not give up a committee assignment that is so vital to New Orleans at this crucial time for any uncertain, long-term political strategy.”

This is in rather stark contrast to GOP rallying around Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, and others. Granted, those guys weren’t caught on video and with cash in their freezer. But still.

Meanwhile, while the White House is paying homage to Hastert’s concerns to maintain Executive-Legislative comity, the AG’s office is standing firm.

ustice Department and FBI officials yesterday vigorously defended a weekend raid on the Capitol Hill office of Democratic Rep. William J. Jefferson (La.), arguing that the unprecedented tactic was necessary because Jefferson and his attorneys had refused to comply with a subpoena for documents issued more nine months ago in a bribery investigation.


Gonzales and other officials said the search was conducted carefully to avoid trampling on the constitutional privileges accorded to members of Congress — including the use of a “filter team” of FBI agents and prosecutors not connected to the case who vetted documents to be sure nothing unrelated to the investigation or out of bounds was taken. Gonzales and the White House also said the administration had embarked on private talks with lawmakers about the issue. “We believe, of course, that we’ve been very careful, very thorough in our pursuit of criminal wrongdoing, and that’s what’s going on here,” Gonzales said. “We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the Department of Justice is doing its job in investigating criminal wrongdoing, and we have an obligation to the American people to pursue the evidence where it exists.”

One would think. Of course, Congress could censure Jefferson and render this issue moot.


FILED UNDER: Congress, Law and the Courts, US Constitution, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I seriously begin to wonder if some divided government wouldn’t be a very good thing.


  2. Christopher says:

    LOL! Na na na na na!

    Seriously, the fact is there is always corruption on both sides of the isle. The accusation that the Bush admin is all corrupt is just not true. Neither is it that the D’s are all corrupt. Now the D’s can’t hide behind a (perceived) curtain of innocence.

  3. Gollum says:

    Maybe the documents prove that Denny has the other 10K . . .

  4. Extreme criticism of Hastert is certainly warranted, but let’s not spend too much time patting Pelosi on the back for doing the right thing. She just wants Jefferson to go away so her party can resume the Culture of Corruption drumbeat without quite so great a hypocritical stench. Perhaps I could be convinced otherwise if she publicly asked Hastert to allow the House to censure Jefferson.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Charles: I’d settle for political opportunism on these matters from the GOP at this point.

  6. anjin-san says:

    Pretty hard for the GOP to spin this. Their attutude twoards corruption has been to circle the wagons. For whatever reason, Pelosi stood up and did the right thing, which is rare these days.

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    It requires 2/3’s vote to expel a member. They might get it in the case of Jefferson.

  8. Bhoe says:

    It’s clear why Hastert is pissed off–he’s under investigation himself by the FBI in connection to the Abrahmoff case. So reports ABC.

  9. Roger says:

    The Repubs’ hard scrambling on this one, passing up an opportunity to smear the Dems, does make for interesting commentary. What skeletons must hide behind those Congressional office doors for them to pass up the opp when the upcoming elections are looking so difficult for them? Normally they’d be grabbing any twig floating by on the tidal wave to try an pull themselves out of the water. Not this twig. Fascinating.

  10. Herb says:

    A previouc comment said “Polosi stood up and did the right thing, which is rare these days”

    He was so right, Polosi rarely stands up and does the right thing.

  11. anjin-san says:

    Herb you are right, but even once puts here ahead of Bush, Cheney and thier ilk…