Trampling the Constitution

One more reason why during the next election I’m going to head to the polls rip-roaring drunk.

“Members of Congress must follow the law and be held accountable just like everyone else. By no means, should Rep. Jefferson’s alleged conduct be condoned, but there is a constitutional way for justice to be served. The FBI’s unprecedented Saturday night raid of Rep. Jefferson’s Capitol Hill office raises profoundly disturbing constitutional questions that must be addressed,” Sensenbrenner said in a press release.

The oversight hearing, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 30, is entitled, “Reckless Justice: Did the Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution?”

I got news for people like Pelosi and Hastert, the only people who appear to be trampling on the Constitution are them (and by them I mean politicians in general–i.e. you liberal readers I’m not giving Bush a pass here, he is after all a politician too).

“The Founding Fathers intended to protect the Congress and the American people from abuses of power, and those principles deserve to be vigorously defended,” Hastert and Pelosi said.

Sure, but the only one’s who are abusing their powers are Rep. William Jefferson, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and Rep. Dennis Hastert (and those who think similarly). If this isn’t a case of using the privileges of one’s office in a way that abuses both that office and the trust of the American people I don’t know what is. Further, this makes me think, “What does Hastert and Pelosi have to hide?” After all, there is videotape of Jefferson taking the bribe for crying out loud. $90,000 in cash was found in his freezer. Saying that a politicians office is always off limits to search and seizure when a warrant has been issued by a court, then it basically says, “If you are going to be corrupt, then hide all the evidence in your Congressional office, that way you can be immune from prosecution for your wrong doing.”

Frankly, I hope Hastert is being investigated by the Justice Department, and I hope he is found to be guilty, removed from office and thrown in jail. The man is a complete disgrace.

Update: After seeing James’ post above that Bush caved and ordered Jefferson’s papers sealed all I have to say is, only 971 days till Bush is history.

FILED UNDER: Congress, US Constitution, US Politics, , , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. lily says:

    I’m not following your reasoning. I mean, how is Pelosi in the wrong on this? Is she on record as objecting to the FBI raid? (Maybe she is and I just didn’t notice. I thought she was pretty supportive of the investigation of Jefferson and wanted him off committeeships and so on.)

  2. legion says:

    Hastert’s protest was a given, but I’m deeply diasppointed in Pelosi. She (and the Dems in general, if they ever want the public to trust them) need to be leading the charge to ensure Congress has to play by the same rules us “little people” do…

  3. Fersboo says:
  4. Bithead says:

    As I suggested in another thread, here:

    Some of this argument we’re seeing is genuinely a question of constitutional inteprtetation…. one that’s not been decided yet. How else to account for the publicly taken position of Gingrich, as an example?

    In general, it seems to me that the reason that these issues are as yet undecided, is that the conduct of the Congresscritters has never been bad enough to warrant these questions being brought to the front and center, before.

    Particularly, the reason the questions have never been forced before is because weâ??ve not had people like Democrat Jefferson, perviously. Clearly, being caught with cash in the freezer is enough to end most of the arguments about his guilt or innoence in the minds of Americans, thereby requiring action.

    One gets the impression that this is not a matter of covering some sort of criminal activity so much as arguing a major, unsettled constitutional question.

    Personally, Iâ??m inclined to think the search and subsequent gathering of evdience resulting from that search to be legal, and proper, but I donâ??t think that Hastert and Gingrich (and others, for large part) arguing otherwise is indcative for anything other than an unfounded constitutional concern.

    I mean, the timing of the arguments being posed sucks, but when else would such constitutional questions have come up, previously?

    And as for:

    What does Hastert and Pelosi have to hide?â??

    the more correct question, is who has somehting to gain from spreading the perception that they do?

  5. Steve Verdon says:

    the more correct question, is who has somehting to gain from spreading the perception that they do?

    Oh please. Hastert and Pelosi only have themselves to blame in this case as they have decided to side with Jefferson.

  6. Bithead says:

    I suspect not.
    I also suspect you hadn’t even considered what I sugegsted because it doesn’t fit to your perception of Hastert.

    Mind you, I have my problems with Hastert as well (UNrelated to this) and I think the constitutional issue he brings up just now a bit misguided. But the concern he raises is, I think, far less sinister than you’re making it, Steve.

    Please Bithead. Pelosi and Hastert have taken actions, these actions are what have shaped my views of them (for the record I had pretty much no views on either of them prior to this). Saying that their actions are not part of what is shaping my views of them is just nonsense.


  7. Steve Verdon says:


    Pelosi is siding with Hastert and the rest with the “this is wrong, the FBI has no right to search a Congressional office” schtick. It is contemptible.


    Please, James’ links on the legality of the issue are pretty clear. The part of the Constitution that Hastert et. al. are citing doesn’t cover hiding evidence of criminal behavior in one’s congressional office.

  8. Lily,
    Pelosi was joining with Hastert on the “all evidenced seized should be returned”.

    I think those calling for the congressional offices to be sacrosanct from search are going about it wrong. There is a way to respond to this if you really think it was wrong. Write an amendment, get 2/3 of congress to vote for it and then send your congress critters home on break to persuade their states to adopt the amendment. Then they can have all the privilege they want. Saying 219 years on not doing it means it shouldn’t be done is not the way. Now whether you could get 2/3 of congress to agree to specific wording on an amendment when the polls start showing up, let alone the states to pass it, is an open question. But that is how the congress protects its turf in a checks and balances game.

    If the FBI raided Murtha because he might have been involved in the CIA leaks, I would man the barricades with Hastert. Not because I think Murtha is in any way right or that the CIA leaks shouldn’t be prosecuted, but because it would look like the executive branch trying to intimidate a critic in congress. That sort of abuse is the only thing I could imagine that congress could be trying to defend against. But this isn’t that case. I suspect that in the 8 months of stonewalling, there were more than one FBI memo to Hastert and Pelosi asking for cooperation on getting the subpoenaed items resolved. They should have been quietly pushing to cooperate with the FBI. If they think the charges are bogus, then go public 8 months ago. If they think there was something behind the charges, then use the capital police to execute the subpoena if they want to keep things in the family. But the fact that they didn’t keep their own nest clean does not mean they should now see the monsters under the bed.

  9. jd watson says:

    I haven’t seen any convincing Constitutional argument against the Jefferson search. The “Speech and Debate” clause only makes them immune to arrest, with notable exceptions. There is nothing in the Constitution making their offices immune from judicially authorized search warrants.

    My presumption is that this is the Cynthia McKinney Syndrome writ large: they seem to believe they are privileged and not subject to the same enforcement of laws that normal citizens are. They only seem to be concerned when it might be their telephone records being scrutinized or their offices searched.

  10. Bithead says:

    Please, Jamesâ?? links on the legality of the issue are pretty clear.

    And as I suggested, I’ve not seen any convincing arguments there, either; I think the raid perfectly legal and proper. We don’t disagree at all on the validity of the arguments, Steve.

    But that he makes arguments does not of itself suggest he’s siding with Jefferson, or covering any criminality of his own, either, particularly when other, less interested parties, have taken up similar arguments to his.

    That said, there are a number of reasons why someone might take up such an argument. All the things you suggest are Hasterts motivations, I state are Pelosi’s. Pelosi, after all, has a far more substantial record of clearly less than honnorable motivations than Hastert, in my view.

  11. RA says:

    Congress is big on overseeing everybody elses business but they reject the constitutional right for law enforcement to have oversight over them. On this issue it appears Hastert is more corrupt than Pelosi. I never thought I’d see this day. Republicans demogoging and Democrats trying to do the right thing. Sheep will be lying down with wolves next.

  12. IndyNH says:

    So far, I have only seen one Congresscritter get it right. My own Rep. Charlie Bass (NH) has this on his blog:

    “FBI Raid of Congressman Jefferson�s Office

    The FBI raid on Congressman William Jefferson�s office may have been aggressive and a breach from a long-standing tradition, but I do not believe it was improper. Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution should not be misconstrued as shielding Members of Congress from investigation of criminal behavior. Members should not be shielded from investigation simply because evidence of criminal behavior may be located in their taxpayer-funded offices. Such thinking is an outrageous affront to those citizens who have chosen us to represent them.”