Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended the raid of Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) congressional office after taking heat from both parties over the alleged constitutionality of the action, acccording to the Washington Post. Leaders from both parties expressed outrage over the FBI raid with the Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) stating, "My opinion is that they took the wrong path." House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) stated his belief the case would wind up at the Supreme Court. There was also criticism of the raid from the Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD). 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." It is pretty amazing to see the House Republicans defending Jefferson, a Democrat, from the hard-nosed tactics of a Republican President's Justice Department when you would imagine they would be gloating over the Democrats' own ethics troubles. I would say that is the real shocking turn of events here.Continue reading
On Wednesday, the House Ethics Committee announced that it was launching two probes into lawmakers and a third probe wide-ranging probe into possible violations by staffers and other lawmakers in the Duke Cunningham scandal. However, these probes may interfere with the current investigations that the FBI and Department of Justice Public Integrity Unit have underway. The Washington Post looks at whether the Ethics Committee is too late to the game:
The Justice Department has traditionally opposed such parallel inquiries by congressional committees for fear that lawmakers might complicate its collection of testimony and information. The Senate's ethics panel, for instance, regularly steps aside when another enforcement agency is looking into the behavior of senators. But House officials indicated yesterday that they hope the continuing conversations between the Justice Department and the ethics committee will avert conflicts. A spokesman for the department declined to comment.It is doubtful that the Justice Department is happy about this development. Previously, Justice had asked the House and Senate Ethics Committees to steer clear of any investagtion relating to Jack Abramoff. The House's investigation into Bob Ney, who is alleged to have accepted things of value from Abramoff in exchange for favorable action, clearly goes against Justice's recommendations. A March article in Roll Call notes that the ethics committee's rule 15(f) states that the committee "may defer action on a complaint against a Member, officer, or employee of the House of Representatives when the complaint alleges conduct that the Committee has reason to believe is being reviewed by appropriate law enforcement or regulatory authorities, or when the Committee determines that it is appropriate for the conduct alleged in the complaint to be reviewed initially by law enforcement or regulatory authorities." An expert interviewed in the Post article states, "I can't imagine that they will pursue subpoenas and testimony and get in the way of the Justice Department; that hasn't happened in the past." Continue reading
Roll Call is reporting that House Republicans are "growing uneasy with the increasingly aggressive tactics being employed by the Justice Department in its burgeoning corruption probe of Congress". Some believe that the Justice Department has "gone too far in their techniques" and that prosecutors are trying to "get" a Congressman. Rep. Bob Ney's (R-OH) replacement as House Administration Chairman Vern Ehlers (R-MI) voiced these concerns, "A number of Members are very concerned about the way the Justice Department is investigating." Noel Hillman, the former lead prosecutor at Justice's Public Integrity Unit, stated that he did pursue more aggressive means than previous prosecutors stating that he led a "more aggressive [approach] in the ways we investigate the cases: the more effective use of cooperators, the more effective use of undercover techniques, the consensual recordings." One example cited by Congressmen upset over the aggressive techniques is the searching of Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) car while it was on Congressional grounds. Buried within the article is a simple statement by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) that explains the problems that many Americans have with Congress nowadays.
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee and former California attorney general, said he was growing concerned that some prosecutors and the media were viewing the simple act of accepting campaign contributions from donors with similar legislative agendas as a criminal act. With Members “put into a situation” in which they need to constantly raise money, Lungren noted that each party has found natural bases of donors who support each other’s agendas. But that, he said, doesn’t add up to the criminal level of a “fairly delineated quid pro quo.”The need to constantly raise money puts Congressmen in situations where it oftens seems that they are being bribed, whether they are or not. What Lungren implies, although he would certainly disagree with the way that I read the implications, is that the problem lies in what is actually legal - the honest graft. Continue reading
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales refused to recuse himself from the investigation of Jack Abramoff a day after 31 Senate Democrats called on him to step aside, according to the Associated Press. Democrats contend that Gonzales’ previous work as White House General Counsel and his close ties to President Bush and White House officials creates a conflict of interest in the investigation. So far, the Abramoff investigation has led to the indictment and arrest of former General Services Administration official David Safavian and an ongoing investigation into Deputy Secretary of Interior Stephen Griles. Gonzales stated, “We've got career prosecutors involved in this investigation as we do in all investigations; these are folks that are not motivated by any political agenda.”Continue reading