William Jefferson's (D-LA) former aide Brett Pfeffer was sentenced today to eight years in prison for his role in the ongoing bribery investigation of the Louisiana congressman. It's pretty clear that Paul Kiel's observation here is absolutely going to be true: "it seems likely that he could shatter the record set for the longest sentence for a Member of Congress: 8 years, 4 months, set by Duke Cunningham."Continue reading
Justin Rood examines why Congress, the House in particular, has devolved into chaos. Rood, looking at the Majority Republicans, states that a mixture of the loss of Tom DeLay (R-TX), who clearly was amazing at his job as partisan enforcer, the disastrous drop in public opinion of President Bush, and the steady stream of corruption investigations and guilty pleas has sent Republican members into a frenzy. Without any clear, strong leader and with Feds snooping around claiming that campaign contributions can be seen as bribes these members are, rightfully, unsettled. The lack of a strong charismatic figure is terrible for the Republican caucus. Since the 1994 revolution they have always had a strong and determined conservative leader, whether it be Newt Gingrich, DeLay or the President, who has led them in lock step support of conservative issues. It should be noted that DeLay was the one who put Dennis Hastert (R-IL) into the Speakership while he ruled the House from the Whip and Majority Leader post. The combination of Hastert, John Boehner (R-OH), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) has not been able to stop Republican hemmoraging.
This disorder and caucus revolt even bleeds over to the Democratic side where Rood states that they should be "placing advance orders for champagne and cigars and slapping each other on the back". The Congressional Black Caucus, a powerful 40-plus member gourp in the Democratic caucus, is in open revolt against Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) over her public effort to remove the discredited William Jefferson (D-LA) from the Ways and Means Committee. The CBC has had problems with the Democratic leadership for some time now and now that the leadership refuses to support Jefferson those problems are becoming even more strained. So why is Congress in such disarray? They feel that they are besieged and the walls have been breached. As Rood writes:
It should have been no secret to those on the Hilll that Hastert -- and the 30-plus other members who did legislative favors for Jack Abramoff and his clients -- would draw at least a passing query from the Justice Department. But as long as they were asked quietly and off the front pages, the situation was manageable.Members are besieged by the press, distrusted by their constituents, and the Justice Department is invading their territory. It is no wonder that they have turned inward and begun to devour each other. Continue reading
The Associated Press reports that Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) will put the tussle between Congress and the Justice Department over the raid of Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) congressional office "in the past" and work to "set up guidelines for the FBI to review materials it seized from a lawmaker's office and any other searches of Congress' offices." This occured after Hastert took direct criticism from conservatives in his party over his reaction over the raid of a Democrat's office. Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh called Hastert "politically tone-deaf" and former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) stated, "Only thing I can figure is that Denny got up one morning and said, 'Our approval with the public is at 27 percent -- how can I drive that down further?'"Continue reading
- Jack Abramoff's emails to GSA official David Safavian were introduced in the trial of the former Bush administration official yesterday. In one email Abramoff expresses outrage over the possibility of losing the Old Post Office Building, which he was trying to get Safavian to sell to him to turn into a five-star hotel, to a women's group intent on turning the building into a women's history museum. "'What idiots!' the lobbyist wrote. 'This would kill any five star hotel for sure.'"
- Brian Ross reaffirmed his story about Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) in today's Washington Post although he adds that it "could wash out and be nothing."
- Two more aides to Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) have been subpoenaed in relation to the Jack Abramoff bribery investigation, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The aides, Patrick Vinovich and Will Heaton, both accompanied Ney, Abramoff, Safavian, and Ralph Reed on the infamous 2002 "golf golf golf" trip to Scotland. Vinovich will exercise his Fifth Amendment rights to not testify in the Safavian case, however his financial records will be provided as evidence.
- "When they found the money in the freezer, man … I was kind of shocked. I just never thought he would get caught up — allegedly — in that type of situation." Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) alleged misdeeds are the new talk of the town in hurricane ravaged New Orleans, according to the Los Angeles Times. Residents are in shock over the allegations with some finding it incomprehensible for Jefferson to have done these things while others finding his alleged actions to confirm long-standing doubts about his character. The most meaningful quote in article reads, "I personally liked the man. After Katrina, we need him in the House Ways and Means Committee. It's a blow, not just for the city but the whole state. We need more positive things down here right now to get on our feet."
- Hi, I'm a journalist and I'm not going to tell you that I'm being paid by a candidate for office to write this column in support of his candidacy. Ethical schmethical!
President Bush has stepped into the roiling feud between Congress and the Justice Department over the FBI's weekend raid of Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) congressional office and ordered the FBI to seal the documents for 45 days. According to the Associated Press:
The president directed that no one involved in the investigation have access to the documents taken last weekend from the office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., and that they remain in the custody of the solicitor general. Bush's move was described as an attempt to cool off a heated confrontation between his administration and leaders of the House and Senate. ... "Our government has not faced such a dilemma in more than two centuries," the president said. "Yet after days of discussions, it is clear these differences will require more time to be worked out."This whole FBI raid has thrown everybody in Washington off script. It's bizarre, but at the same time kind of refreshing to see politicians react to something that they didn't already have a pre-scripted reaction to. I would love to have a fly on the wall when Bush and his aides discussed sealing the documents. What did Congress threaten them with? Instapundit wonders, "Could Al Qaeda have slipped mind-altering drugs into the DC water supply? What's gotten into these people? Or has some sort of deal been cut?" Since I haven't seen any UFOs split the sky like a sheet today I would have to go with his latter hunch. Continue reading
- Conservatives are in revolt against their own party as they battle over earmarks and pet projects in an attempt to reassert fiscal discipline, a concept that seems to have been thrown out the window since 2001.
- The trial of David Safavian began yesterday with prosecutors arguing that Safavian broke the law and Safavian's defense claiming that the prosecution brought the case just because Safavian was friends with Jack Abramoff. Justin Rood went and watched the court room proceedings and found it incredibly boring to listen to a case that was basically just about golf.
- Some members of Congress are not ready to assail the Justice Department for its search of Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) congressional office for fears that it would give the public an even worse perception of Congress. Can the public have an even worse perspective of Congress? What is their approval rating, 7% or something? In actuality it's 27%, which is insanely low. People do not like you guys.
- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) public move to push Jefferson off of the Ways and Means Committee has caused the Congressional Black Caucus to go into open revolt against the Democratic Leadership, according to The Hill.
- And finally, Dennis Hastert (R-IL) may sue ABC for libel over their story that is under investigation by the Justice Department in connection to the Jack Abramoff scandal. Let me tell you something Dennis, in this country, you can't really win a libel suit. It's basically impossible. Trust me.
Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) publicly asked the embattled Democrat William Jefferson (D-LA) to resign from his post on the House Ways and Means Committee. Jefferson refused her request and will remain on the Committee. It's been pretty clear for a little while that the Democratic leadership would just love to cut Jefferson loose but due to ongoing feuds with the Congressional Black Caucus, which supports Jefferson, it cannot. Jefferson isn't going anywhere unless the CBC cuts him loose. My only guess is that Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are trying to do whatever they can to get the CBC to side with them against Jefferson. Meanwhile the conservative blogosphere is outraged at the House Republican reaction to the FBI raid and what they perceive to be a missed opportunity to highlight Democratic hypocrisy on their "culture of corruption" meme. John Podheretz calls Hastert a "blithering idiot"; Ed Morrisey says, "Hastert and Boehner do not argue against an imperial presidency, but rather they are arguing for an untouchable political elite, where our elected officials risk nothing by taking bribes and selling their votes to the highest bidder"; streiff at RedState titles a post bemoaning Hastert's statements: "I Give Up".Continue reading
So let me get this straight. If you are a private citizen the police are free to search your car without your consent and use whatever they find against you in court; give you a few seconds to open your door before kicking it down if they SUSPECT you might destroy evidence, like a joint, before they enter; take your possessions to fund their police department whether you are guilty of a crime or not; and essentially pull you out of your house and arrest you with little to no evidence at all if they are arresting you on drug charges. And now Congress gets all testy when one of their members gets his office raided by the Feds after he is caught on tape accepting $100,000 in cold, hard cash. Speaker Dennis Hastert is demanding that the FBI return the files that they took:
"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."And Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is calling the raid an abuse of executive power:
"Not anyone here is above the law," Pelosi told reporters Tuesday, as she prepared to meet with the House speaker. But, she added, "I think you've seen abuse of power of the executive branch over this weekend."Maybe the Congress needs to read up on how the modern police force acts and how they use forceful measures to instill fear and reactivate power. These kind of raids -- and in some communities they are done in a paramilitary fashion -- are common in parts of this country. Perhaps instead of complaining about how they are being treated Congress should recognize that they are being treated in the manner that they decided that the rest of the populace ought to be treated. Continue reading
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
At any rate, members of Congress who are offended by an unannounced late-night raid on an office might profitably be asked what they think about late-night unannounced raids on private homes, which happen all the time as part of the Congressionally-mandated War on Drugs. If anything, it ought to work the other way. I think if you searched 435 randomly selected American homes, and 435 Congressional offices, you just might find more evidence of crime in the latter. . . .Exactly the point I made below. UPDATE: And more sense making from streiff at Redstate:
If the search was truly a concern then that same concern should more rightfully have been raised when Jefferson’s home was raided. Clearly, a raid on your domicile is much more intimidating than a raid on your office. The idea that somehow a legislative agenda was imperiled by the FBI raiding Jefferson’s office is laughable on its face. First and foremost, any legislation or correspondence a congressman is working on is not more important than a lot of other things in government and private life. Businesses who are raided are at risk of losing trade secrets and business models. The FBI has raided CIA offices and other federal offices containing really classified information and perhaps put it in danger of exposure. So while I could agree in principle that confidential information might be exposed, that is the price of breaking the law. The detailed special instructions in the search warrant, beginning on page 78, show that uncommon deference was given to Jefferson and great deal of effort was devoted to searching the effects of William Jefferson, Democrat, Louisiana, the man, not William Jefferson, Democrat, Louisiana, the member of Congress.Continue reading