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Andrew Sullivan's Odd Idea of "Marriage" | Main | Carson Palmer's Wife Can't Get Enough Cornhole
June 01, 2006

Shock: 86% Of Americans Support Searches-By-Legal-Warrant In Congressional Offices

94% of Republicans support the searches. It's all part of Denny Hastert's secret plan to piss off every American voter in the country.

Does anyone else note a whiff of self-interested hypocrisy in Congressional Republicans supporting Bush, properly, on various warrantless eavesdropping/call tracking programs, and yet balking at having their offices searched even with a judicially-issued, legal warrant?

The Congressmen have a slight point about a narrow issue. The Speech and Debate Clause says they shall not be questioned by anyone for any statement they make in regard to legislative activity. Bush's compromise -- which is really not as much of a sell-out as some would have it -- is that the seized documents will be examined by a neutral panel of investigators not associated with the case, to determine if various papers are relevant to the investigation, or merely have to do with lawful legislative activity. A judge will decide situations where there is a dispute.

The only constitutional leg Congress has to stand on comes from the Speech and Debate Clause. And yes, an expansive reading of that clause would, I guess, suggest that a congressman's papers cannot be searched willy-nilly by the executive, as that constitutes a violation of his right to be free of legal hassels in communications he makes in his lawful capacity as legislator.

But.

Offices themselves are not sacrosanct, and it is hardly a workable reading of the Clause to suggest that any papers a congressman may have cannot be subpeonaed or searched or seized in a lawful investigation simply because any of them might have something to do with his legislative activity.

Hey, who's to say that he didn't have notes for a speech written down on some of those $100 bills he had stashed in his fridge? Since he might have been using his bribe money to make notes about upcoming votes, that means we can't seize those bills too, right?

Add that to the fact that the stupid greedy son-of-a-bitch was already caught trying to hide papers during a previous search by the FBI.

I think Hastert and other congressmen should have softly raised some concerns about the search, and sought clarifications from the FBI on these matters. As well as softly voicing the concern that seizing a congressman's papers might constitute, in some cases, an arguable violation of the Speech and Debate Clause.

But to go nuclear over the issue like this?

Unacceptable. If these guys want immunity from all criminal process during the duration of their terms as officials, they should run for president of France.


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posted by Ace at 01:13 PM

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