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May 29, 2006
Frist: Congress Not Above The Law

Showing more political acumen than his House counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist waited a few days before publicly commenting on the raid on Rep. William Jefferson's offices. Frist put that time to good use, and instead of accusing the executive branch of assuming dictatorial powers for simply executing a judicially-approved search warrant, he acknowledged that members of Congress have no privilege that allows them to ignore court orders or that turn Capitol Hill into a sanctuary for wayward politicians:

After a week of bipartisan outrage over an FBI raid on a congressman's office, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist weighed in yesterday, saying that he was "okay" with the search and saw no constitutional problems with it.

"No House member, no senator, nobody in government should be above the law of the land, period," Frist said of the search of the office of William J. Jefferson (D-La.), who has been accused of bribery.

Frist (R-Tenn.) said on "Fox News Sunday" that he had studied the provision in the Constitution regarding the separation of powers, and consulted with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. He concluded that the FBI acted appropriately when it used a warrant to search the office of a sitting lawmaker for the first time in history.

"I don't think it abused separation of powers," Frist said. "I think there's allegations of criminal activity, and the American people need to have the law enforced."

Frist did what Denny Hastert and Nancy Pelosi apparently could not: he waited to get all of the relevant information before leaping in front of the first available microphone.

What has been most frustrating in this issue is the way Hastert played into the media' favorite Washington trope -- how the Bush administration has supposedly eroded the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches. As soon as the news of the raid hit the wires, Hastert pulled that meme out of his back pocket, knowing he would garner the sympathy of the media in his complaint. Never mind that the subpoena had judicial approval, and never mind that Jefferson and the House counsel had ignored it for over eight months -- a luxury none of us would have been allowed.

Unfortunately, Hastert and James Sensenbrenner have yet to understand the concept of applying the law equally to all citizens. Sensenbrenner appeared on "Meet The Press" yesterday to still beat the dead horse of protecting Congress from executive coercion. Neither of these men have yet said a single word about Jefferson's months-long defiance of law enforcement or their own chamber's failure to cooperate with the FBI. Neither of them realize how arrogant and elitist their supposedly principled stands appear to the voters, either. Instead of defending Congress, they all appear to be trashing the President in order to protect a crook -- of the other party.

Perhaps their constituents can get them to realize the error of their ways.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 29, 2006 7:53 AM

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» More strange bedfellows in the Jefferson case from Sister Toldjah
First, it was House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issuing a joint statement condeming and calling “unconstitutional” the FBI’s seizure of documents from Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-... [Read More]

Tracked on May 29, 2006 2:00 PM


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