In the expanding wreck called the Jefferson prosecution, the Justice Department is still reeling from its loss before the D.C. Circuit over its 2005 raid on the congressional office of Rep. William Jefferson.
A three-judge panel ruled that papers seized by the FBI “exposed legislative material to the Executive and accordingly violated” the speech-or-debate clause. The panel ruled that the FBI is barred from “a location where legislative materials [are] inevitably to be found,” unless the member consents.Now, Justice is worried that the ruling will undermine its other corruption cases like those in the Abramoff scandal. For a recent story, click here
It is a self-inflicted wound. I testified at the congressional hearing after the Jefferson raid and explained why it was both facially unconstitutional and unnecessary. For my prior testimony on the Jefferson raid, click here
Now, in a lasting gift from the Alberto Gonzales administration at Justice, the Justice Department is continuing to spend huge amounts of money and time to repair the damage done. If the Justice Department had simply followed past procedures, it could have secured the material and moved swiftly to trial. Instead, trying to prove that they can again act without restraint or limitations, they took the most thuggish possible approach and undermined a strong case for prosecution. For a prior column, click here