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Sunday, May 28, 2006

33 Miles of CRIME SCENE Tape?

Does anyone have a big roll of that bright yellow CRIME SCENE tape?

The way things are going right now, I think the smartest thing we could do is surround the entire Washington, D.C. area with the stuff, send everyone home, and wait for the November elections and hope we can start over.

This week's episode of "Constitutional Crisis - You Make the Call" is a joint production of both the Administrative and Legislative branches. In this week's episode, members of the House express OUTRAGE at a search and seizure of documents and a computer from the office of a Representative conducted after a legal search warrant is obtained by Justice Department officials through a normal review by a court in the Judiciary branch.

Restating more clearly, the Executive branch

* investigated a crime
* obtained VIDEOTAPE of a House member accepting $100,000 in cash
* found $90,000 dollars in frozen food boxes in the member's home
* subpoenaed the member to provide requested documents
* waited patiently for eight months for the member to comply with the subpoena
* petitioned a court for a search warrant with an 83 page afidavit
* obtained a valid search warrant
* executed the search warrant

In other words, the Administrative branch seemingly did everything by the book and for the right reason. A complete break from tradition for this Administration.

Of course, these are our politicians involved here so nothing could be that simple.

In a rare display of bi-partisan CYA, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D) make a joint speech blasting the Justice Department and FBI for the search and seizure, citing a violation of the Separation of Powers between the Legislative and Executive branches.

In an even rarer display of Solomon-like patience and even-tempered judgment, President Bush unilaterally decided to seal all of the documents for 45 days until the constitutional scuffle can be sorted out.

Hmmmm. Who should we believe is right in this one?

It is Congress and the Bush Administration involved so I'm going to go with NO ONE.

Claims by William Jefferson and House members that the search and seizure constituted a violation of separation of powers are completely without merit. Many have cited the "Speech and Debate" clause of the Constitution which aims at ensuring members of the Executive branch and its law enforcement departments do not directly interfere with a Congressional member's ability to take part in debates on the floor of the House or Senate or interfere with their ability to actually vote on legislation.

The underlying intent of the Speech and Debate clause was to prevent the Executive branch from taking specific action against Legislative members that might prevent those members from taking action directly against the Executive branch via speaking on the floor of the House or Senate during debate of legislation or actual VOTING on legislation. For example, arrest of a House member prior to them entering the House chamber to vote on an Article of Impeachment would constitute a violation of the Speech and Debate clause. The clause was NOT intended to define a warrant-free bubble around any House or Senate member's office or personal belongings.

So why is President Bush attempting to "de-fuse" this political timebomb? His administration is in the right (for once), is it not?

Apparently, the demands by Congress to return the material seized in the search of William Jefferson's office have been seriously reviewed by the Justice Department. The return was contemplated so much that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and three of his department heads within the Justice department threatened resignation if a decision was made to return the documents. Hmmmm. Another rare display of properly motivated principle on the part of a Bush appointee.

That puts President Bush in the awkward position of being absolutely correct on a legal issue that seems to threaten nearly every member of the Legislative branch. Of course, if the House and Senate were operating with even a semblance of ethics, no member would have a thing to worry about with warrants to search their offices. That's exactly the case made to the American public about our phone records, library card usage, and other private information, right?

Of course, the House and Senate are both highly corrupt and they have a great deal to fear from a more active criminal investigation of their dealings with lobbyists and campaign contributors. And that is where both Congress and the President wind up being completely wrong on this issue. President Bush's offer to seal the material seized from William Jefferson for 45 days is effectively an extra-constitutional deal with Congress: you keep ignoring my abuse of FISA law and massive telecommunications data mining and my Justice Department will come up with a way to give you some slack on potential prosecution for a legitimately investigated crime.

How perilous is this situation for Congress and the President? Both Democrats and Republicans could be in serious legal and political jeopardy if more robust investigations are pursued by law enforcement of recent corruption charges. If Bush shows some constitutional backbone in pursuing these investigations, he could trigger a more activist Congress to finally do its job in thwarting his extra-Constitutional activities and potentially trigger legal action or impeachment against him. If Bush caves in to Congress, he could lose the entire top staff of his Justice Department, requiring him to fill those vacancies with confirmation hearings in a a hostile Congress while allowing key Administration insiders to leave and unravel more information about the past six years.

It's kind of a lose-lose-lose situation for all involved. Congress, the Administration and We The People.

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So, does anyone have about 34 miles of CRIME SCENE tape we can use? Of course, we might want to use WAR CRIME SCENE tape when wrapping the White House but that's a different topic.