Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Not Everyone Reads Tea Leaves

Well, it looks like the same tenacity that has made Representative Jim Sensenbrenner a hero to supporters of border enforcement is also alienating him from those who believe the FBI was right to conduct a raid on Congressman Bill Jefferson's office. Clever readers will recognize that those two groups are often the very same people.

Rather than temper his criticism of the DoJ, as Dennis Hastert and others have done, Sensenbrenner wants to call Alberto Gonzalez on the carpet:

House Panel Probes FBI Search of Rep. Jefferson's Office
Tuesday , May 30, 2006

WASHINGTON — House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner said Tuesday he will summon Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller before his panel to explain their decision to raid a lawmaker's office for the first time in history.

"I want to have Attorney General Gonzales and FBI Director Mueller up here to tell us how they reached the conclusion they did," said Sensenbrenner, one of President Bush's most loyal House allies. Sensenbrenner's hearings, which began Tuesday, are examining whether the May 20 raid violated the Constitution.

Calling the decision to authorize the raid "profoundly disturbing," Sensenbrenner signaled that he would not be among the lawmakers backing off their criticism of the Bush administration. Any progress in talks between House and Justice Department lawyers in crafting guidelines for future criminal investigations of Congress would not deter Sensenbrenner from calling the administration to account for weekend search of Rep. William Jefferson's offices.

"They didn't get it right this time," Sensenbrenner said.

...Calling it the first of three hearings into the matter, Sensenbrenner was not mollified by President Bush's order last week to seal the case, nor behind-the-scenes negotiations since then toward establishing a procedure for future searches.

At the session, Democrats said a member of the Bush administration, and not just legal experts, should have been called before the panel to answer for the raid.

"We've never been told why the search had to be done in the middle of the night," noted ranking Democrat John Conyers of Michigan. "We've never learned why the member in question was not permitted to have his attorneys present while his offices were searched for some 18 hours."

Of course, a hearing featuring the Attorney General and FBI Director would be just the thing to help the President's approval rating and hurt those of Congress. It might even give Gonzalez an 'Ollie North moment' - something like this:

"When I took the oath of office, I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and to enforce the laws of this great nation. And with all due respect Mr. Chairman, getting elected to Congress doesn't entitle a man to take bribes, corrupt the democratic process, and bring dishonor to the Congress itself, all while pretending that his title puts him above the law and allows him to hide evidence on property entrusted to him by the taxpayers. Consistent with the checks and balances that are part of our system, the Department of Justice obtained court permission to go and get the evidence that Mr. Jefferson was withholding, and we would do the same thing in an instant if that was what it took to ensure that a criminal is brought to justice."

Is that really what Chairman Sensenbrenner wants?

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