Saturday, May 27, 2006
Who is in charge of the executive -- that is when it comes to the power of the President versus the Attorney General?
According to the Washington Post here, it looks like the issue may temporarily be on hold, in that the evidence obtained in a search has been sealed. (see here) The controversy involved the papers removed from the office of Rep. William Jefferson. These items were taken by the FBI pursuant to a search warrant. Although a subpoena duces tecum could have been used, a process which would have allowed the congressman the opportunity to go into court and move to quash the subpoena, it was not used here. (see post here and here). The Washington Post reports a threat of three top law enforcement officials, including the head of the FBI (Mueller) and the DOJ (Gonzalez) resigning if the papers of Jefferson are ordered returned to him by the President.
Does this remind some of us of history? Remember when President Nixon "discharged Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and accepted the resignations of Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus." See Washington Post here (1973).
But this is not quite the same. We aren't dealing with an investigation of the President here, and we don't have a special prosecutor conducting this particular investigation. Not to mention that the investigation involves a Democrat in Congress and the President is Republican.
But the test of who controls the executive when it comes to a criminal investigation -- the president or DOJ - - remains the same.