Friday, May 26, 2006
President Bush issued an memorandum (here) directing that the materials seized from Representative William Jefferson's office on May 20 be sealed for 45 days to permit the Department of Justice and the House of Representatives to resolve the issues related to the search. The memorandum states:
(1) The Attorney General, acting through the Solicitor General of the United States who shall for this purpose be subject to no supervision by any officer of the Department of Justice other than the Attorney General, shall (a) preserve and seal the materials, (b) ensure that no use is made of the materials, and (c) ensure that no person has access to the materials, except that Office of the Solicitor General personnel under the direct supervision of the Solicitor General may have the minimum physical access to the materials essential to the preservation of the materials.
(2) The Attorney General shall endeavor, and the House of Representatives is respectfully encouraged to endeavor, to resolve any issues relating to the materials through discussions between them in good faith and with mutual institutional respect and, if it should prove necessary after exhaustion of such discussions, through appropriate proceedings in the courts of the United States.
A court filing by Representative Jefferson seeking the return of the materials indicates that agents removed two boxes of documents and copied all the files on the Congressman's hard drive. Computer searches are often used to recover deleted items, and it may be that investigators believe that only by searching the computer rather than seeking its production through a subpoena duces tecum would permit them to recover all the evidence. That said, it may well be that the computer could have been obtained by a means other than a Saturday night search, perhaps by having the House Counsel's office secure it and having the hard drive copied. The President's directive will keep the issue out of the courts for at least a little while, and perhaps permit a negotiated resolution that will permit the FBI to obtain the evidence it believes was in the Rayburn Office of Representative Jefferson. An AP story (here) discusses the status of the dispute. (ph)