Monday, July 10, 2006

Documents Seized from Rep. Jefferson's Office Remain on Ice

The documents seized by the FBI from Louisiana Representative William Jefferson's office back in May remain unreviewed, even though the President's order (here) directing the Solicitor General to hold them undisturbed for 45 days expired on July 9.  Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, who approved the search warrant, held a hearing on June 16 (see earlier post here) in which Representative Jefferson moved to have the documents returned and the chief counsel of the House of Representatives argued that the search violated the Speech or Debate Clause protection in the Constitution. The judge has not issued a decision yet, and while the 45-day cooling-off period was designed to permit the Department of Justice and Congress work out some resolution related to reviewing the documents, it does not appear that the two sides have reached an agreement.  It is likely that the DoJ will stay away from the documents for now, despite the expiration of the President's order, because the issue is before the court and any move to look at them would be a slap at Congress that the Administration does not need at this point.  If the judge upholds the search and rejects the claimed constitutional protection for congressional documents, the issue will likely boil back to the surface with an appeal likely, perhaps just in time for the fall elections.  An AP story (here) discusses the status of the case. (ph)

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