President enters document/raid conflict
The story gets bigger and bigger. The AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush stepped into the Justice Department's constitutional confrontation with Congress on Thursday and ordered that documents seized in an FBI raid on a congressman's office be sealed for 45 days.The Washington Post this morning:
The president directed that no one involved in the investigation have access to the documents under seal and that they remain in the custody of the solicitor general.
Bush's move was described as an attempt to reach a cooling off period in a heated confrontation between his administration and leaders of the House and Senate.
"This period will provide both parties more time to resolve the issues in a way that ensures that materials relevant to the ongoing criminal investigation are made available to prosecutors in a manner that respects the interests of a coequal branch of government," Bush said.
In a statement, Bush said he recognized that Republican and Democratic leaders in the House had "deeply held views" that the search on Rep. William Jefferson's Capitol Hill office violated the Constitution's separation of powers principles. But he stopped short of saying he agreed with them.
"Our government has not faced such a dilemma in more than two centuries," the president said. "Yet after days of discussions, it is clear these differences will require more time to be worked out."
In their rare joint statement issued Wednesday , Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, and House Minority Leader Pelosi, D-California, demanded that the FBI return the documents and that Jefferson then would have to cooperate with the investigation.
The FBI raid on Rep. William Jefferson's congressional office was an aggressive tactic that broke a long-standing political custom. But while it might violate the spirit of the Constitution, it might not violate the letter of the document or subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court, legal analysts say.