Sunday, May 28, 2006

Separation Of Powers Tiff

I've had a great deal of difficulty determining just what was really going on in the fight over the FBI raid of a Congressional office. Technically speaking, the FBI search was probably legal, done as it was with a search warrant (what a pleasant surprise!). Whether it was constitutionally proper is another matter insofar as it breached the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branch. Still, House Speaker Dennis Hastert's loud outrage at the search was somewhat puzzling.

The House office searched was that of Congressman William Jefferson, a Democrat from Louisiana. Was this just a cynical attempt to keep the news of a Democrat being investigated for corruption on the front page, thereby taking some of the heat off the Republicans? Was the House Speaker using the incident as a means of providing a show of force in the upcoming conference committee on immigration? Was it a way of distancing Republican House members from an unpopular president going into the November elections? Or was it a way to stop those kinds of searches because other members of the Republican caucus, including the Speaker, had something to hide?

Carl Hulse had an analysis piece in today's NY Times which suggests that Mr. Hastert's motives were actually a push-back at an administration which has been dissing Congress for quite a while.

Lawmakers and senior officials say Mr. Hastert's determined challenge to the Justice Department's court-authorized search of a Congressional office arose as much from frustration at missteps and slights by high-level administration officials as it did from outrage over what he saw as a gross violation of Congressional turf.

He and other Republicans were already upset at the Treasury Department for what they saw as the botched handling of the Dubai ports deal. And they held John D. Negroponte, the national intelligence director, responsible for what they considered the humiliating dismissal of Porter J. Goss, the popular former House member who was forced out as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

...Mr. Hastert got some unexpected help from an ABC News report — denied by the Justice Department — that he was part of the continuing inquiry into the activities of the former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges this year. While lawmakers might have been miffed at Mr. Hastert, they were up in arms over what they saw as a not-so-subtle attack on their leader and Mr. Bush's chief ally in Congress.

While Mr. Hulse makes a fairly strong case that the FBI search was just the last straw for Speaker Hastert, his article simply raises more questions, especially with respect to the implied threat issued by Justice by the leaking of information that the Speaker himself was among those under investigation in the Abramoff scandal. What is so ironic in this dust-up is that Dennis Hastert has been a faithful waterboy for the current regime. That he would find himself in the position of fighting the Emperor on behalf of a Democrat is delicious for those of a certain taste.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

And, as has been reported over at firedoglake, this a continuation of the pissing contest between the veep and potus. Gonzales, the potus consigliere, threatening to quit over this, while the veep is fighting to forget the whole thing. I would give anything to be a fly on the wall of the Oval Office. The battles are humongous.

Nice post, thanks.

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5:09 AM  

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