Separation Of Powers Or A Place To Hide?

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are complaining about the search of Congressman William Jefferson’s office on Saturday. The feds had to execute a warrant because no one would release the stuff they were after. This has led to a cry about separation of powers. I understand separation of powers to mean that the JOBS of the different branches of government are separated. This gives them oversight over each other. The Congress makes laws, the Judicial interprets laws, and the Executive runs the country based on those laws. I know some Constitutional scholar out there can explain that better, but that is a pretty simplistic version of what is supposed to happen.

Congressman William Jefferson allegedly broke the law. The federal agents tried to get what they wanted and were stonewalled so they executed a warrant to search his office. I do not see how that is a violation of the separation of powers. They did not search his office because they disagreed with some vote in Congress and they did not search his office because he passed a law they did not like. He is a suspect in a crime and they treated him exactly as they would any other citizen in the United States. It is ridiculous for them to act like some violation took place. I think that most of Congress is upset because they now know they can not hide their dirty little secrets in their offices and get away with crimes. Congress wants us to believe that there was a violation (I wonder how long it will be before they blame President Bush for this) but they have not been violated.

Let us suppose I work for the Executive branch of the government. Now suppose that I have been playing loose with the books and awarding government contracts to people for bribes. To take it a bit further, let us suppose that Congress thinks I have been up to no good and they issue a subpoena for me to turn my records over to them for review and I say no. I tell them they may not have my records and they get a warrant and send a federal marshall over to secure the records. Since I work for the Executive branch, did they violate the separation of powers by searching my office for the records? Of course not.

The members of Congress should curry no special favor and they are not above the law. Warrants have been executed on several members of the executive branch by the judicial. Did the feds search Scooter Libby’s office, did they get a warrant for Nixon’s secret tapes and did they have a warrant to search Oliver North’s office. All of these would violate the separation of powers as defined by Congress. Fortunately, sane people must figure that this separation was designed to be enforced for legal issues in the every day course of business and that law enforcement had the right to execute warrants.

Don’t let the Congress blow smoke at you. They have no problem with your home or office being searched. They have no problem with you being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint and they damn sure do not care if people like Ken Lay and his buddies at ENRON get searched no matter where they are. They are looking for a way to keep their crimes hidden. They do not like the idea that people can find the skeletons they have hidden in their offices. The problem is, they are so use to corruption they endorse it:

“Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this separation of powers line in order to successfully prosecute corruption by members of Congress,” Hastert said.

“Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years.”

The fact that someone would not turn over a Congressman’s records was not enough for him to see why it was done. His first statement says it all. The feds crossed a line to get a corrupt Congressman by searching his office and wah wah, that isn’t right. Suppose that Hastert killed an intern in his office and rolled her up in a carpet and disposed of her. Now when they find the body they suspect it was he who did it but they need evidence from the office, to match carpet fibers or something. Hastert refuses to let them in his office. If the feds get a warrant and go in and get the evidence did they violate the separation of powers? It is all smoke and mirrors.

I know there are those who think they could have waited. If these people actually believe that there would be any evidence left by Monday morning they are in a dream world. I do think though, it could have been handled better. They could have gotten to the office and called Jefferson and told him he had an hour to get there to watch while they executed the warrant. That would have made it appear less secretive, but I still think they were within their rights.

Source: CNN

[tags]William Jefferson, Congress, warrant, separation of powers, search[/tags]



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One Response to “Separation Of Powers Or A Place To Hide?”

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