Well, as many of you know, there is a bit of a tizzy going on up in Washington, D.C. Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) got his law offices raided by the F.B.I. Suddenly, Congress is interested in protecting Constitutionally-guaranteed rights. The F.B.I., and Attorney General Gonzales, claim they were completely within their rights to search the office of a Congressman being investigated for corruption. Congress is claiming historic precedent (first) and Constitutional protection (second). Meanwhile, Jefferson is jumping up and down waving his hands and swearing his innocence.
I was a bit confused. I have read the Constitution, many times, and I couldn’t figure out what the hoopla was all about. I mean, the man was being investigated for corruption. They found $90,000 of what was allegedly a $100,000 bribe in his freezer. And they even went to the trouble to get a warrant; a luxury we mere mortals cannot necessarily count on, anymore. So, for you poor souls who, like me, just don’t get it…here’s a breakdown of what I have been able to figure out.
The (Constitutional) Issue:
Article 1, Section 6 states that all Senators and Representatives
…shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
It is being argued that the confiscation of legislative documents from Jefferson’s office violates this provision. This might be true, if the documents taken deal with legislation (in the sense of drafted bills, research for that purpose, committee reports, etc.). What is not included, according to the letter of the law and legal precedent, is anything else.
So that seems straightforward. But that’s not really the issue.