23 May 2006

The Jefferson Case

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FBI agents reportedly searched the House office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-LA, on Saturday evening and last Sunday in connection with a bribery and corruption investigation.

Prominent Repubican Congressional leaders, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and current Speaker Dennis Hastert, have criticized the FBI’s conduct, and raised Constitutional objections.

Some of the most respected voices on the right side of the Blogosphere, including Glenn Reynolds, Michelle Malkin, and Roger L. Simon have objected to the position taken by the Speakers.

Our good friends need to pause for breath, and reflect seriously. The principle of separation of powers matters greatly. Congressional immunity from arrest matters tremendously. These principles of Republican government are infinitely more important than the successful conviction of one more corrupt democrat congressman. History demonstrates abundantly that we can survive the culture of political corruption of the democrat party. But free government could readily be brought to an end by the domination of the several branches of the federal government by a single branch.

In recent history, Congress has been far more guilty than the Executive of arrogating unauthorized powers to itself, and attacking the Executive on the basis of trumped up and exaggerated charges. But, it is certainly possible to imagine an aggressive ultra-liberal president trying to remove Congressional opposition by false allegations of corruption. Some of us believe that the House Majority Leader was successfuly removed by false charges lodged by a partisan county prosecutor in Texas.

It is on rare occasions like this, in which political leaders take principled positions, ignoring their own party’s interests, that our faith in our system of government and its institutions is justified and confirmed.

Read the US Constitution, Article I. Section 6 which states:

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They 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.

I think it is impossible to avoid considering Congressional offices as part of the “going to and returning from the same” aspect of Congressional attendance. And the 18th century concept of a felony would apply to what were then commonly capital crimes of violence, not to ordinary bribery and corruption.

Of course, the determination of all this may, and should be left to the wisdom of Third Branch of the Federal Government, the Supreme Court. But, in the meantime, we should be proud that Republican Legislative leaders will defend the rights of their branch of government, even in the case of its least worthy member.


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