Friday, May 26, 2006

Appeasing Hastert

I'm certain this is just another political play. I'm not certain that this wouldn't have been a justified fight.
President Bush yesterday ordered records seized by the FBI during last Saturday's raid of a congressman's office to be sealed for 45 days, hoping to avert a court battle over separation of powers.

Bush acted in response to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who has said the raid was an unconstitutional intrusion of the executive branch into a congressional office and has demanded that the papers be returned.
Some fights should be fought. By avoiding this they merely allow this to sit in the unresolved queue so that future conflicts over the same issue will cause delay and confusion. Did I mention my dislike for politics?
The raid prompted Hastert and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi to issue an unusual bipartisan statement on Wednesday saying that, despite obtaining the warrant, the FBI had violated the separation of powers. Hastert and Pelosi demanded the return of Jefferson's papers.

With the two leaders refusing to back down yesterday, the stage was being set for a possible landmark court battle over separation of powers that legal scholars said would be analogous to President Nixon's unsuccessful effort to claim executive privilege to avoid handing over tapes of Oval Office conversations during the Watergate investigation. Bush then announced his order to seal the documents, issuing a statement in which he tried to appease both sides without providing a specific solution.

Bush said he hoped the 45-day respite would "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 co-equal branch of government." Hastert and Pelosi responded by ordering that House officials begin negotiations with the Justice Department over procedures under which criminal evidence could be obtained from Congress.

The problem with such tactics is that they end up with a negotiated truce which doesn't bring out what the law actually is. Agreements like this become psuedo-law that will muddle the topic should there be a more pressing need to enforce the actual law in the future.

Hastert's bellowing about the act being unconstitutional will also proceed to be considered accurate to those strongly opposed to the power of the executive branch. In fact it provides no actual standing in the law. Just as Nixon was forced to hand over his secret tapes, these documents were legitimately seized when Jefferson, a member of congress, ignored a subpoena.

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