I have to admit that while I’ve been watching the Rep. William Jefferson bribery probe with interest, I don’t feel smart enough on the legal issues surrounding the Justice Department’s late night raid on his offices to sensibly comment. My general sense is that Jefferson, who was caught with his fingers in the cookie jar to the videotaped tune of $100,000 was using the privileges of his office to cover up the evidence of his crimes. And to the untutored eye at least, it looks as though the representative of the executive branch, in the form of the Justice Department and FBI, did all that they could do by bringing the judiciary into play in a move against the third co-equal branch of federal government. So while it feels to me anyway as though they lined their ducks up carefully, it’s also quite clear that members of Congress – currently enjoying one of the electorates’ cyclical bouts of “throw ‘em all to the curb” sentiments – feel quite differently about the issue.
Turns out they’re not the only ones – From today’s WaPo:
The Justice Department signaled to the White House this week that the nation’s top three law enforcement officials would resign or face firing rather than return documents seized from a Democratic congressman’s office in a bribery investigation, according to administration sources familiar with the discussions.
The possibility of resignations by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales; his deputy, Paul J. McNulty; and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III was communicated to the White House by several Justice officials in tense negotiations over the fate of the materials taken from Rep. William J. Jefferson’s office, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
When the president ordered the seized documents sealed for 45 days, I suspected a straddle. Now it looks like he was scramming the reactor of state before it could meltdown. And of course, if the Justice Department succeeds against congressional claims of prerogative, the timing of those potentially incriminating documents coming back into public scrutiny will certainly be questioned by those who are keen to “question the timing” of pretty much everything. We will, after all, be that much closer to the election cycle.