Speaker Hastert seems to have put his foot in his mouth over a search of the office of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) as part of the ongoing investigation into Jefferson’s caught-on-tape bribe-taking. Hastert wants to argue that there are Constitutional issues involved with law enforcement searching the office of a sitting Member of Congress – an argument that is incredibly unsound. If anything, the Justice Department went out of its way to avoid even a semblance of impropriety in the search.
Congress’ approval ratings are even lower than the President’s. People feel that our government has become unresponsive, corrupt, and arrogant – and given Hastert’s idiotic response to a perfectly legal search, it’s pretty damned clear why. Jefferson was caught on tape accepting a $100,000 bribe from an FBI agent. Calling that evidence damning would be a massive understatement – and it looks like Hastert is more interested in covering the asses of his colleagues than cracking down on the corruption that plagues both sides of the Congressional aisle.
If this is how the Republican leadership will handle such issues, there are a lot of people who are going to wonder why they should vote Republican at all – and unless Hastert and company get serious about fighting corruption in Congress, the public’s widespread view of Congress as a den of iniquity will only get worse.
UPDATE: Both Pelosi and Hastert are calling for evidence found in Jefferson’s office to be returned. As Orin Kerr observes, the Constitutionality of the search seems quite solid. The Speech and Debate Clause does not apply in the cases of “felony” – and there’s more than sufficient evidence to bring Rep. Jefferson up on felony charges.
This case could have been perhaps done in a better way – such as through the office of the Sergeant of Arms of the House, but that doesn’t excuse Pelosi and Hastert’s little hissy fit. Congress is not above the law, no matter how much they protest.