Friday, May 26, 2006

One branch or three?
Constitutional crisis stems from FBI raid of Capitol

Your blogstress is the first to admit that she has never been much of a fan of House Speaker Dennis Hastert. But these days, he is looking to her like more of a -- well, if not a hero, then at least an erstwhile defender of the most fundamental aspect of our Constitution: the separation of powers.

It all began with the FBI's raid on the offices of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), who is alleged to have taken bribes from companies that were looking to do business in African nations where Jefferson had ties. While Jefferson is indeed looking like quite the bad egg, at issue is whether or not the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- an arm of the Department of Justice which is, in turn, part of the executive branch -- as the right to lay siege to the offices of the legislative branch, and remove materials from said offices. The Constitution pretty clearly implies, "uh-uh."

Hastert has been leaning on the Bush administration to step in and restrain its attorney general and apologist for the torture of prisoners, Alberto Gonzales, and address the constitutional crisis that has incurred as a result of the latter's unprecedented overstepping. Yesterday, the president issued an executive order that seals, temporarily, the materials seized from Jefferson's office.

From today's Washington Post story by Dan Eggen and Jim VandeHei:

In a six-paragraph statement, Bush cast the dispute in historic terms and said he issued the order to give Justice Department officials and lawmakers more time to negotiate a compromise. "Our government has not faced such a dilemma in more than two centuries," Bush said. "Yet after days of discussions, it is clear these differences will require more time to be worked out."

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