Rich Galen
  • Republicans and Democrats in the House have their Congressional knickers in a Constitutional twist over the notion that the doctrine of "separation of powers" was fused by the FBI when they searched Congressman William Jefferson's (D-La) House office Saturday night.

  • The FBI had previously videotaped Jefferson taking $100,000 in cash from an informant then got a warrant to search his house where they found 90 grand of it hidden in a freezer.

  • Two of Jefferson's former aides have already pleaded guilty to bribery - of Congressman Jefferson.


    The videotaping of the payoff was done at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Arlington, Virginia which is the same hotel at which Linda Tripp audio taped a conversation with Monica Lewinsky at the behest of Ken Starr.

    TEACHING POINT: If you are preparing to do something illegal and the person with whom you are conspiring suggests you do the deal at the Ritz-Carlton in Arlington … Don't.

    The FBI has permanent camera positions and microphone locations there.


  • In their "separation of powers" claim, the House leaders are making it sound as if this was done solely on the say-so of the Justice Department. In fact, the FBI (Executive Branch) had a warrant to search a Congressman's office (Legislative Branch) which was signed by a Federal judge (Judicial Branch).

  • Speaker Dennis Hastert is claiming the sanctity of Jefferson's office was violated because a Congressional offices are protected by what is known as the "speech and debate clause" in the Constitution.

  • According to Article I section 6:
    Senators and Representatives … shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest … and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

  • Careful readers will note that the actual Constitutional language is speech OR debate.

  • So sue me.

  • The Supreme Court has found - without much trouble - that taking a bribe to perform an official act is not protected under the speech OR debate clause. According to the Cornell University Law School's discussion:
    It is the fact of having taken a bribe, not the act the bribe is intended to influence, which is the subject of the prosecution and the speech-or-debate clause interposes no obstacle to this type of prosecution.

  • Rich Galen

    Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at