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Search of Congressman’s Office Pits White House Against House Leaders

The recent FBI search of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson's office and the seizure of files found there have angered Congressional leader within the president's own party who say the FBI's actions violate the separation of powers. Experts discuss the legal issues surrounding the seizure of Rep. Jefferson's documents.

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    The FBI search of Louisiana Democrat William Jefferson's Capitol Hill office last weekend set off a war of words between two branches of government: the legislative, which includes the U.S. House, and the executive, home to the FBI.

    Jefferson is under investigation for taking bribes in return for promoting business ventures in Nigeria. He quickly condemned the raid, noting he has yet to be indicted.

    REP. WILLIAM JEFFERSON (D), Louisiana: I think it represents an outrageous intrusion into separation of powers between the executive branch and the congressional branch, and no one has seen this in all the time of the life of the Congress.


    Jefferson was backed up by the speaker of the House, Republican Dennis Hastert, and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. In a rare joint statement, the House leaders argued the Justice Department had overstepped its bounds.

    They wrote, "No person is above the law, neither the one being investigated, nor those conducting the investigation."

    But Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who okayed the FBI's search, said the move was legal.

  • ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. Attorney General:

    We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the Department of Justice is doing its job in investigating criminal wrongdoing, and we have an obligation to the American people to pursue the evidence where it exists.

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