The first-ever FBI raid of a sitting congressman’s office is prompting complaints from leaders in both parties, says the Washington Post. They said the tactic was unduly aggressive and may have breached the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government. Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), who is at the center of a 14-month investigation for allegedly accepting bribes for promoting business ventures in Africa, denied any wrongdoing and denounced the raid on his office as an “outrageous intrusion.” Jefferson vowed to seek reelection.
The Saturday raid of Jefferson’s office in the Rayburn House Office Building posed a political dilemma for the leaders of both parties, who felt compelled to protest his treatment while condemning any wrongdoing by the lawmaker. The dilemma was complicated by new details contained in an 83-page affidavit unsealed on Sunday, including allegations that the FBI had videotaped Jefferson taking $100,000 in bribe money and then found $90,000 of that cash stuffed inside his apartment freezer. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said “the executive branch intends to work with the Congress to allay” any concerns. “I will admit that these were unusual steps that were taken in response to an unusual set of circumstances.” About 15 FBI agents, wearing suits, entered Jefferson’s office about 7:15 p.m. Saturday and left about 1 p.m. Sunday.