President Bush ordered that records seized from the office of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) be sealed for 45 days. The presidential intervention came as House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert suggested that the Justice Department had tried to intimidate him through a news leak because of his challenge of the FBI’s authority to conduct the search. The Justice Department denied the ABC report, which said Hastert was part of the inquiry into the activities of the convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. ABC stands by the report.
Justice lawyers would not agree to hand over to Congress any of the seized material, which included a copy of the hard drive of Jefferson’s office computer, along with calendars and date books. FBI officials said they would comply with the deal to seal records but complained that it would bar them from examining the materials discovered in the search for more than a month. Senior FBI officials were not consulted in negotiations and regarded any effort to keep them from evidence as an intrusion that could compromise their investigation.