A federal judge has upheld an FBI search of the Capitol Hill office of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), ruling that members of Congress who are under criminal investigation deserve no more protection under the law than ordinary citizens, the Los Angeles Times reports. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan was a blow to Jefferson, the focus of a federal bribery probe, and to the House leadership, a bipartisan group that backed his protest of the search.
At issue was the scope of the “speech or debate” clause of the Constitution, which protects members of Congress from being questioned or prosecuted for their legislative activities. “Congressman Jefferson’s interpretation of the speech-or-debate privilege would have the effect of converting every congressional office into a taxpayer-subsidized sanctuary for crime,” Hogan said. Jefferson will appeal the ruling.