Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) and five staffers subpoenaed in Abramoff corruption probe, AP reports
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The Sacramento Bee
that this is a new round of subpoenas, in addition to the ones issued to some Doolittle staffers in recent weeks. The new subpoenas seek records going back 11 years:
Doolittle declined comment about the development. But his criminal defense attorney said in a prepared statement that the subpoenas "raise serious constitutional issues going to the very core" of the separation of powers between the Congress and the executive branch.
In a release issued by Doolittle's office, it said that the Justice Department has assured the five staff members that they are merely witnesses. Left unanswered is the question of what Doolittle's status in the investigation is, and whether he has become a target in the on-going investigation related to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff that would mean an indictment is near.
has more on the separation of powers
angle being advanced by Doolittle's criminal defense attorney:
The Constitution prohibits the executive branch from using its law enforcement powers to interfere with legislative business. Barger said he and Doolittle would "be vigilant" to ensure Congress' independence is "vigorously protected." Any court challenge would go before a federal judge, but the documents would be sealed. . . .
"The rest of the Congress would be well served to pay attention to the message the Executive Branch seems to be sending about whether the three branches are truly coequal," Barger said.
The raid on Rep. William Jefferson's Capitol Hill office in an unrelated corruption probe has breathed new life into what had been a rather moribund area of constitutional law: the Speech and Debate Clause.