According to Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA), we’re missing the boat on the Justice Department phone record grab scandal. Yeah, it’s bad that the Associated Press was targeted, but it’s also worth remembering that the phones targeted were in the US House and are often used by members of Congress.
Here’s Nunes, speaking on the Hugh Hewitt show:
HH: The idea that this might be a Geithner-Axelrod plan, and by that, the sort of intimation, Henry II style, will no one rid me of this turbulent priest, will no one rid me of these turbulent Tea Parties, that might have just been a hint, a shift of an eyebrow, a change in the tone of voice. That’s going to take a long time to get to. I don’t trust the Department of Justice on this. Do you, Congressman Nunes?
DN: No, I absolutely do not, especially after this wiretapping incident, essentially, of the House of Representative. I don’t think people are focusing on the right thing when they talk about going after the AP reporters. The big problem that I see is that they actually tapped right where I’m sitting right now, the Cloak Room.
HH: Wait a minute, this is news to me.
DN: The Cloak Room in the House of Representatives.
HH: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
DN: So when they went after the AP reporters, right? Went after all of their phone records, they went after the phone records, including right up here in the House Gallery, right up from where I’m sitting right now. So you have a real separation of powers issue that did this really rise to the level that you would have to get phone records that would, that would most likely include members of Congress, because as you know…
The question is, who was the Department of Justice targeting? Was it just the Associated Press reporters? Did they grab the phone records of House members as well?
If so, Nunes is right. This might have spiraled from a trampling of the rights of an independent press, and the right to privacy, to a full-blown separation of powers issue.
In 2006 the Republican majority in Congress found itself in a wrestling match with the Bush White House over a Department of Justice raid on Democrat Congressman William Jefferson’s congressional office. That search was of much more sound legal provenance than the Obama administration’s phone record grab – Jefferson is currently serving a 13-year sentence in a federal prison for corruption – but it still prompted then-Speaker Denny Hastert to accuse the Bush administration of unconstitutional search and seizure.
If the search of the offices of an obviously corrupt member of Congress was enough to set off intra-party accusations of illegal search and seizure, can you imagine what’s about to erupt between the Republican House and the Obama administration?