Now comes the suggestion that Sensenbrenner's motives may be less than pure, that the hearing is a warning shot to DOJ as it probes Congressional wrongdoing by Republicans.
E. J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post suggests Sensenbrenner is trying to send a message:
The hearing was dominated by talk of abuses of power by long-dead monarchs and the need of the people's representatives for untrammeled communication with their constituents.Read it all.
But Rep. James Sensenbrenner's committee was really sending a message as the House confronts a far-reaching corruption investigation: Nice little Justice Department you have there, Mr. Attorney General. Too bad if anything were to happen to it. Stop messing with us before we mess with you.
How else to explain this from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.): "We have the power to impeach the attorney general. Now, I'm not sure that articles of impeachment are going to come out today. I think we're a couple shakes short of a quorum for that purpose. Although I suspect members would quickly be here if it was brought by the chair."
Why would House Republicans be so concerned with Jefferson, a Democrat from Louisiana who, according to prosecutors, kept $90,000 in cash in his freezer?
One answer is high principle. The more plausible answer is that Republicans are worried that the next shoes to drop in the congressional probes will belong to Republican members. Using a Democrat's case now to protect Republican members in the future is not so much clever as transparent.
If Wisconsin's Sensenbrenner and his fellow Republicans had shown an exquisite concern with civil liberties and accountability in the past, their challenge to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales might be seen as part of a consistent libertarian sensibility.