Good work from WaPo's Dan Eggen and Jim VandeHei:
President Bush ordered the Justice Department yesterday to seal records seized from the Capitol Hill office of a Democratic congressman, representing a remarkable intervention by the nation's chief executive into an ongoing criminal probe of alleged corruption...Notice how Bush talks about "a" Member of Congress? That would be Jefferson, the Democrat, of course. And his "justice" is the Alberto Gonzales GOP version.
Tempers rose so high this week that some House Republicans threatened to seek the resignation of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, although GOP leaders said the idea was not seriously considered.
The agreement also marked a setback for the FBI and Justice Department, which had refused demands to return the materials — and had resisted pressure from the White House to cordon them off, according to several officials familiar with the debate.
Bush signaled in his statement, however, that he expected the documents to eventually be made available to prosecutors. "Those who violate the law — including a Member of Congress — should and will be held to account," Bush said. "This investigation will go forward, and justice will be served."
VandeHei's piece are often packed with news to chew on. Check this out:
Another potential entanglement with the FBI arose yesterday when the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported that federal agents are seeking to interview top House members from both parties as part of an investigation into leaks about the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program to the New York Times...WTF? That last sentence rings all kinds of bells!
Bush has been under heavy pressure from Hastert since Monday, when the president and the speaker appeared together at a Chicago speech, according to accounts from senior White House officials, who requested anonymity. On the ride home aboard Air Force One, Hastert was adamant that the Justice Department had violated the Constitution, and he implored the president to intervene, the sources said.
The next day, the two spoke by phone and Hastert told Bush that he and other leaders would only intensify their campaign to stop Justice from sifting through the materials seized in the weekend search, according to the accounts.
White House officials worked late into the night Wednesday and Thursday, trying to find a middle ground. One person said efforts to get the department to strike a compromise failed.
"Obviously, emotions were running high," the official said. "There was a sense of urgency."
Bush had Vice President Cheney call Hastert to inform him of his decision.
And how's this for a tongue-in-cheek sign-off:
Gonzales said in a statement that Bush's order will "protect the integrity" of the investigation, while providing "additional time to reach a permanent solution."
Legal experts said that Bush clearly has the legal authority to direct his Justice Department to do anything lawful with regard to an ongoing investigation.