“If I saw something like that, I’d have some real problems with that,” Lungren said, cautioning that so far he’s seen nothing that crossed that line.
Some political lawyers think that such a move by Justice would sufficiently violate the separation-of-powers doctrine, tilting the balance and giving too much power to the executive branch.
Bob Bauer, a top Democratic lawyer at the firm Perkins Coie, disavowed the notion of wiring a Congressman as soon as the Cunningham report first emerged in January, dismissing it as a dramatic prosecutorial overreach, whether it be a Member wearing a wire to aid the prosecution of other Members or against crooked defense contractors.
“Transforming a Member into a Manchurian Congressman, under the control of investigators, certainly threatens the relationship between the legislature and the executive branch, which is one of some balance and distance and maintained only with difficulty,” Bauer wrote on his firm’s Web log.
William Canfield, a former counsel to the Senate Ethics Committee in the 1980s, said that, at a minimum, the House needs to stand up to the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Diego, denying the request to see years’ worth of documents related to committee work and interviewing current and former staffers.
He said that such a broad request is “coming mighty close to intervening in the constitutionally protected environs of the Congress.”
“There comes a point in time when you tell the department: If you want to fight about it, issue a subpoena and we’ll fight about it in court,” Canfield said.