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Hastert, Frist cool constitutional confrontation with DOJ over office search

[JURIST] In the wake of public urging [White House statement] from President Bush, Congressional leaders Friday took steps to damp down a brewing constitutional conflict with the US Department of Justice over a weekend FBI search [JURIST report] of the offices of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA). House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) backed away from a Thursday statement [text] co-signed by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) demanding the return of documents [JURIST report] seized. Hastert said he would work with the Justice Department to establish protocols for the FBI to review the seized documents rather than escalate the constitutional separation of powers debate [JURIST report] over whether the FBI's executive powers can extend to the seizure of legislative documents. President Bush on Thursday sealed the documents for 45 days, though White House press secretary Tony Snow said the President has not taken a side on the issue.

Also on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met to discuss the specific question of how the Jefferson investigation should be conducted, as well as the broader question of how searches and seizures of members of Congress and their papers and effects should be conducted in the future.

The FBI said in an affidavit [text] that it had videotaped Jefferson accepting a $100,000 bribe from an informant. Former Jefferson former aide Brett Pfeffer pleaded guilty [Times-Picayune report] in January to bribery charges for brokering deals between Jefferson, a businesswoman-turned-FBI-informant, and a Nigerian businessman where Jefferson was to transfer a bribe from the informant to the businessman as part of a telephone infrastructure deal. AP has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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