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DOJ Subpoenas Doolittle’s Records, Renewing Constitutional Debate

The Justice Department has subpoenaed 11 years of legislative records from Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) as part of its Jack Abramoff bribery investigation, potentially sparking the second fight in as many years between lawmakers and the executive branch over the meaning of the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause.

“These efforts raise serious constitutional issues going to the very core of our Separation of Powers created by the founding fathers; issues that affect every Member of Congress not just Congressman Doolittle,” Doolittle’s attorney, David Barger, said in a statement. “We shall continue to be vigilant to ensure that from our perspective the Congressman’s and derivatively, Congress’ rights are vigorously protected.”

The subpoena comes a couple months after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the May 2006 FBI raid on Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) Capitol Hill office violated the Speech or Debate Clause, which gives lawmakers immunity on actions related to their official duties. The Justice Department appealed that decision just a week ago, and the subpoena on Doolittle appears to open up questions about the same issue.

Doolittle and his wife, Julie, have been under a federal investigation in connection to the bribery scandal surrounding Abramoff, a former lobbyist, and their home was raided by the FBI in April. Two of Doolittle’s aides were subpoenaed for their testimony earlier this month.

The Justice Department also subpoenaed documents from five staff members, according to the release from Doolittle’s office. They will confer with the Office of the General Counsel for the House to decide how to respond, according to the release.

— Emily Yehle

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