Appeals Court Ruling Could Spell Trouble For Probes of Congress Members

Details of the ruling have not been released, but it appears it has potential to create more problems for investigators looking at public corruption cases involving members of Congress.  Lately, this issue seems to be a recurring one in FBI probes involving  Congressional members.

Ex-Rep. Tom Feeney
Ex-Rep. Tom Feeney

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court has dealt a blow to the investigation of a former congressman in a ruling that could also limit probes of other lawmakers, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
The order, which has not been made public, came during the grand jury investigation of former Representative Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) and his potential ties to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the sources said. The appellate judges who issued the ruling did not say when they would release an opinion explaining their decision, which reversed a lower court order favorable to prosecutors seeking documents and grand jury testimony, the sources said.
Even without knowing the details of the ruling, sources and legal experts said it is important because it is the second time in two years that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has sided with Congress in its fight with the Justice Department over what protections lawmakers are granted under the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause. The clause is designed to shield lawmakers’ official work from executive branch interference and has been increasingly cited by members of Congress under federal investigation.

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