After cries of protest from Republicans and Democrats alike, the president ordered that documents belonging to Rep. William Jefferson and seized by the FBI be sealed for 45 days.
The president directed that no one involved in the investigation have access to the documents under seal and that they remain in the custody of the solicitor general.
Bush’s move was described as an attempt to reach a cooling off period in a heated confrontation between his administration and leaders of the House and Senate.
“This period will provide both parties more time to resolve the issues in a way that ensures that materials relevant to the ongoing criminal investigation are made available to prosecutors in a manner that respects the interests of a coequal branch of government,” Bush said.
In a statement, Bush said he recognized that Republican and Democratic leaders in the House had “deeply held views” that the search on Rep. William Jefferson’s Capitol Hill office violated the Constitution’s separation of powers principles. But he stopped short of saying he agreed with them.
“Our government has not faced such a dilemma in more than two centuries,” the president said. “Yet after days of discussions, it is clear these differences will require more time to be worked out.”
This is a good move by Bush. He smartly stays away from picking sides and takes the role of mediator-in-chief.