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WASHINGTON – The FBI’s raid on a Democrat’s office rippled through Capitol Hill Wednesday, with majority Republicans demanding that the agency surrender documents and other items its agents seized under what lawmakers said were unconstitutional circumstances. “I think those materials ought to be returned,” said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, adding that the FBI agents involved “ought to be frozen out of that (case) for the sake of the Constitution.” The Saturday night search of Rep. William Jefferson’s office on Capitol Hill brought Democrats and Republicans together in rare election-year accord, with both parties protesting agency conduct they said violated the Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine. “Not anyone here is above the law,” Pelosi told reporters Tuesday. But, she added, “I think you’ve seen abuse of power of the executive branch over this weekend.” A day earlier, Hastert, R-Ill., complained personally to President Bush about raid. Other House officials have predicted that the case would bring all three branches together at the Supreme Court for a constitutional showdown. But while most leaders of both parties stand together in opposition to an executive branch raid of a legislative branch office, party leaders are acting on different political agendas. Democrats, hoping to exploit Republican scandals on Capitol Hill and regain control of Congress, are making it known that Jefferson, of Louisiana, is no longer welcome on the House’s most prestigious panel, the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. For his part, Jefferson, who has denied wrongdoing, remains defiant. “I will not give up a committee assignment that is so vital to New Orleans at this crucial time for any uncertain, long-term political strategy,” Jefferson said Tuesday. “If asked, I would respectfully decline.” His spokeswoman, Melanie Roussell, added that Jefferson will not resign from Congress. The developments are the beginning of what lawmakers predict will be a long dispute over the FBI’s search of Jefferson’s office last weekend. Historians say it was the first raid of a representative’s quarters in Congress’ 219 years. FBI agents searched Jefferson’s office in pursuit of evidence in a bribery investigation. The search warrant, signed by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan, was based on an affidavit that said agents found $90,000 in cash wrapped and stashed in the freezer of Jefferson’s home. Jefferson has not been indicted and has denied wrongdoing. The search brought Republican and Democratic leaders together in a rare alliance, fighting what they branded a breach of constitutional boundaries between branches of government. “My opinion is that they took the wrong path,” Hastert said of the FBI, after meeting with Bush in the White House. “They need to back up, and we need to go from there.” White House officials said they did not learn of the search until after it happened. They pledged to work with the Justice Department to soothe lawmakers. “We are hoping that there’s a way to balance the constitutional concerns of the House of Representatives with the law enforcement obligations of the executive branch,” White House press secretary Tony Snow said. “Obviously we are taking note of Speaker Hastert’s statements.” House Democrats reacted particularly quickly, in keeping with their election-year pledge to campaign against what they call a Republican “culture of corruption.” Officials said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had discussed Jefferson’s situation with several fellow senior lawmakers and there was a consensus that he should step aside, preferably voluntarily, at least until his legal situation was clarified. It was not clear whether she or an emissary approached Jefferson. The officials who described the developments did so on condition of anonymity, citing the delicacy of the situation. Pelosi moved aggressively recently when questions were raised about financial dealings of Rep. Alan Mollohan. The West Virginian quickly announced that he was voluntarily stepping aside as the senior Democrat on the ethics committee. Whatever Jefferson’s fate, the weekend raid stirred bipartisan expressions of concern. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales tried to strike a conciliatory tone, saying, “We have a great deal of respect for the Congress as a coequal branch of government.” But he also defended the search: “We have an obligation to the American people to pursue the evidence where it exists.” Justice Department officials said the decision to search Jefferson’s office was made in part because he refused to comply with a subpoena for documents last summer. Jefferson reported the subpoena to the House on Sept. 15, 2005. Associated Press writers David Espo and Mark Sherman contributed to this report.

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