* I’ve kinda ignored the back and forth pleadings in this case because defense lawyers say a lot of stuff. But this can’t be ignored…
The lawyer for the U.S. House of Representatives asserted Wednesday that investigators looking into the financial dealings of former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., possibly committed a crime themselves when they directed a staffer-turned-informant to take materials from Schock’s district office.
In a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office that supervised the case, U.S. House of Representative General Counsel Thomas Hungar wrote that he had “serious concern” about investigators’ tactics, which he asserted the U.S. Attorney’s Office had “erroneously characterized as lawful.”
Requesting a staffer take records from a congressional office without authorization from the congressman or House clerk, Hungar wrote, “amounts to a solicitation of that employee to steal official records.”
“Such conduct likely constitutes a federal crime, both on the part of the employee who steals the records and, quite possibly, on the part of the federal agents who induce the commission of that underlying crime,” Hungar wrote.
The full letter is here. Whew.
Hungar’s letter asserts that while the surreptitious recording may be a “legitimate law-enforcement technique in some circumstances,” recording a member of Congress triggers “special constitutional concerns.”
“(T)he separation of powers precludes non-consensual review of legislative communications by Executive Branch officials in the absence of appropriate constitutional safeguards … however, it appears that the procedures followed by your office in this regard did not ensure compliance with those constitutional safeguards,” Hungar writes. […]
“The letter is helpful because the government needs to be held accountable for its conduct. Conduct we believe was driven to find a crime where one does not exist. As has been acknowledged repeatedly, these were clerical errors and omissions by former Congressman Schock for which he has taken full responsibility,” said Mark Hubbard, a spokesman for the defense team, in a written statement to CNN. […]
The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment and no official response to Hungar’s letter has been filed on the public docket.
A spokeswoman for Hansen’s office confirmed receipt of the letter, but declined to comment.
However, in a court filing last week, prosecutors defended the tactics used in the case and disputed any claim of impropriety or illegality. However, they said they do not plan to use the records obtained by the informant at trial.