The Washington Post's four-part profile of Dick Cheney offers a fascinating glimpse into the most powerful vice presidency in U.S. history. The reporting by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker sheds light on many heretofore unreported aspects of Cheney's two terms in office -- including an intriguing account of the role he played in brokering a compromise over the seizure of files from the office of Rep. William Jefferson, the Louisiana Democrat now under indictment for charges related to allegedly illegal schemes involving African business interests.
As it turns out, Cheney sided with fellow Republican House leaders who objected on constitutional grounds to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's search of Jefferson's congressional office. With top Bush administration officials threatening to resign if made to hand over evidence collected under warrant, Cheney came up with a compromise that still had the effect of keeping the files out of the hands of federal investigators, the Post reports:
When the FBI seized files from the office of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) as part of a bribery investigation, House Republican leaders erupted. With a number of their own members under investigation for other matters, they charged that the search violated the Constitution. They demanded the return of the files.
Cheney quickly gravitated toward the House's position, aides said, but Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales; his top deputy, Paul J. McNulty; and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III threatened to resign if forced to hand over evidence they believed had been properly collected under a warrant.
White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten called a meeting on May 25, 2006, to resolve the political and legal crisis. The president's lawyers and congressional liaison were in the room, and so was Cheney. Once again, it was the vice president who came up with a solution, according to a participant. Cheney's plan met his goal of keeping the files from federal investigators. The files would be placed under seal for 45 days. Within hours of the meeting, Bush made Cheney's recommendation official. As often happens in government, delay was decisive. Jefferson was indicted earlier this month on 16 counts of bribery, racketeering, fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice. But nearly half of the files remain off-limits, tied up in legal disputes.