Former Rep. Aaron Schock was indicted on fraud charges last November
Attorneys for the government say that Schock's office manager voluntarily agreed to be interviewed
The top attorney for the US House of Representatives is now weighing in on the legal fight over how federal agents handled the investigation of former Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock, raising “serious concern about improper investigation tactics,” namely, recording Schock’s conversations with congressional staff and “the apparent theft of official records” from his office.
In a letter to top officials at the Justice Department, the local US attorney’s office supervising the investigation and the federal judge hearing the case, House General Counsel Thomas Hungar claims that the FBI’s request for a congressional staffer to provide Schock’s office records “without authorization” effectively “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 induct the commission of that underlying crime,” Hungar alleges.
Schock’s attorneys accused the FBI in court filings last month of convincing a staffer in Schock’s office to act as a confidential informant in 2015, secretly recording conversations with his staff and “stealing” numerous documents from his office. Prosecutors fired back in their own filings that Schock’s staffer voluntarily agreed to be interviewed by law enforcement agents and freely shared materials with federal agents.
Prosecutors’ investigation into Schock eventually led to his indictment on fraud charges last November.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
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.
Under DC law, it’s not a crime to record a conversation if one party consents.
Schock’s attorneys say Hungar’s letter only further supports their defense.
“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.
Schock’s spending drew attention after news surfaced that he had decked out his congressional office in the style of the popular PBS drama “Downton Abbey” – an accusation he vehemently denied. He later ended up paying the federal government back $40,000 for the decor.
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.