- The Washington Times - Monday, April 24, 2000

Senior members of Congress, including Republicans and Democrats, yesterday called for a congressional investigation of the seizure of Elian Gonzalez by heavily armed federal agents in the pre-dawn Miami darkness Saturday morning.
"You bet there will be congressional hearings… . I was outraged," Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, the majority whip, told interviewers on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press."
"I was sickened, and afterwards I was ashamed."
Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, a Democrat, said President Clinton promised him three weeks ago that the boy would not be taken in the middle of the night.
"I stood in the Oval Office with the president of the United States, and I said: 'Mr. President, this is a very sensitive issue that's happening in my community. One of the things that has made it so tense is that people feel insecure 24 hours a day. There needs to be some commitment by the federal government that they will not attempt to take this child in the nighttime so that there can be a relaxation of that tension.'
"The president of the United States made that commitment to me that there would be no taking of this child at night. I felt that my the promise that had been made to me had been abrogated. I don't know if the president knew that the decision was being made by lower echelons within his administration, but it was a clear commitment which was violated?"
Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, questioned the legality of the raid and the "professionalism and judgment" of those who planned and executed it. "I believe that the Department of Justice should have gone to court for a court order [before the seizure], should have followed procedures on appeal.
"I believe that the Senate Judiciary Committee should take a close look at the propriety of the government breaking into the uncle's house in the middle of the night."
Mr. Specter, a former prosecutor, said the Judiciary Committee should hold hearings about what happened.
The raid and seizure dominated news talk shows yesterday, with reactions from politicians generally following party lines.
Sen. Connie Mack of Florida, a Republican, accused the Clinton administration of using "raw terror to bring about the conclusion that they were looking for." Mr. Mack said on "Fox News Sunday" that Senate leaders want immediate answers from Attorney General Janet Reno, who authorized the raid. He said Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, the majority leader, told him that "he's inviting Janet Reno to meet with us Tuesday morning."
In a rare front-page editorial, the Miami Herald yesterday demanded a congressional investigation of the raid. "The evidence clearly suggests that the Miami relatives were, at last, prepared to voluntarily deliver Elian to his father within a very short time. A full and independent investigation of this matter is warranted."
Mr. Specter said "a court order to authorize a search and seizure" is required when police want to search the property of a criminal suspect. "When you have governmental action as forceful as this, you put an independent judge magistrate between the government and the individual."
Mr. DeLay said on NBC: "There was no court order that gave them permission to raid a private home of an American citizen … no search warrant, nothing."
Doris M. Meissner, the commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, insisted on CBS-TV's "Face the Nation" that her agency had a legal warrant to remove Elian from the Miami home. "We had a search warrant, which we got from a federal judge around 6 o'clock that evening. It was a perfectly legal, properly carried out operation."
Late yesterday, the Justice Department released a copy of the warrant obtained Friday night from a federal magistrate in Miami authorizing agents to search the home for Elian and "to seize same."
Former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger told ABC-TV interviewers that the Justice Department did not need a warrant to enter Lazaro Gonzalez's home. There was no question that the attorney general had the legal authority to terminate the great-uncle's temporary custody, he said.
On CNN's "Late Edition," Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, dismissed the calls for congressional hearings as mere politics. "I think we all ought to take a deep breath and say the only thing left now is for the kid and his father to be allowed to return to Cuba," he said.
Rep. David Dreier, California Republican, who was also on the show, said he is "going to encourage my colleagues on the appropriate committees" to examine how the raid was handled.
Replied Mr. Rangel: "Let's have the hearings … but if the Republican leadership wants to have hearings, then we have to find out whether or not the attorney general … had any options."
The first public-opinion poll, by CNN-Gallup, was released yesterday, showing that 57 percent of those polled approved of uniting Elian with his father, and 37 percent did not; 40 percent said too much force was used, 36 percent said just the right amount was used. Six of 10 polled said Elian would be better off in Cuba.
Jerry Seper contributed to this report.

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