Schock, federal prosecutors continue battle over records

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WASHINGTON — When former Illinois Republicans Sen. Everett Dirksen, Rep. Ray LaHood and Rep. Bob Michel left Congress, they donated their papers to the Dirksen Congressional Center.

The documents “were conveyed to the Center by deed of gift,” lawyers for former Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., noted in a Thursday court filing, the latest in the escalating battle with the federal government over the production of documents.

Meanwhile, a federal judge on Thursday ordered Schock to turn over 2,944 records for her to review in private, with the new batch of documents on top of 10,730 Schock has already produced.

The point about the donation of papers to the center, in downstate Pekin, is telling, Schock’s brief noted, because “it is axiomatic that ownership can only be transferred by an owner.”

That is, a person can only deed over something that they own.

Schock’s legal team is arguing that the government is improperly going after documents that Schock owns — and therefore cannot force him to comply with a subpoena issued on March 31, the day Schock resigned from Congress.

OPINION

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This fight over records is taking center stage as a grand jury in Springfield has been hearing testimony for months on Schock’s use of taxpayer and campaign money and other business dealings.

On Wednesday, Schock’s lawyers told the court that they have produced 10,730 financial records — but did not turn over to prosecutors 2,944 documents “that may contain references to financial transactions.”

Last month, a bid by federal prosecutors to hold Schock in civil contempt was stayed until a hearing that had been set for Friday in Springfield before U.S. District Court Judge Sue Myerscough.

Schock, wanting to stay out of trouble on the contempt front, asked Myerscough to agree that his “production is complete.”

On Thursday, Myerscough issued an order canceling the Friday session. Instead, she said in an order that she wants to first study the 2,944 records.

Under the order, Schock must give the judge the 2,944 records by Sept. 17 for her to conduct an “in camera,” or private review. Prosecutors have until Sept. 14 to file a brief on Schock’s claims of related attorney-client privilege, with a Schock reply due by Sept. 30.

And on a related matter, the prosecutors also have been pressuring Schock for his congressional office records — even though most of the documents that seem to be at issue are also held by the Clerk of the House.

Schock’s brief notes that the federal prosecutors did not subpoena the clerk until July 31 — well after the push to hold Schock in contempt.

“The practical issue,” wrote Schock’s lawyers, “is not whether” the prosecutors “get the documents but rather from whom it will get them.”

Myerscough seemed to signal that she is inclined to agree with Schock’s view on this one.

Wrote Myerscough in her order, “if the [prosecutors] receives the documents from the Clerk of the House, then the issues the parties raise regarding the Congressional office documents will be moot.”

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