Ready a jail cell to enforce the lawful subpoenas of Congress (updated)


Attorney General William Barr is refusing to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, according to multiple reports. It’s the latest escalation of tensions between the White House and congressional Democrats. William Barr has refused to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has said he will subpoena Barr if the attorney general doesn’t voluntarily appear in front of his committee on Thursday.

Democrats continue to play by the rules while crypto-fascist authoritarian Republicans have burned the rule book. Democrats should ready a jail cell to enforce the lawful subpoenas of Congress. It’s time to use the power that the Constitution gave you to enforce the rule of law.

Robert Reich writes at Newsweek that Congress Should Be Ready To Arrest Attorney General William Barr If He Defies Subpoena:

A subpoena is unlikely to elicit Barr’s cooperation. “We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” says the President of the United States.

In other words, there is to be no congressional oversight of this administration: No questioning the Attorney General about the Mueller Report. No questioning a Trump adviser about immigration policy.

No questioning a former White House security director about issuances of security clearances. No questioning anyone about presidential tax returns.

Such a blanket edict fits a dictator of a banana republic, not the president of a constitutional republic founded on separation of powers.

If Congress cannot question the people who are making policy, or obtain critical documents, Congress cannot function as a coequal branch of government.

If Congress cannot get information about the executive branch, there is no longer any separation of powers, as sanctified in the US constitution.

There is only one power—the power of the president to rule as he wishes. Which is what Donald Trump has sought all along.

The only relevant question is how stop this dictatorial move.

Presidents before Trump occasionally have argued that complying with a particular subpoena for a particular person or document would infringe upon confidential deliberations within the executive branch.

But no president before Trump has used “executive privilege” as a blanket refusal to cooperate.

“If Mr. Barr does not show up,” the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Sunday, “we will have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena.”

What could the Committee do? Hold Barr in contempt of Congress—under Congress’s inherent power to get the information it needs to carry out its constitutional duties. Congress cannot function without this power.

Under this inherent power, the House can order its own sergeant-at-arms to arrest the offender, subject him to a trial before the full House, and, if judged to be in contempt, jail that person until he appears before the House and brings whatever documentation the House has subpoenaed.

When President Richard Nixon tried to stop key aides from testifying in the Senate Watergate hearings, in 1973, Senator Sam Ervin, chairman of the Watergate select committee, threatened to jail anyone who refused to appear.

Congress hasn’t actually carried through on the threat since 1935—but it could.

Would America really be subject to the wild spectacle of the sergeant-at-arms of the House arresting an Attorney General and possibly placing him in jail?

Hells Yeah! Frog march that lying bastard to jail.

Probably not. Before that ever occurred, the Trump administration would take the matter to the Supreme Court on an expedited basis.

The matter has already been decided by black letter law.

Sadly, there seems no other way to get Trump to move. Putting the onus on the Trump administration to get the issue to the court as soon as possible is the only way to force Trump into action, and not simply seek to run out the clock before the next election.

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[I]n a case that grew out of the Teapot Dome scandal in 1927, the court held that the investigative power of Congress is at its peak when lawmakers look into fraud or maladministration in another government department.

Decades later, when Richard Nixon tried to block the release of incriminating recordings of his discussions with aides, the Supreme Court decided that a claim of executive privilege did not protect information relevant to the investigation of potential crimes.

Trump’s contempt for the inherent power of Congress cannot stand. It is the most dictatorial move he has initiated since becoming president.

Congress has a constitutional duty to respond forcefully, using its own inherent power of contempt.

Failure to use the lawful power that the Constitution gives you is acquiescence and surrender to the dark night of Trump tyranny.

UPDATE: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called attempts to block congressional investigations into the White House “immoral, unethical, corrupt and unpatriotic.” Nancy Pelosi slams Trump for ‘stonewalling’ Congress and blocking oversight:

Speaker Pelosi unloaded on the president, saying he’s refusing to help Congress do its oversight job.

“President Trump is taking extraordinary and unprecedented measures to conceal information about himself and to cover-up his Administration’s dangerous and secretive activities from the public. This is part of a massive, unprecedented and growing pattern of obstruction,” she wrote.

“Congress is a co-equal branch of government, intended to serve as a check on executive power and prevent the rise of a tyrant,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “Preventing Congress from exercising any oversight as the president intends fundamentally impairs the balance of power.”

The Washington Post adds:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is sharply escalating her criticism of President Trump following a rare day of bipartisan talks at the White House, rolling out a messaging campaign Wednesday that casts the man in the Oval Office as trampling the Constitution and “sabotaging checks [and] balances.”

The new push — laid out in a document that will be distributed to Democratic offices — argues that Trump’s flagrant attempt to block congressional oversight is “immoral, unethical, corrupt and unpatriotic.” The three-page packet also accuses Trump of “blanket, unprecedented stonewalling” that is “unwarranted and unconstitutional” and “is part of a . . . growing pattern of obstruction.”

“The president’s disdain for rule of law and the Republicans’ complicity in his abuses of power are doing lasting damage to American democracy,” the document reads, later adding: “Congress is a co-equal branch of government, intended to serve as a check on executive power and prevent the rise of a tyrant. Preventing Congress from exercising any oversight as the president intends fundamentally impairs the balance of power.”

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Pelosi’s language in the new memo closely tracks with the complaints lodged by her chairmen in recent days. The panels probing Trump, in fact, helped craft the document.

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The Pelosi document attempts to point out to voters that Trump’s refusal to comply isn’t just about matters related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election or allegations of obstruction of justice. They also deal with policy and pocketbook issues that affect voters’ bottom-lines.

The memo says the Trump administration has “denied or delayed” information or testimony regarding the following: the administration’s decision to try to strike down Obamacare, including preexisting condition protections, in the courts; the separation of migrant children from their parents at the border; and allegations that Mar-a-Lago Club members “asserted influence over” Veterans Affairs Department matters.

The memo talks about how White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, who has crafted many of Trump’s strict immigration policies, won’t show up to answer questions from lawmakers, and it dings the secretary of Health and Human Services for refusing to answer questions about family separation matters.

The document highlights how the Justice Department last week ignored a subpoena for testimony as part of Democrats’ investigation into the 2020 Census. Pelosi also accuses the administration of “undermining national security” by stopping a decade-long practice of giving members on the Homeland Security panels briefings on nationwide threats.

The points, of course, also highlight some of the findings in the special counsel’s report — and, especially, Trump’s move to try to block key witnesses who cooperated with the probe from testifying publicly about the 10 potential areas of obstruction identified by Mueller.

“President Trump is taking extraordinary and unprecedented measures to conceal information about himself and to cover-up his administration’s dangerous and secretive activities from the public,” it reads.

Pelosi also knocks the administration for “violat[ing] 30 years of presidential precedent” by refusing to turn over Trump’s tax returns. Under the law, Congress has always had the ability to request the tax returns for any American.

“The president was elected to serve the people, not rule behind closed doors,” the document reads. “Transparency is critical to a healthy democracy and every American should be alarmed by the president’s behavior.”

The Trump White House doubles-down on its “total obstruction” policy. White House rejects House’s security clearance document request:

Since House Democrats took control of the House in January, White House officials have aggressively rejected nearly all oversight requests — refusing to turn over documents, declining to send witnesses to testify and even suing to protect Trump’s financial records.

Cummings said in a statement that the letter is “the latest example of the president’s widespread and growing obstruction of Congress” and that the committee will consider it’s next step.

“The American people do not want a king in the White House — they want a president who adheres to the Constitution, who follows the law and who recognizes Congress’ legitimate role as a check and balance on the executive branch,” he said.

Cummings is threatening Kline with fines or even imprisonment if he refuses to satisfactorily answer questions when he appears for a closed-door interview Wednesday.