If you can’t beat ‘em and you can’t join ‘em then just go ahead and lock ‘em up. That appears to be the latest news in the push to impeach the president. In an interview yesterday with Squad member Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Deadline Detroit reported that members of Congress are discussing ways to squeeze information out of allies of President Trump.
Why does this sound credible? Perhaps because the first term congresswoman is saying pretty much the same thing that Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) mused about earlier in the week. “Let them sit there and cool off for a while,” Garamendi said on CNN. “I think it’s time to call in the sergeant-at-arms and march them off to our little jail,” he added.
Who Gets the Orange Jumpsuit?
Apparently, anyone who doesn’t hop to when congressional subpoenas are handed out is eligible for the slammer. Ms. Tlaib said that this method of turning the screws on people who won’t comply is known as “inherent contempt.” This is a little known or used statutory process adopted back in 1857. It was last exercised in 1934 in a controversy involving the U.S. postmaster and the American airline industry.
Here’s how it works: Once Congress issues the contempt citation, the person is arrested by the sergeant-at-arms (in this case it would be the House Sergeant rather than the one for the Senate). He or she would then bring that person to the floor of the chamber to answer questions. From there Congress has the option to imprison that person for coercion, imprison for punishment or let them go.
Tlaib said this inherent contempt proceeding is being “seriously discussed” but that it’s “uncharted territory.” This comes on the heels of pushback from the White House regarding the on-going impeachment saga. U.S. ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland has already ignored a subpoena but is supposed to testify this week. Also, on the hit list is a Ukraine State Department specialist and a former National Security Council member.
While holding these and others in jail would be an unlikely extreme measure, just the mention of it to potential witnesses could be all the pressure that’s needed to get them to dance to the congressional tune.
President Trump tweeted on October 11, “I never saw so many subpoenas!” The Democrats have gone Crazy. Just read the Transcript, or listen to the New Ukraine President’s statement, NO PRESSURE! This is a Democrat Con Job. Impeach Schiff for FRAUD!”
Is Congress on solid legal ground here? In reviewing the congressional power to put people behind bars, Reuters reports that in 1927 the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Senate “acted lawfully in sending its deputy sergeant-at-arms to Ohio to arrest and detain the brother of the then-attorney general, who had refused to testify about a bribery scheme known as the Teapot Dome Scandal.”
While inherent contempt may be strictly legal the rare usage of it demonstrates that it is a severe measure. If used it would surely rachet up the impeachment circus that has come to town.