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And, yes, I DO take it personally: What to do when subpoenas are ignored
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Thursday, June 14, 2007

What to do when subpoenas are ignored

i'm reposting the majority of a post i put up back at the end of april because i think it gains greater relevance every day...
i confess to being one of the members of the great unwashed blogosphere referred to by kagro x in his commendable efforts to point out another option available to congress in its response to requests and subpoenas related to oversight investigations that are being ignored by the bush administration... the most widely-discussed option, contempt of congress, would entail automatic involvement of the justice department, which, as we now so clearly realize, would be problematic to say the least... however...
Under the inherent contempt power [PDF], the individual is brought before the House or Senate by the Sergeant-at-Arms, tried at the bar of the body, and can be imprisoned. The purpose of the imprisonment or other sanction may be either punitive or coercive. Thus, the witness can be imprisoned for a specified period of time as punishment, or for an indefinite period (but not, at least in the case of the House, beyond the adjournment of a session of the Congress) until he agrees to comply. The inherent contempt power has been recognized by the Supreme Court as inextricably related to Congress’s constitutionally-based power to investigate.

here's kagro x's thoughts...
The most obvious benefit of inherent contempt is that it's conducted entirely "in-house," that is, entirely on the authority of the legislative branch. The most obvious drawback? Spending time on a trial. Well, that and the scene of having the Sergeant at Arms and the Capitol Police physically barred from entering the White House to arrest those who've defied subpoenas.

But is there another choice? What other power, besides impeachment, does the Congress have in its arsenal to enforce the "subpoena power" we were all told this election was about? There are no other direct options, only oblique approaches to using indirect leverage.


Let's face it: if the "administration" simply refuses to budge, the Congress either has to fold its tent and go home, or enforce on its own authority the subpoena power the American people voted for. Given that we've reached this impasse -- and we knew it was coming -- over an investigation into the hyper-partisan and hyper-politicized nature of the U.S. Attorneys, inherent contempt proceedings would appear to be the first and most direct resort of Congress in enforcing its mandate.

It would also appear to be the last stop short of impeachment. And with that remedy currently "off the table," Congress needs to speak -- and speak soon -- about how it intends to protect its prerogatives.

so, how do we help our congressional representatives to prepare...? again, kagro x...
Study up a bit on what happens when the subpoenas are defied. Learn about inherent contempt. Then drop a friendly line to your Members of Congress, expressing your support for the investigations the Congress is conducting, and urging them to think ahead and game out the "administration's" refusal to acknowledge the legislature's power as a co-equal branch. Let them know that when push comes to shove, you'd support enforcing that power through the inherent contempt procedure, and ask them if they're aware of it.

Sure, we'll get non-committal responses drafted by staff. But that doesn't mean there's no consideration for our communications going on inside the office. When Members get multiple letters, faxes and emails on the same subject -- even just a few -- it raises some notice among the staff. That's the way the system is designed. And when they several letters raising something that's otherwise as obscure as inherent contempt, you'll definitely be raising eyebrows.

it makes perfectly good sense to me, particularly since i have been ranting and raving about getting bushco removed from office in the most expeditious manner possible... i have never been keen on impeachment, simply because of the time and effort involved... leaving george, dick and the rest of the criminals in office and free to continue attacking the foundations of the republic while an impeachment process drags on doesn't address the urgency... however, the option of inherent contempt, something i was not aware of, ought to be out on the table just as much as contempt of congress and impeachment... write your representatives in congress as kagro x suggests... there's nothing to lose and everything to gain...

we simply CANNOT sit idly by while the bush regime continues its lawless rampage over every fundamental principle our country was founded on...

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