After House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) announced that his committee would vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress for his dual infractions of failing to heed a subpoena to deliver an unredacted version of Special Counsel Robert Muller’s report and its underlying evidence to his committee and of purposely skipping a scheduled appearance for questioning last Thursday, Judiciary Committee member Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) sent a public tweet to the Attorney General to underscore the seriousness of the committee’s intentions.
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Dear @TheJusticeDept AG Barr: What are you hiding from the American people? We in the House Judiciary Committee will find out.
Also, you should search for "inherent contempt power" & read about it. We are part of a co-equal branch of government, and we are going to act like it. https://t.co/XyT9vcLOgy
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) May 6, 2019
Like any American paying attention, Representative Lieu was outraged when he discovered that Attorney General Barr had lied in his statements to Congress by claiming that he did not know why members of Mueller’s investigative team were unhappy with his characterization of the findings of their report.
Actually, Barr had already received a letter from Robert Mueller himself explaining exactly what was wrong with his summary — a four-page document that gave President Trump several weeks to loudly crow about his “total exoneration” before the redacted report was released and proved the lie of that claim — that it “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance” of his report.
Give the deceptiveness of the Attorney General’s testimony, it’s only natural that Congressman Lieu wants to find out what other details of the Mueller inquiry have been hidden from both Congress and the public at large.
The California representative put some teeth in his vow that the Judiciary Committee will ultimately uncover whatever hidden truths that Barr is attempting to conceal by suggesting that Barr research congressional powers under the concept of “inherent contempt.”
Using this procedure — which can be done entirely within the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives without interference by the Reublican-controlled Senate — any person charged with contempt of Congress can be arrested by the House Sergeant-at-Arms and brought before the House to answer to the charges.
If found guilty, the House can then decide on an appropriate punishment — usually “imprisonment for punishment reasons, imprisonment for coercive effect, or release from the contempt citation” according to the Wikipedia entry on the process.
The last time anyone was imprisoned using the inherent contempt procedures was in 1934, but at that time the Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of Congress’ powers to imprison executive branch members who defy its subpoenas. Any conviction by Congress using this procedure is also unable to be overturned by a presidential pardon, making it a particularly effective tool to be used in situations such as that faced by the House Judiciary Committee today.
That Congressman Lieu and the other members of the Judiciary Committee have done their own research into their constitutionally granted powers shows that they are serious about exercising their co-equal status in the federal government.
With the breaking news this afternoon that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has refused Congress’ demand to receive copies of President Trump’s tax returns, it now appears that Attorney General Barr may not have to spend his prospective time in the dank recesses of a Capitol Hill jail cell all by himself.
Now there’s a bonding exercise for Trump cabinet members that can provide the most stringent loyalty test that the president can expect his loyal servants to endure.
Put security cameras in the cell and make it a pay per view subscription event and the federal government might even be able to pay down that massive debt that Republicans created with their tax cuts for billionaire oligarchs and corporations.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.