October 5, 2022

“A grave blow”: Pelosi outraged after court rules Congress can’t enforce subpoenas without new law

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Elections have consequences, some of which aren’t immediately apparent.


The “election” of Donald Trump with a sizable deficit of the popular vote has had so many visibly disturbing consequences that some of the more insidiously hidden repercussions of that damnable day are still playing out…and may continue to affect our body politic long after Trump is likely to be either serving a long prison sentence or has become worm-food of a particularly disgusting vintage.

The latest ramification to result from the 2016 debacle comes from two Republican-appointed judges who have handed the Trump administration a temporary victory in a case that would likely never even have been necessary in any administration before this one.

In a two-to-one decision handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Judges Thomas Griffith and Karen Henderson ruled that the House of Representatives can not compel President Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn to comply with a congressional subpoena dating back to the impeachment investigations of Donald Trump.

It was a surprising and disturbing decision that came just weeks after the full Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed that Congress indeed had the standing to sue the administration to get the information that it needed to fully investigate the executive branch.

The ruling was based on a simple premise: that despite having a legitimate right to the information it was seeking, Congress had never enacted any legislation that authorized a remedy to the refusal to honor a lawful subpoena and enforce it in federal courts.

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The result is a toothless legislative branch with no power whatsoever to sanction a rogue administration hell-bent on ignoring any oversight by congressional leaders.

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Trump’s Department of Justice wasted no time in incorporating the decision in the McGahn case into its filing seeking to block a House subpoena seeking documents related to the 2020 census.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reacted to the news with outrage and announced that the House will appeal the judgment from the sub-panel of the full court to the entire Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Sign the petition to tell Congress to stop Trump’s sabotage of the post office!

While the ruling means that the case will likely eventually worm its way to the Supreme Court for a definitive decision on the matter — ensuring that election day will come and go before an iota of new evidence is gleaned from McGahn or any other Trump White House players — Congress still has other tools at its disposal that could help convince recalcitrant officials to testify, including fines and “inherent contempt.”

This last power, which has yet to be challenged by the Trump administration, includes the rarely used power to arrest, detain, and jail anyone convicted of inherent contempt by a congressional chamber’s votes.

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With the Trump administration using everything in its arsenal to avoid congressional scrutiny in a repudiation of the Constitution’s separation of powers, it’s now time for Democratic congressional leaders to start playing hardball before it’s too late for any potential revelations to be disclosed before the November elections.

Dust off that rumored cell in the Capitol basement. It’s time to start populating it again!

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.

Original reporting by Spencer S. Hsu and Ann E. Marimow at The Washington Post.

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Vinnie Longobardo

is the Managing Editor of Washington Press and a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile, & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.

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