Contempt of Congress

Jul 2013
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There are avenues...
After securing a citation, there are three avenues for Congress to enforce its resolution and ultimately seek a resolution:


  1. Criminal contempt;
  2. Civil contempt; and
  3. Congress's inherent contempt powers.

Criminal Contempt of Congress


The authority of Congress to cite an individual with criminal contempt is found in Title 2, Section 192 of the U.S. Code. It states that anyone summoned by either house of Congress "to give testimony or to produce papers" regarding any matter of inquiry who "willfully makes default" or "refuses to answer any questions pertinent to the question under inquiry" has committed contempt of Congress.


Penalties for violations (a misdemeanor) include a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail term of one to 12 months, which requires prosecution by the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. This means a contempt citation may be a purely symbolic gesture if the DOJ or U.S. Attorney decides not to prosecute. In the case of EPA Administrator Gorsuch, President Reagan -- head of the executive branch -- had declared those documents off limits due to executive privilege.


Congress Contempt Charges: Civil


If the DOJ or U.S. Attorney's Office refuses to prosecute a case where an individual has been cited for contempt of Congress, lawmakers may pursue a civil suit in federal court. Generally, these actions claim that the members of Congress requesting testimony or documents were denied the ability to exercise their constitutional duties. The court then decides whether the individual cited for contempt of Congress must comply with the congressional subpoena.


The relevant statute (Title 2, Section 288 of the U.S. Code) specifically gives the Senate the power to bring a lawsuit for contempt of Congress. However, federal courts have held that this also applies to House committees seeking enforcement of subpoenas.


Inherent Contempt Power of Congress


The third, and least exercised, option is referred to as the inherent contempt power of Congress. This isn't found in statutory or constitutional language but rather is inferred by the courts as a function of Congress's legislative powers. The last time this was exercised was in the 1930s, but this was seen more as a way to coerce compliance than as a means of punishment.

The offender, after being cited for contempt of Congress, is tried on the floor of the chamber of Congress invoking the power. If a majority affirms the contempt charge, they may instruct the Sergeant at Arms to arrest the offender and detain them until they comply with the subpoena or until the end of the session. Given the extraordinary nature of congressional detention and its lack of constitutional clarity, it's often seen as a last-ditch -- and unlikely-- effort.
 
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Mar 2012
59,796
41,271
New Hampshire
I had hoped there would be more interest in preserving the republic. How sad.
Well we know the average voter doesnt pay much attention. You and I are a bit odd in that we follow politics more closely. I still talk to people in real life who dont even know there is an impeachment inquiry. They tune out until a week or so before. Thats part of the problem. Also, the dems had a lot of momentum with this but as they dont show up, they lose it. Pelosi had said in her statement that it would be swift and focused. I think Trump will drag it way out past the holidays and well into next year.
 
Feb 2011
19,064
13,939
The formerly great golden state
Well we know the average voter doesnt pay much attention. You and I are a bit odd in that we follow politics more closely. I still talk to people in real life who dont even know there is an impeachment inquiry. They tune out until a week or so before. Thats part of the problem. Also, the dems had a lot of momentum with this but as they dont show up, they lose it. Pelosi had said in her statement that it would be swift and focused. I think Trump will drag it way out past the holidays and well into next year.
I think you're right on all counts. Just how much longer we can hang on to the Republic given voter apathy and men like Trump gaining power remains to be seen.

There is no doubt that Trump will try to drag out the impeachment way past the holidays. The best bet for getting him out of power is the 2020 election, but, given apathy and short memories, he just might win a second term.
 
Mar 2012
59,796
41,271
New Hampshire
I think you're right on all counts. Just how much longer we can hang on to the Republic given voter apathy and men like Trump gaining power remains to be seen.

There is no doubt that Trump will try to drag out the impeachment way past the holidays. The best bet for getting him out of power is the 2020 election, but, given apathy and short memories, he just might win a second term.
The problem for 2020 is the same as 2016. Swing states and third party votes. Nobody cares about NY or CA as they will vote whoever the D is. But in PA, WI, MI, IA etc who knows? Those polls yesterday show Trump is still very competitive there. He beats Warren and Sanders there. Biden has a better shot. But he could peeve the progressives. Plus we havent even gotten into who is going to run third party. Bloomberg said he will decide after Super Tuesday.
 
Feb 2011
19,064
13,939
The formerly great golden state
The problem for 2020 is the same as 2016. Swing states and third party votes. Nobody cares about NY or CA as they will vote whoever the D is. But in PA, WI, MI, IA etc who knows? Those polls yesterday show Trump is still very competitive there. He beats Warren and Sanders there. Biden has a better shot. But he could peeve the progressives. Plus we havent even gotten into who is going to run third party. Bloomberg said he will decide after Super Tuesday.
Even with NY and California in the bag for Democrats, even with all of the lies and scandals of his first term, Trump could well win the next election.

Maybe the country is resilient enough to survive a second term, but then what? The new Republican Party, that doesn't resemble the before Trump party at all, could go on to win more elections. May as well disband Congress and admit we have strong man rule.

That's my cynical opinion, at least. It could be wrong, as my cynicism steers me wrong as much as 5% of the time.
 
Mar 2012
59,796
41,271
New Hampshire
Even with NY and California in the bag for Democrats, even with all of the lies and scandals of his first term, Trump could well win the next election.

Maybe the country is resilient enough to survive a second term, but then what? The new Republican Party, that doesn't resemble the before Trump party at all, could go on to win more elections. May as well disband Congress and admit we have strong man rule.

That's my cynical opinion, at least. It could be wrong, as my cynicism steers me wrong as much as 5% of the time.
I have kids in their 20s and early 30s and they are already getting cynical. They have various hopes for 2020 but to them Biden is an enormous step back. Not that he isnt better than Trump, but he represents a 30 year ago way of life. He doesnt excite them or their friends. So they basically see their platforms ignored. They dont see him winning the nomination because they will vote for someone else. But us older folks know youth voters are less reliable. So I dont know what happens, will they suck it up and vote for Biden or stay home and pout? I dont know where we are right now honestly, it seems on one hand, anyone can beat Trump (and does in national polls), but then when we look at swing states, Trump looks better positioned than we thought.
 

Devil505

Former Staff
Jan 2008
73,144
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Florida
I have kids in their 20s and early 30s and they are already getting cynical. They have various hopes for 2020 but to them Biden is an enormous step back. Not that he isnt better than Trump, but he represents a 30 year ago way of life. He doesnt excite them or their friends. So they basically see their platforms ignored. They dont see him winning the nomination because they will vote for someone else. But us older folks know youth voters are less reliable. So I dont know what happens, will they suck it up and vote for Biden or stay home and pout? I dont know where we are right now honestly, it seems on one hand, anyone can beat Trump (and does in national polls), but then when we look at swing states, Trump looks better positioned than we thought.
Then maybe our country is to far gone to be worth saving.
That would make us a racist/imperialistic country that we used to stand against.
(that seems to be what many PH Righties want)
 
Mar 2012
59,796
41,271
New Hampshire
Then maybe our country is to far gone to be worth saving.
That would make us a racist/imperialistic country that we used to stand against.
It isnt that its far gone, its that we still have too many people who either dont vote at all or they are the purists who want their way. They wont get behind someone they dont agree with 100%. My daughter went to an event recently and several there were saying they shouldnt vote for anyone who wont support the Green New Deal 100%. Thats a bit nutty since few are supporting it 100%. Many are focusing on a return to normal or away from Trump, but they dont see that. As I said above, we wont know until next election day how that turns out. Right now we just assume of course everyone will vote against Trump. But we really dont know.
 
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Feb 2011
19,064
13,939
The formerly great golden state
Then maybe our country is to far gone to be worth saving.
That would make us a racist/imperialistic country that we used to stand against.
(that seems to be what many PH Righties want)
19th century America was pretty much racist and imperialistic, and it grew very powerful and wealthy.

Could be that racism and imperialism are the wave of the future.

No advocating that, you understand, just making an observation.
 
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