House Democrats are done with President Donald Trump’s games, and they are ready to confront his extremism with the full extent of Congress’ powers, including sending his officials to jail if they continue to refuse to comply with subpoenas.
Trump is desperately trying to run out the clock on congressional oversight until after the 2020 Election, hoping that winning a second term and retaking Congress can save him. That is, if the American people are willing to ignore his various instances of criminal misconduct and scandals.
But Americans deserve to know the full extent of Trump’s misdeeds, which is why Congress is demanding testimony and documents and issuing subpoenas.
Of course, Trump is ignoring those subpoenas and is ordering his officials to be non-compliant, literally daring Congress to counter him.
But unlike Trump, Congress can jail people for contempt in order to force them to comply.
It hasn’t been done for 80 years and the old jail used by the legislative branch has since been torn down and replaced by the Supreme Court building, however, Congress still has the power and House Democrats are willing to use it if Trump insists upon playing a game of political chicken.
House Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told NBC News on Tuesday that jail is an option House Democrats are seriously considering.
“I said there is no tool in our toolbox that we should not explore,” he said. “We will look at all those tools from a very practical standpoint. It may be that we just want to deal with fines, I don’t know, but it’s either fines and/or prison.”
Fines would be a new approach that Congress has not tried before, and there is plenty of precedent of Congress jailing officials for contempt, which the Supreme Court has backed since 1821.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, also told NBC News that prison time is a strong possibility.
“I don’t think it’s anyone’s first choice,” he said. “We recognize that it is an extraordinary remedy but we also recognize that if the president is successful in stonewalling and engaging in protracted litigation to run the clock out, he’ll be denying the American people access to the truth.”
Again, Americans deserve the full truth before they head to the polls in 2020.
Even Democratic Caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) agrees that “every available legal means” should be considered by House Democrats to achieve proper oversight of a White House that is out of control.
“We will use every available legal means to make sure that the administration complies with our constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people,” he said.
But it’s Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) who delivered the clearest warning to the Trump administration.
“We will use every and any power in our command to compel you,” Connolly said. “You had better lawyer up. You had better be ready for serious fines. Better be ready for possible jail time. As you know, we have jurisdiction over the District of Columbia and they have a beautiful jail with plenty of room that I think that would be just perfect for these people to contemplate their actions and judgment. The administration’s stonewalling is also fueling discussion of impeachment. The combination of the Mueller report and the act of reckless defiance of the will of Congress to do its job is pushing a lot of Democrats like me to do more.”
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