Congress appears ready to escalate their insistence that President Donald Trump and his administration cronies comply with subpoenas by leveling hefty fines against them on a daily basis until they do so, a strategy endorsed by political and legal experts.
Trump, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Attorney General Bill Barr and other officials are currently refusing to comply with subpoenas and the law in an effort to shield Trump from congressional oversight.
There are already calls for arresting Trump officials who refuse to comply, but House Democrats are not quite ready to take that step. Instead, they are strongly considering the use of fines.
“I think it’s far more practical to consider levying individual fines on the person — not the office — until they comply,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff told Axios this week. “You could fine someone $25,000 a day until they comply. You can do that. We’re looking through the history and studying the law to make sure we’re on solid ground.”
Schiff reiterated the plan on Twitter.
The Trump Administration’s stonewalling is unprecedented.
So too must be Congress’ response.
One option we may consider: Heavy personal fines imposed on recalcitrant officials under Congress’ inherent contempt power. Every day until they comply.
That might get their attention. https://t.co/dtSJ62a0c1
— Adam Schiff (@AdamSchiff) May 11, 2019
It’s certainly worth trying. The question is how Congress plans to enforce the fines and collect. Of course, if fines don’t work, the next logical step is having Trump officials arrested and jailed.
But legal and political experts agreed with levying fines.
Former State Department official Phillipe Reines suggested that Trump would resign rather than pay the steep fines, especially since he’s already a broke “billionaire.”
Skip the foreplay with cabinet secretaries & senior officials. Subpoena Trump himself. Fine him $25,000. He’ll resign in a week.
Ivanka & Jared too. https://t.co/g0e1oiZudy
— Philippe Reines (@PhilippeReines) May 10, 2019
Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe agreed and suggested doubling the fine every day.
Very tempting — especially if the fines for POTUS would begin at $250,000 per day on day 1, and grow exponentially: $500,000/day on day 2, $1M/day on day 3, $2M/day on day 4, etc. https://t.co/0BL0hfaaed
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) May 11, 2019
Even Kellyanne Conway’s husband George Conway endorsed that idea.
One approach that courts sometimes use to compel compliance in civil contempt cases is to geometrically or exponentially escalate the fines over time—$10,000 on day 1, $20,000 on day 2, $40,000 on day 3, and so on. https://t.co/xBfWlN0Lkl
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) May 10, 2019
Clearly, House Democrats can make life miserable for Trump and his officials. They may be able to afford a certain dollar amount of fines, but there’s going to be a dollar amount they won’t be able to afford at some point and the pressure will force their hand. It’s just a matter of time and how much they will owe.
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