The Hill, September 5, 2018 – The U.S. House should invoke a revised version of its historical inherent contempt enforcement power to address the refusal of Department of Justice (DOJ) officials to comply with congressional subpoenas seeking information such as occurred with the Clinton email and Russia investigations. Inherent contempt refers to the centuries-old practice of the U.S. Congress and other parliamentary bodies of defending their institutional authority and punishing contempts by holding trials to convict and sanction individuals who obstruct the legislative process.
The controversy over how to deal with DOJ noncompliance intensified when eleven members led by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) filed Articles of Impeachment against the deputy attorney general in the final days of the session prior to the August recess. Meadows was reportedly promised a criminal contempt vote as a compromise alternative in negotiations with House leaders opposed to impeachment, though both options remain on the table.
This unfinished business will surely re-emerge on the House’s agenda after it reconvenes this week. When it does, Congress would be better served by embracing a modified version of inherent contempt rather than continuing to pursue criminal contempt and impeachment, neither of which has any chance of succeeding.