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McGahn Ruling Leaves Congress No Choice But to Pursue Inherent Contempt Fines and Independent Criminal Prosecutions


Friday, February 28, 2020 8:00pm

Media Contact: Bill Murphy • • (610) 529-6494 (m)

Statement of Good Government Now President Dr. William J. Murphy on DC Circuit Court Decision in McGahn Subpoena Case

Dr. William J. Murphy, President of Good Government Now, issued the following statement in response to the DC Circuit Court ruling in the congressional subpoena enforcement case involving former White House Counsel Don McGahn:

“The DC Circuit Court’s ruling that the House Judiciary Committee lacks standing to enforce its subpoena of former White House Counsel Don McGahn in federal court and that Mr. McGahn need not appear for testimony leaves the House no choice but to pursue inherent contempt fines and independent criminal contempt prosecutions by House-appointed lawyers.”

“This decision highlights the significant danger of adverse judicial decisions to which Congress subjects itself whenever it relies on the courts to enforce subpoenas.  Assuming such risks is unjustified when Congress possesses all authority necessary to decide these cases for itself internally through the inherent contempt process.”

“The House’s entire enforcement strategy rested on the viability of civil enforcement which has been impaired by the Court’s decision.  Although the case is subject to appeal, in the meantime, Congress will be left with no credible subpoena enforcement mechanism.”

“The House should respond to this situation by adopting the proposed inherent contempt fines rule recommended by Good Government Now which would establish a process whereby the House could conduct trials of, convict, and directly sanction executive branch officials who defy congressional subpoenas with heavy personal fines ranging from $25,000 to $250,000.  Inherent contempt fines should be supplemented with a provision enabling the House to authorize the Speaker to appoint private attorneys to prosecute persistently recalcitrant executive branch officials for criminal contempt of Congress in the event the inherent contempt fines are insufficient to motivate their compliance with a subpoena.

Dr. Murphy is available for interviews and comments at (610) 529-6494 or More information about Good Government Now’s subpoena enforcement proposals are available on our website at: Inherent Contempt Fines Rule or

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