Here’s what you need to know about being held in contempt of Congress:
What is contempt of Congress?
It means someone has obstructed the work of either Congress or a congressional committee.
While there are many ways someone can be in contempt of Congress
, these days it usually happens when someone doesn’t comply with a congressional subpoena
, de acuerdo a the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service
Sometimes that disobedience means refusing to appear before a committee to testify, and sometimes that means refusing to pony up requested documents.
What’s the point of holding someone in contempt of Congress?
“Contempt may be used either to coerce compliance
, to punish the contemnor
, and/or to remove the obstruction
,” the Congressional Research Service said
There are several ways members of Congress can do this:
1) They can tell the House or Senate sergeant-at-arms to detain or imprison the person in contempt until he or she honors congressional demands. This is called “inherent contempt.” But it’s extremely rare and hasn’t happened in modern times.
2) Congress can vote on criminal contempt, then make a referral to the executive branch — headed by the President — to try to get the person criminally prosecuted. A month or more jail sentence is a possibility if a witness won’t comply, under the law. This is the approach members of Congress have indicated publicly they’d want to pursue. It’s unclear how quickly this route would move, and how the Biden Justice Department would respond to a contempt referral from the Democrats in the House.
3) Congress can ask the judicial branch to enforce a congressional subpoena. En otras palabras, Congress can seek a federal court’s civil judgment saying the person is legally obligated to comply with the subpoena. During the Trump presidency, the House tried this approach many times, but the court process moved so slowly it took months or even years for standoffs to resolve. Algunos, like a House subpoena for Trump’s IRS returns, still linger before a trial judge.
Who has the panel subpoenaed so far?
, the panel has also subpoenaed former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows
, former adviser Steve Bannon and Kash Patel
, a former chief of staff to then-Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller
. Patel has acknowledged he’s received the committee’s subpoena and said he would
“continue to tell the truth to the American people about the events of January 6th.
Más recientemente, the panel issued subpoenas to 11 individuals who were affiliated with Women for America First
, the organization that held the permit for the
“Detener el robo” rally on January
6 that served as a prelude to the Capitol riot
What is Trump saying?
While Trump threatened more than a month ago to assert executive privilege to block the committee’s earlier request for records
, he hasn’t yet stepped up as a shield
. And he didn’t try to stand in the way of former DOJ top brass testifying this summer about his push to spread election fraud lies
What is Biden saying?
The White House and Justice Department are signaling that they believe the exceptional nature of January 6 means they wouldn’t go to bat for witnesses ignoring subpoenas. But the White House also said they’d look at Capitol Hill requests case by case, in case there’s a need to assert presidential privilege.