Members of the House Select Committee investigating Trump’s January 6 insurrection and attempted coup d’état are threatening several Trump lieutenants with legal action if they don’t appear according to the Committee’s subpoenas issued last week. However, their threats to “refer” criminal contempt charges to the Department of Justice if the culprits don’t appear show they are not nearly as serious as they claim.
To listen to members of the Select committee looking into the January 6 insurrection and attack on the Capitol, one might think they are not messing around. In fact, Representative Liz Cheney seems like she really means business and is not going to take any nonsense from Trump’s people. Good on her for acting like a determined prosecutor. But acting is not going to get Trump or his gang held accountable for inciting an insurrection against the United States.
The Committee’s threats to “refer” a criminal complaint to the Justice Department will do nothing more than give Trump and his cabal plenty of time to run out the clock and keep a case tied up in legal wrangling all the way to the Supreme Court – where conservatives will surely tell the Committee to go pound dirt.
The last thing the conservatives on the High Court want to do is cross Trump and get on his naughty list or Heaven forbid, disappoint Trump’s religious right devotees.
There are three means at the Committee’s disposal to enforce their Congressional subpoena power and get answers from Trump’s little gang of fascists. Two of those procedures generally involve recruiting assistance from the Department of Justice to initiate a long term relationship with the courts and possibly a grand jury; exactly what Trump and his cronies hope transpires. Thus far it appears the Select Committee is willing to take the long, drawn out road that serves no-one’s interest but Trump.
The referral to the Justice Department tactic might be worthwhile if the nation’s top law enforcement officer took an interest in holding Trump and his cabal accountable for attempting a coup to remain in power. However, this current DOJ under Attorney General Merrick Garland doesn’t seem interested in going after Trump and it is not just this author’s observation.
Let’s be real. With Merrick Garland running the DOJ, and demonstrating little incentive to bring Trump and his insurrectionists to justice, it seems downright insane for the Select Committee to “refer” a criminal contempt case to the DOJ. Merrick Garland has shown no will to pursue Trump or his fascist acolytes or the House Select committee wouldn’t have to consider “referring” a case of contempt.
A case simply “referred” to the DOJ is no guarantee that Mr. Garland would expedite the Committee’s referral and if he suddenly did take an interest in seeing the culprits behind the attempted coup held to account, it would likely take months to get any action whatsoever.
It seems that Mr. Garland thinks the Justice Department is like the Supreme Court where it takes years for a case to be heard and several months for a ruling to be handed down after plaintiffs and defendants present their arguments. There is no reason, or evidence to believe, a House criminal complaint referral would be any different. That being the case, the House has an alternative power the Committee doesn’t appear to be aware of and it is a mystery why, if members of the Committee are so serious and determined to get results, they don’t use the power at their disposal.
The quick solution to force Trump’s people to testify according to the House’s legal subpoenas served on them eliminates the Department of Justice from the equation and keeps the courts out of the picture for the time being.
If members of the Select Committee were really as angry and determined to get the answers they claim they need, then they would use their “Supreme Court upheld legislative branch’s independent and unilateral authority to arrest and detain individuals in order to compel compliance with a subpoena.”
Instead of going through the Department of Justice to enforce a criminal contempt statute, the Select Committee should instead use it’s “inherent contempt” power. If they utilized that power, the House sergeant-at-arms can be ordered to “summarily arrest” men like Steve Bannon, haul his nasty fascist self to the Capitol, and detain him until he agrees to testify and answer the Committee’s queries.
That inherent contempt power, if the Committee was really serious, would either compel fascist like Steve Bannon to commit perjury under oath, or reveal his involvement in inciting the January 6 insurrection against the United States on behalf of dirty Donald Trump. It may even reveal that Trump is still obstructing justice by ordering Bannon and Trump’s accomplices to blow off the House Select Committee’s enquiries.
If the Committee members are serious about getting to the bottom of who all is involved in helping Trump’s deadly insurrection, or angry about Trump’s henchmen flouting a Congressional subpoena, they would bypass the DOJ and use their inherent contempt power. If they don’t and instead go through the time consuming “”referral” process, then Trump and his criminal gang of fascists will never face justice. Sadly, that outcome seems more likely every day.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.
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