Subpoenaed GOP lawmakers face risk of criminal contempt

The congressional panel investigating final yr’s assault on the U.S. Capitol is leaving open all enforcement choices — together with felony contempt — for subpoenaed GOP lawmakers who refuse to cooperate within the probe.

The choose committee has already held two former Trump administration officers in felony contempt — former advisor Stephen Bannon and former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows — for spurning the panel’s formal summons to testify. 

One day after the committee issued related subpoenas to 5 sitting House Republicans, together with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), prime members of the investigative panel mentioned these lawmakers would take pleasure in no particular immunities simply because they at the moment serve on Capitol Hill. 

“Members of Congress are citizens of the United States, so it would be the same options that are available to us generally,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a former professor of constitutional legislation, mentioned Friday when requested in regards to the potential repercussions of noncompliance. 

If there have been any questions on whether or not felony contempt is amongst these choices, Raskin shortly put them to relaxation. In reality, he mentioned, sitting lawmakers may face even higher disciplinary measures than different recalcitrant witnesses, provided that House members are additionally topic to chamber ethics guidelines.

“We have all of the options that would be available to us, or someone like Steve Bannon or Mark Meadows,” he mentioned, “and then additional options because they’re members of Congress.”

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the choose committee, mentioned he’s holding out hope that the subpoenaed Republicans may have a change of coronary heart and cooperate within the probe. But echoing Raskin, he mentioned the panel isn’t ruling out any enforcement instruments in the event that they refuse. 

“There are options. Obviously, we could make a referral to Ethics,” Thompson mentioned, referring to the House Ethics Committee. “We’ll discuss it. But look, all we’re saying is these are members of Congress who’ve taken an oath.”

Thompson, together with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the choose committee’s vice chair, introduced the subpoenas on Thursday following weeks of inner negotiations over the knowledge of focusing on sitting members of Congress so aggressively. The transfer was an unprecedented step, one marking a rare escalation within the wide-ranging probe into the Capitol assault of Jan. 6, 2021, when a violent mob stormed the constructing in a failed bid to overturn President Biden’s election victory.  

The subpoenas goal 5 GOP lawmakers: Reps. McCarthy, Jim Jordan (Ohio), Scott Perry (Pa.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.) and Mo Brooks (Ala.). All of them are shut allies of former President Trump who’ve promoted the lie that Trump received the 2020 election. All of them even have distinctive insights into the previous White House’s effort to thwart Congress’s certification of Biden’s victory. And they’ve all refused to cooperate within the investigation voluntarily.

“There are some things that we found out that either need clarification on their part, or we’re left with … what our investigation has shown us,” Thompson mentioned. “They are an integral part of that investigation, as far as I’m concerned.”

The Republicans have defended their refusal to take part, saying the investigation is merely a political train, concocted by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and designed to break Trump and the GOP at massive.

“The border is in crisis, inflation is skyrocketing, crime is rampant, and Democrats are focused on fabricating their own facts to take down Republican leaders,” Biggs mentioned after the subpoenas had been introduced. 

Despite the rhetorical defiance, nevertheless, not one of the 5 Republicans has mentioned they’d refuse to adjust to the subpoena. Several of the GOP lawmakers have mentioned they merely haven’t seen it — an argument challenged by Thompson, who mentioned he had signed every one. 

“My understanding is they were served,” Thompson mentioned.

McCarthy on Friday declined to remark. 

Quite other than occasions of Jan. 6, the brand new subpoenas have sparked a fierce debate in regards to the broader implications of utilizing congressional summonses to focus on sitting lawmakers. 

Republicans are warning that it’ll create a harmful precedent, setting the stage for a barrage of subpoenas from the bulk get together towards the minority in years to return. Democrats have countered that the true hazard could be if the subpoenaed lawmakers had been to disregard the legislation and defy them. 

“The basic principle of our rule of law is that everybody owes his or her truthful testimony to the government when a crime has been committed, or you know, when they’re subpoenaed,” Raskin mentioned. “That’s not a complicated proposition.”

Thompson delivered the same message, including a warning to Republicans hoping to retaliate subsequent yr with their very own subpoenas in the event that they management the House after the midterm elections. 

“The precedent ought to be for Republicans to honor the subpoena. If the Republicans choose not to, and then they take control of the House, then obviously, they don’t have many legs to stand on,” he mentioned.

The committee intends to stage eight public hearings subsequent month, with the primary scheduled for June 9, though Thompson allowed for extra hearings “if the committee decides that it’s necessary.” 

Mychael Schnell and Emily Brooks contributed reporting.

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