House Democrats are openly threatening Trump administration with jail or fines if they’re found in contempt of Congress, as lawmakers grow increasingly frustrated in their attempts to investigate findings in the Mueller report.
The White House has refused to turn over documents and administration officials for examination, and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) acknowledged jail was an option for officials who refuse to comply with subpoenas, reported NBC News.
“I said there is no tool in our toolbox that we should not explore,” Cummings said. “We will look at all those tools from a very practical standpoint. It may be that we just want to deal with fines, I don’t know, but it’s either fines and/or prison.”
President Donald Trump said last week his administration would fight any subpoenas, which he called “ridiculous,” but Democrats intend to fight back more aggressively.
“I don’t think (jail) is anyone’s first choice,”said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). “We recognize that it is an extraordinary remedy but we also recognize that if the president is successful in stonewalling and engaging in protracted litigation to run the clock out, he’ll be denying the American people access to the truth.”
Lawmakers realize the impending fight with the executive branch could take years to resolve through the courts, and they recognize Attorney General Barr would not likely file criminal charges against noncompliant officials.
In fact, the House Judiciary Committee is still battling Barr over his testimony, which is scheduled for Thursday, on the latest revelations about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has missed two deadlines imposed by the House Ways and Means Committee to hand over the president’s tax returns, and Democrats warned Trump administration officials to meet their legal obligations — or else.
“We will use every and any power in our command to compel you,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), who sits on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. “You had better lawyer up. You had better be ready for serious fines. Better be ready for possible jail time.”
No one has been jailed for contempt of Congress in 80 years — the Supreme Court now sits where Congress’ jail used to be — and there is no record of Congress fining anyone held in contempt.
“As you know,” Connelly said, “we have jurisdiction over the District of Columbia and they have a beautiful jail with plenty of room that I think that would be just perfect for these people to contemplate their actions and judgment.”