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Tue Oct 15, 2019, 04:31 PM

Seriously, what can Congress do if someone refuses a subpoena?

I've heard talk about a jail in the basement of the Capitol, but I doubt that Pelosi, et al would resort to that (if it still exists). Can Congress send out the U. S. marshals? Impose fines? Is getting a subpoena from a judicial proceeding different from getting one from Congress? And on what basis can Rudy Giuliani, a private citizen, refuse a subpoena?

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Reply Seriously, what can Congress do if someone refuses a subpoena? (Original post)
Poiuyt Oct 2019 OP
RKP5637 Oct 2019 #1
stopbush Oct 2019 #2
Poiuyt Oct 2019 #4
PoliticAverse Oct 2019 #3
Poiuyt Oct 2019 #5
Voltaire2 Oct 2019 #8
Garrett78 Oct 2019 #10
pbmus Oct 2019 #9
PoliticAverse Oct 2019 #12
milestogo Oct 2019 #7
Kurt V. Oct 2019 #6
Garrett78 Oct 2019 #11
3Hotdogs Oct 2019 #13
Kurt V. Oct 2019 #14
SharonAnn Oct 2019 #15
ffr Oct 2019 #16
PoliticAverse Oct 2019 #17

Response to Poiuyt (Original post)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 04:34 PM

1. Excellent question! Far too many are using this cop-out with as far as I know no real repercussions.

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Response to Poiuyt (Original post)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 04:35 PM

2. Subpoena literally means "under penalty," so the ability to impose a penalty if

a subpoena is ignored is implicit.

A person ignoring or defying a subpoena is accepting the prescribed penalty in lieu of honoring the subpoena.

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Response to stopbush (Reply #2)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 04:40 PM

4. But what kind of penalty does Congress have the power and willingness to impose?

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Response to Poiuyt (Original post)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 04:39 PM

3. Congress has 3 ways to penalize someone for refusing a subpoena...

If you are really interested in this topic I'd recommend reading the following (.pdf):

Congressís Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure
Todd Garvey
Legislative Attorney
Congressional Research Service
May 12, 2017
(85 pages)

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL34097.pdf

Congress has three formal methods by which it can combat non-compliance with a duly issued subpoena. Each of these methods invokes the authority of a separate branch of government. First, the long dormant inherent contempt power permits Congress to rely on its own constitutional authority to detain and imprison a contemnor until the individual complies with congressional demands. Second, the criminal contempt statute permits Congress to certify a contempt citation to the executive branch for the criminal prosecution of the contemnor. Finally, Congress may rely on the judicial branch to enforce a congressional subpoena. Under this procedure, Congress may seek a civil judgmentfrom a federal court declaring that the individual in question is legally obligated to comply with the congressional subpoena.

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Response to PoliticAverse (Reply #3)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 04:42 PM

5. Thank you for that

Which of those penalties would be the easiest and most likely to impose?

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Response to Poiuyt (Reply #5)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 04:46 PM

8. the executive branch is obviously out

and the courts are problematic. So my guess is that they would first attempt to have the subpoena enforced through the courts and then if that fails or is blocked they will in fact use inherent contempt and enforce the subpoena through congress itself.

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Response to Voltaire2 (Reply #8)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 04:49 PM

10. The problem is it would be tied up in the courts for months, if not years. We don't have that long.

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Response to Poiuyt (Reply #5)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 04:48 PM

9. Civil judgment...

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Response to Poiuyt (Reply #5)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 04:53 PM

12. Well...

1 - If Congress votes the refuser in contempt and refers the contempt to the DOJ it's unlikely the DOJ will pursue the matter (that is what happened when Congress found Attorney General Holder in contempt).

2 - If Congress takes the issue to the courts the matter could be dragged out for some time. Eventually a court could order the refuser to comply and impose a contempt of court penalty (possible jail) for refusal (an example of the use of the courts to enforce a Congressional subpoena is: United States v Nixon ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Nixon ) ).

3 - If Congress uses its "inherent contempt" power they could have the refuser directly arrested and compelled to appear (to face a trial and penalty for contempt). This power has been rarely uses in history and is the most direct/severe method Congress has.


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Response to PoliticAverse (Reply #3)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 04:45 PM

7. I think there is only one branch of government we can count on for enforcement.

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Response to Poiuyt (Original post)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 04:43 PM

6. words are important, no doubt. but actions are more important.

so nothing can be done if a subpoena is refused . we need structural change.

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Response to Kurt V. (Reply #6)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 04:51 PM

11. The need for major structural reform is the elephant in the room.

Ezra Klein wrote a piece about this recently.

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Response to Poiuyt (Original post)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 04:54 PM

13. Who remembers Andrew Jackson after losing a ruling by the Supreme Court?

John Marshall issued the ruling. Let him enforce it.

And Jackson went ahead and removed the Cherokee.

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Response to 3Hotdogs (Reply #13)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 06:16 PM

14. +1

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Response to Poiuyt (Original post)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 08:35 PM

15. Susan MacDougal was imprisoned for 18 months for defying Congressional subpoena

In the Clinto impeachment.

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Response to Poiuyt (Original post)

Tue Oct 15, 2019, 08:42 PM

16. I believe Spiro Agnew's Ghost may have some guidance on that question

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Response to Poiuyt (Original post)

Wed Oct 16, 2019, 01:07 PM

17. Followup: Steny Hoyer: Democrats will rely on courts to enforce, not inherent contempt

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