Vyan alerts us to an important story in The Hill today:
White House contempt
By Susan Crabtree
June 22, 2007
House Judiciary Committee Democrats warned yesterday they would pursue a contempt of Congress motion if the White House fails respond to subpoenas for testimony and documents related to the firings of U.S. attorneys last year.
The deadline for a response is Thursday, June 28. If the White House does not comply, it opens the possibility of a constitutional showdown between the two branches. In an ironic twist, the Department of Justice (DoJ) would be called on to enforce the contempt motion.
I'm not entirely sure the twist is what I'd call ironic, since I think it was part and parcel of the plan from the beginning -- to so corrupt the Department of Justice that there could never be an adequate investigation of or accounting for this "administration's" activities without triggering an impeachment, which they'd immediately seek to label as "partisan revenge for Clinton," and thereby throw yet another presidential election into confusion by flogging the ghost of the Big Dog.
But whether you think it's ironic or not, the fact is that The Hill has it right. Bush's corrupt Department of Justice would be in charge of prosecuting any statutory contempt of Congress charges voted out by the House -- something we've been discussing here for more than a year, and has come up several times since then.
(Note, too, that it's Gonzales' corrupt Department that's responsible for cracking the whip on Cheney, for his failure to comply with federal guidelines and Executive Orders regarding the handling of classified materials. Another hot topic of the day that we've discussed before. That's why I say I don't think there's anything "ironic" about it falling to the DoJ to investigate things like this. It's part of the design, just like it was when they gutted the Voting Rights Act by destroying DoJ's voting rights section, and when they blow off bipartisan demands for investigations of the NASA Inspector General.)
So here's the run-down: If the White House refuses to comply with the subpoenas, the Judiciary committee can report out a resolution that the whole House would vote on, finding those refusing compliance in contempt of Congress. That finding is referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia (about whom see Vyan's diary for more), and at the discretion of that office -- at least ostensibly -- the charges may be pursued in court.
Has the U.S. Attorney's office ever declined to prosecute its own administration for contempt? Yes it has.
In the early 1980s, EPA Administrator Ann Gorsuch was charged by the House, but (warning: PDF)...
The Justice Department, anticipating the House vote, moved quickly: "Immediately after the House vote and prior to the delivery of the contempt citation," the department chose not to prosecute the case. [Notes omitted]
In fact, the DoJ sued the House of Representatives in the name of the United States, seeking to enjoin enforcement of the contempt charges.
So why is Conyers going down this road, instead of using the inherent contempt procedures?
(More after the jump.)
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