Earlier this week, as some of Donald Trump’s top officials began brazenly and illegally thumbing their nose at congressional oversight, we pointed out that the next logical step was for House Democrats to begin holding them in contempt of Congress. Now House Democrats are preparing to do precisely that – and they’re naming names in the process.
For instance, this afternoon House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings accused Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Gore of illegally dodging a subpoena. He also accused Attorney General William Barr of having instructed Gore to dodge the subpoena. Cummings added that if Gore “fails to comply with the subpoena, the Committee will consider him to be in contempt of Congress.” To be clear, being held in contempt of Congress generally means being arrested by the House Sergeant-at-Arms and locked up until the subpoena is complied with. As Committee Chair, Cummings can make this happen – and he has a history of doing what he says he’s going to do.
What stands out here is that Cummings is not only threatening to have Barr’s deputy Gore arrested, he’s directly accusing Barr of being responsible for Gore’s illegal behavior. So why not simply jump straight to arresting Barr? If House Democrats are going to succeed in taking these kinds of drastic steps, they have to do it in a manner that’s more strategic than bombastic. Arresting a high ranking DOJ official would serve to get the message across to those carrying out Trump’s illegal agenda, without handing Trump a talking point about House Democrats overreaching by having the Attorney General arrested. Gore isn’t the only name being thrown around when it comes to contempt of Congress.
Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell, who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, is talking about holding Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in contempt of Congress for illegally refusing to turn over Donald Trump’s tax returns. Pascrell isn’t necessarily speaking on behalf of Committee Chairman Richard Neal, who would make the decision on such a matter. For all we know, Neal could be looking at doing something more similar to what Cummings is doing – arresting a top Mnuchin deputy in order to drive a calculated point home. But all of this speaks to just how aggressively House Democrats are looking to come out swinging. Trump and his loyalists clearly aren’t going to back down unless and until they’re figuratively punched in the mouth – and it looks like that’s soon going to happen.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report