GOP lawmakers subpoenaed face criminal contempt

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The congressional panel investigating last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol is leaving all enforcement options — including criminal contempt — open to subpoenaed GOP lawmakers who refuse to cooperate with the investigation.

The select committee has already charged two former Trump administration officials – former adviser Stephen Bannon and former chief of staff Mark Meadows – with criminal contempt for rejecting the panel’s official summons to testify.

A day after the committee issued similar subpoenas to five incumbent Republicans, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), senior members of the investigating committee said those lawmakers would not benefit from ‘no special immunity just because they’re currently serving on Capitol Hill.

“Members of Congress are citizens of the United States, so those would be the same options available to us in general,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a former constitutional law professor, said Friday. asked about the potential repercussions of non-compliance.

If there were any questions about whether criminal contempt is one of those options, Raskin quickly put them to rest. In fact, he said, sitting lawmakers could face even greater disciplinary action than other recalcitrant witnesses, given that House members are also subject to the chamber’s ethics rules.

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

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Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the select committee, said he remains hopeful that subpoenaed Republicans will change their minds and cooperate with the investigation. But echoing Raskin, he said the panel is not ruling out any enforcement tools if it refuses.

“There are options. Obviously, we could refer to ethics,” Thompson said, referring to the House Ethics Committee. “We will discuss it. But listen, all we’re saying is that these are members of Congress who took the oath.

Thompson, along with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Vice Chair of the Select Committee, announced the subpoenas Thursday after weeks of internal negotiations over the wisdom of targeting sitting members of Congress so aggressively. . The move was an unprecedented step, marking an extraordinary escalation in the wide-ranging investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack, when a violent mob stormed the building in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the President Biden’s election victory.

The subpoenas target five GOP lawmakers: Representatives McCarthy, Jim Jordan (Ohio), Scott Perry (Pennsylvania), Andy Biggs (Arizona) and Mo Brooks (Alabama). All are close allies of former President Trump who promoted the lie that Trump won the 2020 election. All also have unique insight into the former White House’s efforts to thwart Congress’ certification of victory. of Biden. And they all voluntarily refused to cooperate with the investigation.

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“There are some things we found that need to be clarified by them, or we’re left with…what our investigation has shown us,” Thompson said. “They’re an integral part of this investigation, as far as I’m concerned.”

Republicans defended their refusal to participate, saying the inquiry was just a political exercise, concocted by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and designed to hurt Trump and the GOP as a whole.

“The border is in crisis, inflation is skyrocketing, crime is rampant, and Democrats are focused on making up their own facts to bring down Republican leaders,” Biggs said after the subpoenas were announced.

Despite the rhetorical challenge, however, none of the five Republicans said they would refuse to comply with the subpoena. Several of the GOP lawmakers said they simply hadn’t seen it — an argument disputed by Thompson, who said he signed all of them.

“I understand they’ve been served,” Thompson said.

McCarthy on Friday declined to comment.

Regardless of the events of January 6, the new subpoenas have sparked a fierce debate about the broader implications of using congressional summonses to target sitting lawmakers.

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Republicans warn that this will set a dangerous precedent, setting the stage for a deluge of subpoenas from the majority party against the minority in years to come. Democrats countered that the real danger would be that subpoenaed lawmakers ignore the law and defy them.

“The basic principle of our rule of law is that everyone owes their truthful testimony to the government when a crime has been committed, or you know, when they are subpoenaed,” Raskin said. “It’s not a complicated proposition.”

Thompson delivered a similar message, adding a warning to Republicans hoping to retaliate next year with their own subpoenas if they control the House after the midterm elections.

“The precedent should be for Republicans to honor the subpoena. If the Republicans choose not to, and then they take over the House, then obviously they don’t have a lot of legs to stand on,” he said.

The committee intends to hold eight public hearings next month, with the first scheduled for June 9, although Thompson has authorized additional hearings “if the committee decides it is necessary.”

Mychael Schnell and Emily Brooks contributed reporting.

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