House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Friday that the House is thinking about using a rarely-invoked congressional power which would allow them to fine Trump-administration officials up to $25,000 per day for ignoring subpoenas. Schiff told Axios’s Mike Allen that Congress needs to enact “post-Watergate reforms” to enable a swifter process for enforcing congressional subpoenas “when this ugly chapter is over.”
But for now, he said they are considering “whether we need to revive Congress’s ‘inherent contempt’ power, such that we would have our own adjudication of the Congress and we would levy fines on those who are not cooperating until they produce what they are compelled to produce.”
Allen said, “this is news — so you don’t think people should be put in jail, but you are considering what?”
Schiff replied: “much as I like the visual of [throwing people in jail], I think it’s far more practical to consider levying individual fines on the person — not on the office — until they comply.” He added, “you could fine someone $25,000 a day until they comply and that would probably get their attention.”
When asked if Democrats could really do that, he answered, “we can do that … we are looking through the history and studying the law to make sure we’re on solid ground. That’s a big step but if we’re going to consider other big steps like impeachment, we ought to consider steps like inherent contempt that will allow us to get the information that we need.
“If there is to be this across-the-board stonewalling, we’re going to have to consider extraordinary remedies because at the end of the day, this isn’t just about these documents,” the California congressman said. “It is about whether congress is a co-equal branch and co-equal power and we can enforce oversight, because it we can’t, it means that any future president can act as corruptly or as malfeasant as they want and there’s simply no accountability,” Schiff concluded.
Schiff made the same threat during an appearance on MSNBC last night.
“Now, it used to be we imprisoned people but we could also fine them $25,000 a day until they comply or some other number,” he told host Rachel Maddow. “That may be an even swifter remedy if we need to embark on it and we may have to.”
In March, the House Judiciary Committee launched a sweeping investigation into President Trump’s finances, “demanding documents from the White House and Trump’s namesake company, charity, transition team, inauguration and 2016 campaign, as well as several longtime associates and the president’s two adult sons.”
Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) opened his much-anticipated probe with letters to 81 people, companies and government entities, seeking a wide range of materials that go to the heart of allegations against the president — including abuses of power, corruption and obstruction of justice.
President Trump characterizes the Democrats’ demands as “presidential harassment.”
“Presidential Harassment by ‘crazed’ Democrats at the highest level in the history of our Country,” Trump tweeted on March 3. “After more than two years of Presidential Harassment, the only things that have been proven is that Democrats and others broke the law,” he added later.
The president is right, the Washington Examiner’s Byron York argues:
He is the target of an extraordinary combination, not just of federal law enforcement and congressional probes, but a long list of less-discussed but potentially consequential investigations by state and local prosecutors and regulators.
Together, it adds up to a pile-on of unprecedented proportions, by and large the work of blue-state Democrats who stand to gain politically if their investigations succeed in crippling the president.
During the Obama years, Republicans also occasionally threatened to use extreme measures to enforce compliance of congressional subpoenas and counter executive overreach. In June or 2015, for instance, House Republicans threatened to withhold 15 percent of State Department funding” until officials sped up their responses to document requests, including House demands for documents pertaining to Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s emails.
In February of 2014, in response to then-president Obama’s executive overreach, former congressman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) suggested that the Republican-led congress strip money away from the executive branch, depriving Obama of funds for his “pet projects” like his green energy initiatives and even his vacations.
“If one branch overreaches then maybe the other branch ought to stick up for itself,” Gowdy declared at the time.
The Republicans, who never carried out their threats, were only trying to find ways to counter the Obama administration’s egregious abuses of power. Democrats, on the other hand, have a more malicious intent. They want to go on a fishing expedition in order to hobble Trump’s presidency, and counteract the upcoming DOJ Inspector General report into the Obama administration’s surveillance abuses, as well as any other probes into the malfeasance of the Obama years.