NYT Op-Ed: House Democrats Should Arrest Trump’s Allies

Sunday, October 13, 2019
By Paul Martin

by Luis Miguel
Saturday, 12 October 2019

Josh Chafetz, a professor at Cornell Law School, argued in a New York Times op-ed this week that House Democrats should consider arresting Trump administration officials and members of the president’s inner circle in order to compel the White House’s cooperation with the impeachment inquiry.

In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said the Trump administration refuses to cooperate with Democrats’ probe, calling it an “illegitimate” and “unconstitutional” attempt to “overturn the results” of the 2016 election.

“The Founders, however, did not create the extraordinary mechanism of impeachment so it could be used by a political party that feared for its prospects against the sitting President in the next election,” Cipollone’s letter read.

Chafetz, in response, said Democrats can order the House’s sergeant-at-arms to take into custody Trump officials and other associates of the president, housing them in “makeshift” cells in the Capitol:

The House should instead put back on the table the option of using its sergeant-at-arms to arrest contemnors — as the person in violation of the order is called — especially when an individual, like Rudy Giuliani, is not an executive branch official. Neither house of Congress has arrested anyone since 1935, but it was not uncommon before that point (and was blessed by the Supreme Court in 1927). Indeed, on at least two occasions, the second in 1916, a house of Congress had its sergeant arrest an executive branch official. (In that case, the Supreme Court eventually ruled against the House, not because it did not have the power to arrest for contempt, but rather because the offense — writing a nasty public letter to a House subcommittee — could not properly be understood as contempt of Congress.)

Facilities in the Capitol or one of the House office buildings can be made into a makeshift holding cell if necessary. Of course, arrestees will ask the courts to set them free, but the case should be relatively open-and-shut against them: They will have committed a contempt in refusing to turn over subpoenaed materials, and the House has the power to hold contemnors. Moreover, time would work in the House’s favor here: The unpleasantness of being in custody while the issue was being litigated might make some contemnors decide to cooperate.

Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), one of four freshmen progressive congresswomen known as “The Squad,” said in a town hall earlier this month that her fellow House Democrats are exploring ways to arrest White House officials who fail to comply with subpoenas during the impeachment inquiry.

“This is the first time we’ve ever had a situation like this,” Tlaib told constituents. “So they’re trying to figure out, no joke, is it the D.C. police that goes and gets them? We don’t know. Where do we hold them?”

Democrats are investigating whether President Trump pressured Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, calling it “foreign interference” in an American election.

As a transcript of a July phone call shows, the president asked his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to “look into” Biden’s involvement in Ukraine.

At a Council on Foreign Relations panel, Biden bragged about threatening to withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine if its government did not fire a prosecutor who was investigating the natural gas firm Burisma, which had hired Biden’s son, Hunter, to its board for as much as $50,000 per month.

On Wednesday, President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said on Fox News’ Hannity that Burisma also paid Joe Biden $900,000 in lobbying fees.

Giuliani cited as evidence a conference held by Ukrainian member of parliament Andriy Derkach, who claimed to possess documents showing that Burisma transferred the money to the U.S.-based investment firm Rosemont Seneca Partners, founded by Hunter Biden and Chris Heinz, former Secretary of State John Kerry’s stepson.

“Biden, his son and his brother had a 30-year-long scam to make money, millions, selling his public office,” Giuliani alleged.

Biden has denied any wrongdoing. The Biden campaign has sought to shut down questions about the former vice president and Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield sent a two-page letter to New York Times editor Dean Baquet saying the paper must not publish stories about Biden and Ukraine.

The Biden campaign had previously petitioned Fox News and Facebook to take down a Trump campaign ad centered around the Ukraine scandal, though both companies declined. CNN, however, complied with a request to take down the same ad.

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