House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. (D-Calif.) said Friday that Congress is considering reviving its inherent contempt power to levy hefty fines on Trump administration officials and others who refuse to comply with congressional subpoenas.
“One thing we are considering … is 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,” Schiff said at an event hosted by Axios.
Schiff said he was not interested in using the inherent contempt power to jail individuals who evade congressional subpoenas, but suggested fines — up to $25,000 per day — would be a “practical” way to compel them to comply with the myriad investigations underway by the Democratic-led House.
“I think it’s much more practical to consider levying individual fines on the person, not the office, until they comply,” Schiff said. “You could fine someone $25,000 a day until they comply and that would probably get their attention.”
The inherent contempt power is rarely used. Under it, an individual can be detained at the Capitol or face fines for failing to comply with congressional oversight investigations.
and his White House have sought to fight back the onslaught of congressional investigations in the House, accusing Democrats of overreaching and trying to score political points against the president ahead of an election year.
Democrats, meanwhile, have been exploring ways to force officials and others to comply with what they view as legitimate oversight probes.
Schiff said it would ultimately be up to Speaker (D-Calif.) whether to use the inherent contempt power. He said it would represent a “big step” but may be necessary if the Trump administration continues to stonewall Democrats’ investigations.
“We are looking through the history and studying the law to make sure we’re on solid ground. That’s a big step but, look, if we’re going to consider other big steps like impeachment, we have to consider steps like inherent contempt that will allow us to get the information we need,” Schiff said.
“If there is going to be this across the board stonewalling, we are going to have to consider extraordinary remedies,” he said.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted strictly along party lines to recommend Attorney General be held in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena for special counsel ’s full unredacted report and its underlying evidence.
Trump asserted executive privilege over the subpoenaed materials on the recommendation of the Justice Department, which has argued that complying with the request would run afoul of the law and compromise ongoing criminal probes. Schiff has also issued a subpoena for Mueller’s report, underlying evidence and the counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials he generated.
Earlier this week, the White House also instructed former White House counsel Don McGahn not to comply with a Judiciary panel subpoena for documents related to Mueller’s investigation. Judiciary Chairman (D-N.Y.) has threatened McGahn with contempt proceedings if he does not appear before the committee for subpoenaed testimony on May 21.
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Schiff says Congress weighing hefty fines for Trump officials who evade subpoenas
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