inherent contempt

Capitol Ink | Barr-tleby the Scrivener

Before considering power that could jail defiant Trump officials, Dems plan to go to court
‘Inherent contempt’ remains an option, but House vote next week would seek civil enforcement first

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Democrats will seek to enforce their subpoenas with civil court action before considering inherent contempt. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Despite some Democrats calling on the House to use its inherent contempt authority to fine or jail administration officials who defy subpoenas, Democratic leaders have opted to first fight the battles in civil court.

The House will vote next week on a resolution to authorize the Judiciary Committee to pursue civil enforcement of subpoenas it issued to Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn. 

Just where is this secret House jail located?
A Capitol basement investigation yielded some answers

The Lincoln catafalque is seen Wednesday through bars in a chamber below the Capitol Crypt. Contrary to many a rumor, this is not the House jail. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi resurfaced one of the Capitol’s most enduring mysteries when answering a question about whether Democrats might imprison Trump administration officials who defy Congress: the House jail. But where is this mysterious cell?

“We do have a little jail down in the basement of the Capitol, but if we were arresting all of the people in the administration, we would have an overcrowded jail situation. And I’m not for that,” Pelosi said Wednesday at a Washington Post live event.

Capitol Ink | Trumpty Dumpty Stonewall

Fines? Jail time? Democrats leave all options on the table for enforcing subpoenas
As administration stonewalls Congress, Democrats consider using historical ‘inherent contempt’ power

House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah E. Cummings says Democrats should consider all tools available them to force administration compliance with congressional subpoenas and oversight requests, including fines or jail time. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Administration officials could face fines or jail time for ignoring congressional subpoenas, as House Democrats say they’re seriously considering reviving a congressional power that has not been used since the 1930s.

President Donald Trump has publicly urged administration officials not to comply with congressional subpoenas, and some have started heeding the advice. House Democrats have made no formal decisions about how to respond to the Trump administration’s stonewalling of their oversight investigations, but one option on the table is the historical process of “inherent contempt.”