A second individual has been referred to criminal contempt for failing to comply with a request to appear before the House Judiciary Committee in January to discuss the conclusions of its investigation into the 2016 presidential election.
“Under our system of government, citizens are afforded an opportunity to appeal the Department of Justice’s decisions, including the Department’s release of a document that is essential to the integrity of our elections,” Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers (D-MI) said in a statement. “Hiding behind the Administrative Procedure Act is an unacceptable and unconstitutional tactic, and I look forward to the Court’s decision.”
The first individual to be referred for criminal contempt was Illinois Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who was named and referred by Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA). Mr. Gutierrez’s case was argued before Judge Emmet Sullivan, the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, on April 19. Gutierrez declined to appear and in his motion requested that the Court hold Mr. Goodlatte in contempt of court, giving Gutierrez three options to settle the matter.
Conyers argues Gutierrez’s refusal to comply with a formal Congressional subpoena is inconsistent with federal law and the Administrative Procedure Act, which sets forth a series of guidelines intended to clarify the authority of officials in executive agencies to make decisions.
“The [Administrative Procedure Act] gives Congress an opportunity to review these alleged findings of fact and decide whether they meet the threshold needed to hold the Executive Branch in contempt of Congress,” Conyers said. “Congress has the power to hold the Executive Branch in contempt; it has not recognized that power only to appoint or appointees of the Executive Branch. Our proper role under the law is to challenge every step taken by the Executive Branch and hold them in contempt if necessary.
“Unlawful removal of lawfully appointed members of the Judiciary, in violation of the Judiciary Act, is an affront to our constitutional system of checks and balances and should be punishable by imprisonment. I have been clear that I will not tolerate any action that diverts my committee’s resources away from cases involving wrongdoing within the Department of Justice.”
Conyers also made it clear he will not support any piece of legislation that would create a uniform system for consideration of contempt citations. “I am against any effort by the House of Representatives to impose a uniform procedure for the assessment of contempt citations, as that would usurp the plain language of the Administrative Procedure Act and its appeals process.”
Conyers also said the process of removing an Executive Branch official that’s in contempt would need to be “completely transparent.”
“In today’s political environment, distrust of the Executive Branch is at an all-time high, and Congress has a responsibility to ensure that it is fulfilling its constitutional role,” Conyers said. “I do not support a rigged process that selectively facilitates punishment of a specific Executive Branch official without allowing the full scrutiny necessary under this Constitution.”
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