Thursday, July 10, 2008

Someone Said the "I" Phrase!

Former presidential advisor Karl Rove refused to respond to a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee and this time they're not pussyfooting around.

"A refusal to appear in violation of the subpoena could subject Mr. Rove to contempt proceedings, including statutory contempt under federal law and proceedings under the inherent contempt authority of the House of Representatives," Conyers and Sanchez wrote.
Normally, contempt proceedings against the executive branch fail, since congress chooses to let the Justice dept handle prosecutions in Federal courts under statutory contempt rules and most administrations will call off their lawyers rather than prosecute themselves. However, statutory contempt is merely congress fobbing its contempt powers off on the other two branches of government. Each house also has inherent contempt powers, which means that the body of congress so defied can try the case themselves and hold that person until the end of the session. This can be repeated at the beginning of each session, and the Supreme Court has upheld this power as valid and integral to the functioning of the Legislative Branch.

Unsurprisingly, his lawyer is playing dumb with the media (who, for the most part, is likely dumb themselves on the issue):
Luskin noted in May that his client had already received a separate subpoena from the Senate Judiciary Committee. "While the [House] committee has the authority to issue a subpoena, it is hard to see what this will accomplish, apart from a 'Groundhog Day' replay of the same issues that are already the subject of litigation," the lawyer wrote, referring to a movie in which a person lives the same day over and over again.
As Mr. Luskin knows full well (or should, if he's taking Rove's money), the reason for the House to issue its own subpoena is that it allows the inherent contempt proceedings to occur in that house. Inherent contempt trials are conducted by the presiding officer of the house so offended. Cases in the senate are presided over by the President of the Senate, a.k.a. VP Dick Cheney, who has political reasons to oppose letting anything Rove's done come to light. Inherent contempt trials in the House of Representatives are presided over by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who is much more likely to play ball on the issue. Knowing those to things, which venue would Democrats prefer such a trial to occur in? I'll give you two guesses, but if the first isn't the House of Representatives you have a moral obligation to strike yourself in the head with a brick.

Right now, though, while I listen to the sound of a thousand bricks thumping, all I can hope for is to see this threat of Inherent Contempt be acted upon.

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