Deyan Ranko Brashich
This is for those of you who still believe that public protest will carry the day, for the multitudes that have marched against “Brexit”, for the “yellow vests” that have taken to the streets of Paris, for the “enough is enough” crowd demonstrating in Belgrade, for the “pink pussy” hats of Washington, DC, for the “women’s day” crowd in Istanbul, for all of those who still believe and dream, this one’s for you.
The normal operation of the legislative arm of government has ground to a shuddering halt because President Trump has ordered his Cabinet, in fact all of the executive branch to ignore congressional requests for testimony, for information and to defy any subpoenas for past and present members of the Administration.
Constitutional scholars and legal experts are engaging in nitpicking exercises of augury, interpreting statutory law and precedent to reach a desired course of action – achieving a political result to their liking. Personal prejudice and political gain should be set aside. The time has come to “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”. Call his bluff, says I – let me give you a primer.
Do you remember the black girl who wanted to go to Central High School, not the “separate but equal” one across town – the one for all the other pickaninnies – in Little Rock, Arkansas? That was in 1957 when Governor Orval Faubus predicted that “blood would run in the streets of Little Rock” if African-Americans teenagers attended the city’s racially pure all-white high school.
In 1954 the Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” in Brown v Board of Education. Three years later black teenagers registered to go to the all-white Central High. In response Governor Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard. This military deployment was to prevent “the bloodshed” and preserve the peace. In reality the deployment was to “prevent black students from entering [Central High] due to claims that there was ‘imminent danger of tumult, riot and breach of peace’”.
Not to be cowed, President Eisenhower called Governor Faubus’ bluff. The President signed Executive Order 10730 putting the National Guard under federal jurisdiction. National guardsmen, with drawn weapons and live ammunition, were ordered to support integration and protect the newly registered students. The good old boys backed down, integration and some semblance of the promise of equality was somewhat triumphant.
What does that have to do today’s political impasse, you ask. At issue is the measured exercise of constitutional power, an exercise that is devoid of politics and deal making, that unfolds in full view of the public and is carried live and unfiltered on national television.
Let me walk you through my recommended course of action: Title 28 United States Code 6103 requires that “upon written request from the Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any [Federal Income Tax] return … specified in such request…”
On April 3, 2019 Richard Neal, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee sent a demand to the Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig for six years’ worth of Donald Trump’s tax returns. The same demand was made of his boss Steven Mnuchin, the Secretary of Treasury. All he got was an “I’m thinking about it” response from Mnuchin.
Chairman Neal should convene the Committee and hold an up or down vote on the issuance of subpoenas to Mnuchin and Rettig with compliance demanded within 48 hours. Should the tax returns be not promptly and timely delivered he should convene the Committee and hold a second up or down vote to hold the two men in contempt of Congress.
If the politically correct course of conduct of “cover my ass” and obfuscation is followed the next step would be a referral of the contempt for enforcement by the Department of Justice and the Attorney General – that would be tantamount to surrender of power and subservience to a co-equal branch of government.
I remind Nancy Pelosi and Chairman Neal that the United States Capital Police was established in 1828 to protect Congress and its institutions and carry out its lawful mandates. In 1867 the Capital Police, now more than 1,800 strong, is the only federal law enforcement force under the direct control of Congress and responsible to the Sergeants at Arms of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Capital Police has the “authority to make arrests and otherwise enforce the laws of the United States” for crimes committed in the designated area known as the Capital Grounds which includes the both Houses of Congress. [2 USC 1967]
Need I remind Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Elijah Cummings, Maxine Waters and others that the act of contempt occurs on Capital grounds when a person refuses to honor a lawful Congressional mandate. The Committee issuing the subpoena or other lawful order issues a contempt citation and the person cited, in this case Mnuchin or Rettig is arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms and “brought to the floor of the Camber, held to answer charges by the presiding officer, and then subjected to punishment as the chamber may dictate [usually imprisonment for punishment reasons, imprisonment for coercive effect, or release … ]. In exercising this power, the Capital Police has been charged with enforcing the laws of the United States – it can arrest both Mnuchin and Rettig and hold them subject to Congress’ inherent contempt authority.
Before you yell “Whoa, Nellie!”, let me assure it has been done before. In 1934, a former Assistant Secretary of Commerce was held in contempt and found his sorry ass jailed for 10 days in punishment. The Supreme Court ruled Congress’ action just, proper and constitutional, see Jurney v MacCracken, 294 US 125 (1935).
So, Congress, stop being a wimp, bite the bullet, call his bluff and take him and his toadies down.
Deyan Ranko Brashich is a contributor writing from New York. He is the author of Letters from America, Contrary Views and Dispatches. His contact and blog “Contrary Views” is at www.deyanbrashich.com