Several questions about how the White House will respond should the U.S. House, as many expect, hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress weren’t answered at today’s White House news briefing.
Press Secretary Jay Carney allowed CBS and Fox News to ask seven questions each, NBC to ask five and CNN and Bloomberg to ask four each, but he did not recognize Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House.
Kinsolving had wanted to ask about an assertion by Cornell law professor Josh Cafetz that “if the House holds Holder in contempt, it can send its sergeant-at-arms to arrest him, and hold him until his contempt is purged.”
Kinsolving also wanted to ask whether Obama would enlist the FBI or the armed forces “to protect the attorney general.” In addition, he wanted to know whether Obama would expect Congress to impeach Holder or cut funding for the Department of Justice should the standoff continue.
The White House and the House of Representatives have been in a conflict over documents pertaining to the DOJ’s involvement in the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal in which the federal government sold guns to carriers who took them to Mexican drug cartels. A Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, was murdered, and one of the weapons was found at the crime scene.
Congress wants to investigate the path of authorization for the program and determine who had oversight. Holder has refused to provide tens of thousands of documents sought by Congress.
At the 11th hour as the fight heated up, Holder obtained from Obama a decision to invoke executive privilege and withhold the documents.
Chafetz’ recent commentary in the Washington Post raised all sorts of issues about Holder. He addressed what ultimately could develop in such a standoff.
The associate professor of law at Cornell said after the House Oversight Committee voted to hold Holder in contempt of Congress that it would be relatively pointless for Congress to go to the courts — presided over by judges who report to Holder — to seek a contempt action.
“Fortunately, the House has other options. A better way of dealing with such controversies, a way that is truer to our constitutional traditions and history, requires recognizing that, in such high-level separation-of-powers fights, the line between law and politics breaks down almost entirely. It is precisely in such cases that our constitutional order seeks to harness ‘ambition … to counteract ambition,’ to borrow James Madison’s words,” he wrote.
Once it is recognized as a political war, the tools for Congress become apparent.
“There are some big guns: If the House holds Holder in contempt, it can send its sergeant-at-arms to arrest him and hold him until his contempt is purged. The House has arrested and held executive-branch officials twice in U.S. history, although the last time was nearly a century ago.
“And traditionally, courts will inquire into the House’s jurisdiction to arrest – which undoubtedly exists here – but not its reasons for doing so.”
He raised the possibility that Kinsolving wanted to explore: a standoff between the sergeant-at-arms and executive branch police.
He said the House also could impeach Holder, but that likely would not be confirmed by the Senate.
“The Democratic Senate may refuse to convict Holder, but simply facing impeachment proceedings is quite punishing – just ask Bill Clinton,” he wrote.
Or the House could “threaten to cut funding” for the DOJ, or Holder specifically, to persuade cooperation.
“The House would risk looking petty in doing any of this, just as the Obama administration risks looking petty by withholding information from Congress,” he said.
A vote in the House on Holder’s contempt citation is expected tomorrow.