The Week has one of the worst ideas of the day: William Barr is in contempt. Congress should send him to jail. Well, it’s not just their idea. It seems to be catching on with the AOC left.
There’s reasons that Democrats are limiting their actions to pontification where Barr is concerned. At this point he hasn’t done anything that *can* be held in contempt.
His testimony yesterday was essentially political posturing on all sides. If Democrats try to go with contempt on that, they’re going to lose when its challenged. They *don’t* want that optic.
His “no-show” today is cannot be subject to contempt. Not only is this not under subpoena, this was a Q&A meeting that Barr *offered* and Nadler changed the format of at the last moment. The meeting was an opportunity to answer their questions, not face a prosecutorial styled interrogation more suited to an impeachment hearing. If they tried to charge contempt on that, they would lose again but with the added price of the witch hunt label being confirmed in the public eye.
Failure to produce the full un-redacted report *could* be subject to contempt, but will almost certainly fall to the inevitable motion to quash. The “less redacted” report which has only the minimal redactions demanded by law is already available to anyone with the sufficient security clearance to see the intel information. Access is necessarily controlled, but it is available and nobody on the Democrat side has gone to see it. Between this, privacy laws, and national security requirements, the Executive will win that challenge with the same price to Democrats as above.
Holding *anyone* in contempt, in general at this point, is an extreme risk and very low return proposition under the current structure of the inquiries. Between arguments of executive privilege and this being an abuse of subpoena power for political purpose and a lack of actual impeachment proceedings, then pulling in so many of the public statements by Democrats, the administration will be able to make a strong case on at least one and likely both defenses. That bucket of KFC at the House hearing sure didn’t help.
To change the equation will require the House to actually begin impeachment procedures. In that framework, much of the arguments above go away. However, there’s a reason Pelosi, Hoyer, et. al., are trying to calm down the calls for impeachment. It’s more than just knowing they would lose in the Senate trial. My gut feeling is that the House isn’t even sure that they could deliver on passing the Articles. There’s an old legal adage that you never ask a question for which you don’t know the answer.
This is rapidly turning into a lose-lose scenario for the Democratic party. With the current Democratic voices that are getting the press, there may not be a clear path out, either. They put all their eggs in the basket of taking down President Trump and failed. They are now trying to break the inevitable retaliation of the counter-investigation as to how all this got started. And they are at the mercy of their hard Left that won’t let them change course.
The end result, I suspect, is going to be a second term for President Trump, a hugely weakened Congress, and at least one – possibly two – more of the more progressive SCOTUS justices placed by the President.