CRS Report on Congressional Contempt Power
Via Marty Lederman and scotusblog, the Congressional Research Service has just issued a comprehensive report on the Congress' contempt power. Of especial interest to today's controversies are the discussions of Congress' power to investigate abuse and fraud and the inherent contempt power. On investigations of abuse and fraud, such as the US attorney firings, the report states:
Congress’s power “to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process. That power is broad. It encompasses inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as proposed or possibly needed statutes.” The Court did not limit the power of congressional inquiry to cases of “wrongdoing.” It emphasized, however, that Congress’s investigative power is at its peak when the subject is alleged waste, fraud, abuse, or maladministration within a government department. The investigative power, the Court stated, “comprehends probes into departments of the Federal Government to expose corruption, inefficiency, or waste.” “[T]he first Congresses,” held “inquiries dealing with suspected corruption or mismanagement by government officials” and subsequently, in a series of decisions, “[t]he Court recognized the danger to effective and honest conduct of the Government if the legislative power to probe corruption in the Executive Branch were unduly hampered.” Accordingly, the Court now clearly recognizes “the power of the Congress to inquire into and publicize corruption, maladministration, or inefficiencies in the agencies of Government.”
(Emphasis supplied.) In the US attorneys firings scandal, the Congress' investigative power is at its zenith while the President's claim of executive privilege is at its ebb as it does not involve a question of national security. It does not even inolve communications with the President. Isn't it obvious why White House counsel Fred Fielding wants no part of a court adjudication of this dispute? Because he is sure to lose. More.
|< Surprise! Gonzales Caught In Another Fib | More From CRS On Inherent Contempt >|