Luna to force vote on obscure maneuver forcing sergeant-at-arms to detain Garland

lunaanna 011224ar01 w

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) will move within days to force a vote on having the House sergeant at arms forcibly bring Attorney General Merrick Garland before the House by holding him in “inherent contempt” over his refusal to turn over audio of President Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur.

Luna sent a letter to her colleagues on Monday saying that she will call up her inherent contempt resolution “in the next few days.” When she raises the question of privilege, leaders will have to schedule action on the resolution within two legislative days.

Her move follows House Republicans holding Garland in contempt of Congress earlier this month over his refusal to provide audio recordings from Biden’s October interview with Hur about his handling of classified documents, which Republicans had subpoenaed. The Justice Department provided a written transcript of the conversation and Biden has claimed executive privilege over the tapes.

“Under inherent contempt, the individual is brought before the bar of the House by the Sergeant at Arms, tried by the body, and can then be detained either in the Capitol or in D.C.,” Luna wrote in the letter, obtained by The Hill. “This process demonstrates the seriousness with which Congress views non-compliance and the potential consequences for those who refuse to cooperate.”

The Justice Department declined to comment on Luna’s plans.

Inherent contempt hasn’t been used in nearly 100 years, and doing so would raise a number of questions. There’s no guidelines or House rules for next steps for the sergeant at arms or the House, nor is there a protocol for an arrest of a Cabinet official protected by an FBI detail. 

House rules state that “the recalcitrant witness may be arrested and brought to trial before the bar of the House, with the offender facing possible incarceration,” but do not go into additional detail. A 2019 Congressional Research Service report described inherent contempt as a potentially powerful threat, but also a “cumbersome, inefficient” tool. 

Luna had long forecasted her plans to force the vote. She filed her inherent contempt resolution in early May and promised to force a vote on it within 10 days of the other contempt resolution passing out of committee if the DOJ did not act to produce the Biden-Hur audio.

“The only option to ensure compliance with our subpoena is to use our constitutional authority of inherent contempt. In the next few days, I will call up my resolution holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in inherent contempt of Congress, and I look forward to each of you voting in favor of it,” Luna said in her letter. “The urgency of this situation cannot be overstated. Our ability to legislate effectively and fulfill our constitutional duties is at stake. We must act now to protect the integrity and independence of the legislative branch.”

All but one Republican voted earlier this month to hold Garland in contempt, a resolution that acts as a referral to the Department of Justice, which then weighs whether any criminal charges are warranted.

The Department of Justice announced just days after the vote that it would not pursue any contempt charges for Garland, noting precedent across administrations of both parties not to bring charges against officials when a president has claimed executive privilege over the materials. 

Garland earlier this month was critical of the House after it voted to approve the contempt resolution, accusing Republicans of using contempt as a “partisan weapon.”

“It is deeply disappointing that this House of Representatives has turned a serious congressional authority into a partisan weapon. Today’s vote disregards the constitutional separation of powers, the Justice Department’s need to protect its investigations, and the substantial amount of information we have provided to the Committees,” Garland said in a statement after the vote.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top