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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., indicated that he and his colleagues could impose hefty fines on people like Attorney General William Barr if they refused to comply with congressional subpoenas.
“We would level fines on those who are not cooperating until they are compelled to produce what they are asked to produce,” he stated during an event on Friday.
Schiff was discussing how Congress might enforce compliance both in the absence of more concrete reforms and in order to stop officials from running out the clock in the courts. He said the fines could reach as high as $25,000.
Schiff’s comments came as the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., faced a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee and potentially another from Schiff’s committee in the House. Congressional Democrats have also subpoenaed the administration for testimony from White House counsel Don McGahn as well as documents related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“We are already thinking of what are the post-Watergate reforms that will need to be enacted when this ugly chapter is over. And we will I think undoubtedly have to enact a swifter process to enforce Congressional subpoenas,” Schiff told Axios’ Mike Allen.
“But one thing we are considering in the absence of that is whether we need to revive Congress’ inherent contempt power such that we would have our own adjudication in the Congress,” he added before mentioning fines.
When Allen asked Schiff to clarify whether he intended to levy fines through his committee, Schiff said he was reviewing the options. “We are looking through the history and studying the law to make sure we’re on solid ground,” he said.
Schiff added that in order for him to implement tougher enforcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would need to approve the decision.
“If there is going to be this across-the-board stone-walling, we’re going to have to consider extraordinary remedies because, at the end of the day, this isn’t just about this president,” he said. “It is whether Congress is a co-equal branch and co-equal power.”
His comments echoed those of House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who declared a “constitutional crisis” as the administration invoked executive privilege in order to exempt itself from complying with Congressional subpoenas.
Nadler’s committee had just voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena for Mueller’s unredacted report. Trump has bashed Democratic efforts as crying over spilled milk, arguing the Mueller’s report already settled obstruction and collusion suspicions.
Both Nadler and Schiff have pushed back on impeachment as a response to the administration’s stonewalling. Those two, along with Pelosi, constituted a reluctant leadership challenging others, like Reps. Rashida Talib, D-Mich., and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who pushed impeachment in the House.
Noting impeachment’s impact on the nation, Schiff asked if it were proper to initiate proceedings “knowing that it ultimately will be unsuccessful.”
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