A Question of Contempt: It Is Time For Congress To Enforce Its Oversight Authority

Jonathan Turley, an admitted liberal clearly has his head screwed on right when it comes to strict interpretation.

Jonathan Turley is a nationally recognized legal scholar who has written extensively in areas ranging from constitutional law to legal theory to tort law. After a stint at Tulane Law School, Professor Turley joined the G.W. Law faculty in 1990, and in 1998, became the youngest chaired professor in the school’s history.



He is the founder and executive director of the Project for Older Prisoners (POPS). He has written more than three dozen academic articles that have appeared in a variety of leading law journals including those of Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, and Northwestern Universities, among others.

He most recently completed a three-part study of the historical and constitutional evolution of the military system.

Professor Turley has served as counsel in some of the most notable cases in the last two decades, including his representation of the Area 51 workers at a secret air base in Nevada; the nuclear couriers at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; the Rocky Flats grand jury in Colorado; Dr. Eric Foretich, the husband in the Elizabeth Morgan custody controversy; and four former U.S. Attorney Generals during the Clinton impeachment litigation.

Professor Turley also has served as counsel in a variety of national security and terrorism cases, and has been ranked as one of the top 10 lawyers handling military cases.

It’s a shame there are not more judges like him who would not adjudicate from the bench as so many do.


The Hill

Jonathan Turley

H/T Robert’s Thoughts

December 13, 2017



Below is my column in the Hill Newspaper on the surprising move of the Republican House of Representatives toward a contempt action against officials in the Trump Administration. 

While some have called for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate the dossier controversy, I continue to question the necessity of such an appointment even though I believe that there is a need for an investigation. 



Congressman David N. Cicilline  in the video above is currently serving his fourth term representing Rhode Island’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Cicilline is a member of the House Democratic Leadership as Co-Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC).

He is also a leader in Congress on issues of core American values, serving as Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and Vice Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. (Source)

Turley below:

I believe that Congress can fully investigate the allegations of political influence in the federal investigation into the matter. 

However, that will only be the case if congressional committees can secure the information that they require (and are entitled to) as part of their oversight authority. 

Any such effort will have to deal with a long history of contempt by the Justice Department for congressional oversight investigations.

Here is the column:

An extraordinary thing is happening in Washington.

A congressional committee is preparing a contempt citation for the failure to turn over documents to the House Intelligence Committee.

That, itself, is not particularly new, but the target is. Republican House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is drafting a resolution that would target two high-ranking officials, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in a Republican administration.

While members often proclaim their fealty to legislative oversight, it is a principle that seems to ebb and flow with the party affiliation of the president.

When the White House is in the hands of the opposing party, members demand compliance with congressional subpoenas.

Yet, the same members become conspicuously silent when their own administration stone walls committees.

See the entire article below.


This time is different, and that is a good thing.

Agencies have become interestingly independent and, yes, contemptuous of Congress.

This trend is due in large part to the failure of Congress to actively defend its authority when it is exercising its core oversight responsibility, such as investigating possible political influence at the FBI and the Justice Department.

President Trump is under a special counsel’s investigation looking at his alleged attempts to influence the FBI and DOJ, while Congress is investigating countervailing claims involving Clinton supporters.

Congress is seeking “outstanding documents” related to an August subpoena dealing with the controversial “Russia dossier,” a private investigation by a former British spy into Donald Trump’s political and business activities.

That investigation was bankrolled by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, despite earlier denials by top Clinton lawyer Marc Elias and campaign chairman John Podesta.

These concerns have been magnified by new controversies over the political affiliations by DOJ officials. Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr was recently demoted, reportedly due to contacts with the author of the dossier, Christopher Steele.

Other FBI and DOJ officials are embroiled in controversies over ties to the Clinton campaign or to anti-Trump communications.

One of those figures is Peter Strzok, the No. 2 official in the FBI’s counterintelligence division who played a key role in the Clinton and Trump investigations.

He was removed for anti-Trump, pro-Clinton statements.

The constitutional question is removed from the merits of the allegations and instead focuses on whether Congress has a right to these documents and witnesses, and whether, if denied, Congress has a right to enforce its authority through contempt power.

The answer is that it does.

The Justice Department has a history of stonewalling congressional investigators.

The reason has a lot to due with a change, pushed through by the Justice Department decades ago, in the process for prosecuting congressional contempt.

Once a house of Congress holds someone in contempt, the matter is handed over to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.

The Justice Department has then repeatedly refused to prosecute contempt sanctions against its own personnel.

One of the most glaring examples was the criminal contempt case against President Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, in the “Fast and Furious” scandal.

This was an effort by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to track guns across the southwest border by releasing a large number of weapons to criminals.

One result of this tragic, moronic program was the killing of a federal officer.

Holder should have been prosecuted for his congressional contempt, but his own agency refused to even submit it to a grand jury.

I have previously testified before Congress, under both Democratic and Republican presidents, for members to more aggressively protect their inherent authority, including a reexamination of inherent contempt authority.

There is an imbalance today caused by the increase in executive powers and the rise of federal agencies.

As agencies felt more independent from Congress, they have increasingly treated congressional demands as purely discretionary.

Congress has the right to find officials in “inherent contempt” and can even hold trials for contempt, as it did in 1934.


The Justice Department always bristled at the notion of congressional contempt proceedings and fought for decades to take control of the case through the statutory contempt process created in 1857.

It assured Congress that it would handle such cases in a fair and detached fashion in bringing such claims before grand juries.

Congress finally relented and now follows a procedure by which one house approves a contempt citation and either the Speaker of the House or Senate President certifies the citation to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia under U.S. Code.

The Justice Department, however, has largely honored its commitment in the breach. In 1982, in the contempt case against EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch Burford (the mother of current Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch), DOJ declared it would not submit such cases to the grand jury where an official was acting under a claim of executive privilege. Since then, it has declined to submit contempt cases to the grand jury in the cases of Burford, EPA Assistant Administrator Rita Lavelle in 1983, White House Counsel Harriet Miers in 2008, White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in 2008, Attorney General Holder in 2012 and IRS Director Lois Lerner in 2014.

That brings us back to the current controversy. The citations against Burford, Lavelle, Miers and Bolten were issued by Democratic-controlled houses during Republican administrations. The citations against Lerner and Holder were issued by a Republican-controlled House during a Democratic administration. In contrast, the current proposed citation would be the first issued by a Republican House during a Republican administration.

Part of this new dynamic is the growing view among conservative voters that a “deep state” is undermining President Trump’s policies while protecting his critics. Regardless of the reason, those of us concerned over the shrinking legislative authority in our tripartite system relish the idea of a House refusing to be stonewalled, even by an administration controlled by its own party.

In 1821, in Anderson v. Dunn, the Supreme Court held that absent the power to hold people in contempt, Congress would be “exposed to every indignity and interruption that rudeness, caprice, or even conspiracy, may mediate against it.” That prediction has come true with officials acting as if congressional subpoenas as mere requests and their compliance as mere discretionary choices. Yet, this will be a purely symbolic gesture unless Congress moves to reinforce its contempt authority with actual prosecution. It is time for Congress to reclaim the power to hold contemptuous officials in contempt.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.



About JCscuba

I am firmly devoted to bringing you the truth and the stories that the mainstream media ignores. Together we can restore our constitutional republic to what the founding fathers envisioned and fight back against the progressive movement. Obama nearly destroyed our country economically, militarily coupled with his racism he set us further on the march to becoming a Socialist State. Now it's up to President Trump to restore America to prominence. Republicans who refuse to go along with most of his agenda RINOs must be forced to walk the plank, they are RINOs and little else.
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4 Responses to A Question of Contempt: It Is Time For Congress To Enforce Its Oversight Authority

  1. Simply Linda says:

    I happen to like Turley and wish I could sit in on his classes… He knows the law and quite honestly, he really doesn’t project his liberal viewpoints when giving interviews. I actually have found he is refreshingingly brutally honest. Now, that doesn’t mean I agree with him 100%.

    As for Cicciline, that is one shrill male, I was watching hm go after Rosenstein today… I can’t stand him.


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