House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) clarified on Wednesday that Democrats are not planning on arresting the members of President Donald Trump’s administration who do not comply with congressional subpoenas, disproving a claim that freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) has been telling her constituents.
“We’ve made a judgment that we want the American people to understand that we are pursuing not arbitrary action, but considered and thoughtful action,” Hoyer told reporters, according to The Washington Examiner. And while he noted that imprisoning members of the White House “sounds appealing,” it is not an action that House Democrats will ultimately carry out.
“I don’t mean to say that inherent contempt is by definition arbitrary, [but] it may be perceived as arbitrary,” he continued, referring to the oldest of three strategies that Congress can use to enforce subpoenas.
Tlaib has boasted about the possibility that her caucus will jail the president’s allies in an escalating effort to force White House officials to comply. The move, referred to as inherent contempt, is a power that the legislature has not used since 1935.
“Let me tell you, this is pretty — and this is the last caucus conversation we had. Do you know this is really unprecedented? This is the worst time we’ve ever had a situation like this,” Tlaib said during a town hall earlier in October. “So they’re trying to figure out — no joke — they’re trying to figure out, ‘Well, is it the D.C. police that goes and gets them?’ No, no.”
“What are we hoping? I mean, I’m not in those kinds of conversations, but I’m asking, like, you know, what happens? And they’re like, ‘Well, Rashida, we’re trying to figure it out ourselves because this is uncharted territory,'” she continued. “No, I’m telling you that they’re trying to be like, ‘Well, where are we going to put them? Where are we going to hold them?’ No, I mean those are the kinds of things they’re trying to tread carefully.”
Accordingly, the House of Representatives voted 230-198 in July to hold Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for defying congressional subpoenas. While it was only the second time in history that a sitting Cabinet member was held in criminal contempt, it was not, as Tlaib has asserted, unprecedented — former President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, was held in contempt after he refused to turn over documents related to the “Operation Fast and Furious” gunrunning scandal.
“Let me tell you, Mr. Giuliani will be held accountable to the Congress, as we will hold every other individual,” Hoyer added, referring to Trump’s personal attorney, who only a day earlier officially refused to comply with a congressional subpoena.
Trump responded to Tlaib’s repeated suggestion to jail his allies by referring to the Michigan congresswoman as “a despicable human being.” Tlaib, however, is most well-known for her vulgar demands to impeach the president. Only hours after Tlaib was sworn into Congress in January 2018, she was recorded vowing to go after Trump. Referring to the president, the freshman Democrat shouted to a crowd of her supporters that she is going to go in and “impeach the motherf***er.”