Republican lawmaker pushes vote to jail Merrick Garland using 'inherent contempt'

By 
 June 25, 2024

The Justice Department's refusal to prosecute Merrick Garland for contempt of Congress has fueled outrage about a two-tiered justice system, but one Republican thinks she has found a way to hold him accountable.

Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fl.) will force a vote to arrest Garland using an obscure rule called "inherent contempt," the Daily Mail reported.

Garland and 'inherent contempt'

Unlike a normal contempt citation, "inherent contempt" does not require cooperation from the DOJ to detain a witness.

While seldom invoked, "inherent contempt" has a "rich tradition" and has been upheld by the courts, Luna said in a letter to colleagues.

“This is a broad power that courts have recognized as necessary for Congress to fulfill its legislative functions,” Luna wrote. “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 DC.”

The last person to be subject to "inherent contempt" was a Commerce Department official under President Herbert Hoover, William MacCracken. The Senate found him guilty of destroying subpoenaed records and he was sentenced to 10 days in jail.

DOJ refuses to prosecute

The House voted to hold Garland in contempt this month over his refusal to share audio of Joe Biden's interview with Special Counsel Robert Hur.

Garland claimed the tapes would endanger law enforcement capabilities if made public. The DOJ said it was following tradition by not prosecuting Garland over material that the president has claimed executive privilege over.

While unsurprising, the DOJ's decision not to prosecute Garland sets a "dangerous precedent," Luna wrote in her letter.

"The executive branch will continue to withhold information from Congress if there are no consequences for their actions."

Two-tiered justice

Republicans say they need the audio recording to validate the transcript, which showed Biden had forgotten when crucial moments in his own life, like his son Beau's death, took place.

Special Counsel Robert Hur had cited Biden's "poor memory" as a reason not to bring charges for retaining classified documents.

"That nice old man with a poor memory is in charge of our nuclear launch codes, and more importantly, supposed to be representing us on a world stage," Luna told the Daily Mail.

Two allies of Donald Trump, Peter Navarro and Steve Bannon, have been sentenced to prison for contempt of Congress. The failure to prosecute Garland for the same conduct has fueled accusations of a two-tiered justice system.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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