Trump's orders to defy Congress could send his aides to jail


Current and former White House aides who ignore congressional subpoenas do so at their own risk.

In an effort to protect Trump from facing any consequences for his behavior, the White House is trying to block current and former aides from complying with a litany of congressional subpoenas.

And Democrats, frustrated by the lawlessness and obstruction, have a message to those who are willfully ignoring the law to protect Trump: Jail awaits.

Multiple Democratic lawmakers are coming around to the idea of locking up those who defy subpoenas that are part of a number of investigations, including: the Trump administration's security clearance processes, its addition of a citizenship question designed to rig the 2020 Census to benefit the GOP in House redistricting, and the 10 instances of Trump's obstruction of justice uncovered in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Jailing people for contempt of Congress is a measure that's rarely used, but is now on the table thanks to the breadth of obstruction from the Trump administration.

"We will use any and all power in our command to make sure it's backed up — whether that's a contempt citation, whether that's going to court and getting that citation enforced, whether it's fines, whether it's possible incarceration," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) said on CNN Thursday. "We will go to the max to enforce the constitutional role of the legislative branch of government."

Other Democratic lawmakers have made similar warnings.

"Congress has the responsibility, and I would say the obligation, to hold individuals in contempt who do not comply with a lawful subpoena, who do not produce documents," Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) said on MSNBC Thursday night. "And we ought to be prepared to imprison them."

Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Friday morning that she is also for "putting people in jail" if they "don't cooperate."

The idea of jailing those who defy congressional subpoenas was first brought up by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), whose investigations are being stonewalled by Trump's obstruction attempts.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has also warned current and former Trump administration officials of consequences for ignoring subpoenas, but didn't go as far as raising the possibility of jail time.

"These employees and their personal attorneys should think very carefully about their own legal interests rather than being swept up in the obstruction schemes of the Trump Administration," Cummings said in a Wednesday statement.

Experts say that Trump's stonewalling of congressional investigations is an attempt to run out the clock and avoid scrutiny.

While Congress can go to the courts to try to compel current and former White House aides to comply with their subpoenas, that process will take time, as the legal system often moves slowly.

But to thwart that effort, Democrats could use the tactic of throwing people in jail to serve as a deterrent to ignoring legal subpoenas. Trump's team might be less inclined to follow his orders and refuse to comply with Congress if it means they'll go to jail for it.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.