Personally, I think Elijah Cummings should have the former chief of the White House’s Personnel Security Office, Carl Kline, arrested by the House Sargent-at-Arms, imprisoned in the Capitol Building, and held over for trial for contempt of Congress. It’s time to stop fucking around and play hardball with these non-complying Trump administration officials who want to defy subpoenas. I spent April 23rd researching how this could be done and I wrote about it on the 24th. On the 25th, Axios took notice (without crediting me, of course), and now everyone is talking about Congress using its inherent contempt power.
It turns out that my idea wasn’t as outlandish as I thought because House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler was apparently discussing it privately in early April. Maybe my piece raised awareness on the right that this was a real possibility, because the ranking member on Elijah Cummings’ committee, Jim Jordan of Ohio, seems to have reacted.
Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, is seeking to resolve a tense dispute between Democrats and the White House as part of the panel’s review of the Trump administration’s security clearance process.
In a letter obtained by CNN and dated Friday, Jordan is asking White House counsel Pat Cipollone to allow former official Carl Kline to sit down for a voluntary transcribed interview to avoid a growing constitutional clash between the two branches of government. The move comes after the White House instructed Kline, who now works at the Defense Department, to defy a subpoena because Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings would not allow a White House attorney to attend Kline’s deposition, citing committee rules.
Cummings is now threatening to hold Kline in contempt, which Jordan says in his letter could happen as soon as Tuesday.
“To avoid unnecessary conflict between Congress and the Executive Branch and to de-escalate Chairman Cummings’ orchestrated interbranch confrontation, I write to ask whether Mr. Kline would agree to appear for a voluntary transcribed interview with committee staff,” Jordan wrote, offering next Tuesday or Wednesday as options.
Holding Mr. Kline in contempt is not an option. Assuming the White House doesn’t relent on their ridiculous conditions and Kline doesn’t unilaterally decide to comply, he will be in contempt of Congress. The only question remaining then is what to do about it. Should Cummings ask Attorney General William Barr to enforce his subpoena? Should he file a civil suit against Mr. Kline and fight it all the way up to the conservative Supreme Court in the hope that they will compel Kline’s testimony? Those options are wastes of times in more ways than one.
The only viable option is to arrest Kline on the House’s own authority and have a trial in the House of Representatives. They are allowed to imprison him until the end of this session of Congress. They should begin that process immediately, and when the White House and Mr. Kline realize that they’re serious, maybe some compliance will be forthcoming. They sure as hell isn’t going to be any compliance in the absence of that kind of aggressive move.
Rep. Jordan’s letter is a small indicator that the message is beginning to get through that the Democrats are considering going nuclear. If I can take some small credit for getting this ball moving, I’m glad to played my small part.
The Democrats aren’t dealing with the kind of political opponents who play by the ordinary rules. Either they bring the hammer down on them, or they will be on the receiving end of the hammer.