The days of country over party are a relic of the past
Do you remember when President Obama left a letter of congratulations and encouragement for the incoming president, Donald Trump? Do you remember when it was likely that Vice President Al Gore had won the 2000 presidential election but he nevertheless conceded to George W. Bush to avoid a constitutional crisis? Do you remember when Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton voluntarily testified before Congress for 11 grueling hours regarding the Benghazi investigation?
Kimberly Atkins Stohr is 100 percent correct in her Jan. 14 Opinion column, “When it comes to subpoenas, Congress must use its power or lose it.” The days of country over party and doing the right thing are a relic of the past, at least for now. A prime example is that former president Trump and his Republican colleagues have made it the norm to refuse to voluntarily appear before Congress and voluntarily produce documents.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection issued a fresh set of subpoenas Tuesday, including for Trump aide Rudy Giuliani. Congress must use its subpoena powers and the courts to the full extent to enforce its constitutional authority to pursue this investigation or risk permanently losing this fundamental constitutional check and balance. Given the nation’s dangerous shift toward authoritarianism, this is a particularly important step right now.
There has to be a penalty to hold over those who refuse to testify
Kimberly Atkins Stohr warns, quite prudently, that we can lose congressional subpoena power if we don’t use it. But she omitted one fundamental from her otherwise compelling column: namely, that Congress seems to have forgotten the literal meaning of the Latin sub poena: “under penalty.” That is, an individual summoned to testify at a hearing must do so under penalty of noncompliance. Until Congress can distinguish proactively between the power of a subpoena and a voluntary appearance, the discovery process for investigations of this sort will continue to stagnate.
Hillary Clinton set the example for showing up
I am disgusted by the Republican toadies of former president Donald Trump, including aides and members of Congress (most of them male) who are refusing to testify before Congress. It’s interesting that, as Kimberly Atkins Stohr notes, Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, sat through nearly two years of political harassment by Republicans, and never once refused to testify. She has more mettle than all of these others.
House panel can issue an interim report while it keeps searching for truth
The article “House panel unsure of pressuring Pence, GOP lawmakers” (Page A4, Jan. 17) frames the question of issuing a subpoena to former vice president Mike Pence and others as a binary choice: Hold high-ranking officials accountable, or issue a prompt report. It’s feasible to do both: Issue subpoenas and fight for them in court, while issuing an interim report while any legal challenges are being considered.
Further, while it’s not permitted in a criminal court to use an invocation of the Fifth Amendment as an indication of guilt, the House panel is not a court, and these potential witnesses haven’t asserted Fifth Amendment protection. It’s therefore entirely appropriate to see a refusal to comply with a subpoena as exactly what it is: an attempt to continue the ongoing attacks on our democracy.