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What’s legal contempt of Congress?


Prison contempt is likely one of the three choices the congressional panel can pursue to implement its subpoenas, together with civil and inherent contempt.

Former President Donald Trump’s former chief of workers Mark Meadows is the newest official to face the opportunity of such a referral from the panel. Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson mentioned that Meadows left the committee with “no selection however to advance contempt proceedings” after he stopped cooperating with the panel.

The committee accredited a legal contempt report in opposition to Trump ally Steve Bannon in October after he refused to adjust to a subpoena deadline.

Here is what legal contempt is and the way it compares with civil and inherent contempt:

Prison contempt

As soon as a legal contempt referral clears the Home choose committee, it heads to the complete Home for a vote. If that vote succeeds, Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi certifies the report back to the US lawyer for the District of Columbia.

Beneath regulation, this certification then requires the US lawyer to “deliver the matter earlier than the grand jury for its motion,” however the Justice Division will even makes its personal determinations for prosecuting.

Any particular person who’s discovered accountable for contempt of Congress is then responsible of against the law which will lead to a tremendous and between one and 12 months imprisonment. However this course of is never invoked and infrequently results in jail time.

As extreme as a legal contempt referral sounds, the Home’s selection to make use of the Justice Division could also be extra of a warning shot than an answer. Holding an individual in legal contempt by a prosecution might take years, and historic legal contempt instances have been derailed by appeals and acquittals.

Civil contempt

In contrast to with legal contempt, civil contempt would see Congress ask the judicial department to implement a congressional subpoena.

In different phrases, Congress would search a federal courtroom’s civil judgment saying the individual is legally obligated to adjust to the subpoena.

Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, the Home tried this method many instances, however the courtroom course of moved so slowly it took months and even years for standoffs to resolve. Some, like a Home subpoena for Trump’s IRS returns, nonetheless linger earlier than a trial choose.

Inherent contempt

The third possibility the panel might use to implement its subpoenas can be inherent contempt, which entails telling the Home or Senate sergeant-at-arms to detain or imprison the individual in contempt till she or he honors congressional calls for.

That is an especially uncommon course of and hasn’t occurred in fashionable instances.

CNN’s Zachary Cohen, Ryan Nobles, Annie Grayer, Whitney Wild and Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.


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