Thursday, July 26, 2007

Contempt of Congress Explained

The Contempt of Congress indictments working their way through the process will likely end in a negotiated settlement -- a plea bargain -- between Congress and the White House. That's usually the way these things turn out.

NPR has a rundown based on history and process.

Paul Kane at the Washington Post has another explainer.

The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to indict White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Counsel Hariet Miers on contempt for failing to testify in the Attorney firing scandal investigation.

The Congressional Research Service on Tuesday published a 68-page report on the history of Contempt of Congress Cases. It's a not so subtle reminder of what awaits Mr Bolten and Ms Miers if President Bush doesn't cut a deal with Congress.

Courts see most of these issues as political rather than legal and stay out of the fight.

The White House can order the Justice Department to simply not enforce the indictments.

The most bizarre twist could come if the White House refuses to accept a deal with Congress. Congress can hold a trial itself. But the executive branch runs the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Bush could order the two -- if convicted -- not be taken into custody.

In the past, Congress has jailed Contempt of Congress convicts in the Capitol basement -- an American dungeon of sorts. But since Congress controls the purse-strings for the District of Columbia -- some legal experts say Mr Bolten and Ms Miers could be locked up in the city jail if convicted.

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