Criminal Contempt Referrals For Republican Congressmen Backed By Top Dem


House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said this week that he would support criminal contempt referrals targeting Republican members of Congress who refuse to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Capitol riot. That committee has sought testimony from two members of Congress, including Reps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and both have now asserted that they do not intend to voluntarily comply with the committee’s requests. After Jordan announced his intention to not comply, the committee stated through a spokesperson that they’d be examining potentially “appropriate next steps,” presumably including subpoenas.

Criminal contempt referrals amount to recommendations from the House for the prosecution of a particular individual for some offense; unfortunately, the measures do not appear to force officials at the Justice Department to actually bring charges. The House has already approved contempt findings against Trump allies Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows, but so far, the Justice Department has only brought charges against Bannon. Referring to the potential of future criminal contempt referrals, Hoyer commented as follows this week:

‘In my opinion, that action should not be excluded when members themselves have information that the committee needs… I will certainly support that, I will bring that to the floor, and I would hope that the House would support it… At the very essence of the Congress’s responsibility to conduct oversight is the ability to compel testimony from those who have relevant information… Trump, their leader, doesn’t honor judicial process in so many different ways, [so] it’s not surprising that they don’t either… But yes… I would support compelling members to testify before the committee if they have relevant information to offer.’

Besides continuing to trumpet nonsense about investigations that inconvenience Republicans supposedly constituting “witch hunts,” Jordan wrote in a long-winded response letter to the riot investigation committee’s chairperson, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), that he has “no relevant information that would assist the Select Committee in advancing any legitimate legislative purpose.” The problem is that he does possess such information: he was in contact with then-President Donald Trump on January 6, so he could provide insights regarding the then-commander-in-chief’s actions and state of mind surrounding the events of that day. Jordan was also involved with pre-January 6 preparations for the ultimately failed attempt by certain Republicans to block the certification in Congress of Biden’s victory. This push helped inspire the violence.

Among other problems, it’s worth noting that Jordan misrepresented the reality of the formation of the riot investigation committee in his letter. He claimed that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “rejected Leader McCarthy’s chosen Republican members to serve on the Select Committee.” She didn’t reject them all — she was willing to accept certain selections by McCarthy, but he withdrew from the process entirely after the House Speaker blocked certain picks of his. Perry, meanwhile, was apparently involved in efforts to get Trump ally Jeffrey Clark installed as acting Attorney General during the final stretches of the Trump administration. In such a position, Clark could have advanced the schemes to keep Trump in power.