Alford plea: Missouri congressman makes emphatic pitch for arrest of AG Garland

News reports say it’s unlikely the House will vote to arrest Attorney General Merrick Garland for contempt of Congress Friday, but a Missouri congressman has made a powerful case for it.

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Florida, is pushing for the vote after Garland defied a congressional subpoena for the audio tapes of President Joe Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur during an oddly aborted investigation of Biden’s handling of classified documents found in his possession.

Garland has cited executive privilege in refusing to hand over the audio – strangely, since his Department of Justice has already released transcripts of the interview.

One might wonder why Republicans are insisting on the audio recording when there’s a transcript, but the White House has a proven record of altering transcripts of Biden’s verbal remarks.

Luna, who Wednesday gave Garland two days to comply, is attempting to invoke “inherent contempt,” under which the House’s sergeant-at-arms would bring “Garland to the House for questioning and compel him to produce the requested evidence.”

While reports say an undetermined number of House Republicans are unwilling to do that, Missouri Rep. Mark Alford on Wednesday made clear he is, making an emphatic historical argument for it in brief remarks to the press.

His remarks were as follows:

Recently, the Department of Justice under Attorney General Merrick Garland has displayed a blatant disregard for this body. By refusing to comply with two lawful subpoenas, Attorney General Garland has violated our authority and undermined the integrity of this institution.  

Earlier this month, we voted to hold Attorney General Garland in criminal contempt of Congress. However, the Department of Justice informed Speaker Mike Johnson that they would not prosecute the AG for this contempt. This response, while expected, sets a dangerous precedent. 

If the executive branch can simply ignore Congress without any consequences, it threatens the very function and foundation of our democratic process. 

When an individual refuses to comply with Congress’s request, we are left with three options: criminal, civil or inherent contempt.  

Now, both criminal and civil contempt rely on the executive branch for enforcement, which clearly is not going to happen in this case. 

The Founding Fathers designed our government to protect our freedoms, to stand against tyranny, and to combat an all-powerful executive branch. Inherent contempt is our constitutional authority to hold individuals accountable directly. This power allows Congress to detain and try individuals who defy our subpoenas. It is a crucial tool that ensures we can fulfill our legislative responsibilities independently. 

In the House Rules and Manual, the 118th Congress, Jefferson’s manual, you can find inherent contempt mentioned in pages 141 through 147. Inherent contempt has been used by the U.S. House of Representatives more than 100 times since 1795, and upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States of America.  

If we allow the Department of Justice and Attorney General Garland to dictate whether or not a congressional subpoena is enforced, we risk becoming subordinate to the Executive Branch, and that cannot happen. 

This is unacceptable. Congress must never rely on the actions of the other branches to carry out our constitutional responsibilities under Article I. 

What does Attorney General Merrick Garland have to hide? No one is above the law. Americans deserve transparency and accountability.  


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