Subpoena: a writ commanding a person designated in it to appear in court under a penalty for failure
From sub – under + <i>poena – penalty.
Pretty simple: You will appear at the designated place and time or suffer a penalty.
Except when a person served with a subpoena ignores it.
Used to be, subpoenas, savings bonds, and parking tickets have this in common: They’re all worth more the longer you ignore them.
Maybe people have always ignored subpoenas (and parking tickets), but we just didn’t notice until members of the Trump administration made a professional sport out of disregarding them.
Bill Clinton tried to ignore a grand jury subpoena connected to the Monica Lewinsky matter but finally agreed to appear on what we now would term a Zoom call. That led to his famous answer to the question of whether he had been lying when he told his top aides there was nothing going on between Lewinsky and him: “It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.”
I have used this construct many times since. For instance, “It depends on what the definition of pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is,” has served me well in many a CNN or MSNBC panel discussion.
The House’s January 6th Committee has issued subpoenas to five House Republican Members: Minority Leader Keven McCarthy (CA), Jim Jordan (OH), Mo Brooks (AL), Andy Biggs (AZ), and Scott Perry (PA).
A wager against any of them appearing is far better bet than $2 on Rich Strike in last weekend’s Kentucky Derby.
Just as the former Secretary of State, Henry Stimpson said of communications intercepts following World War I, “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail,” it has long been an unwritten rule that House Members do not subpoena one another.
Of course, there has been little reason for one Gentleman or Gentlelady to subpoena another: Accommodations are typically made such that the subpoena-or and the subpoena-ee reach an agreement on the rules of engagement.
This latest example of the total loss of comity in the House comes, as the Committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MI) said in a statement:
“Regrettably, the individuals receiving subpoenas today have refused [to answer questions] and we’re forced to take this step to help ensure the committee uncovers facts concerning January 6th,
“We urge our colleagues to comply with the law, do their patriotic duty, and cooperate with our investigation as hundreds of other witnesses have done.”
Kevin McCarthy is the Lindsay Graham of the House: Big talk about Trump’s accountability when he thought he has been in physical danger and that was where the GOP Conference was right after the insurgency on January 6, 2020.
Then crawling on hands-and-knees to Mar-a-Lago on to kiss Trumps … ring, when it was clear a majority of House (and Senate) Republicans had jumped off the Cliff Named Trump.
According to CNN:
“New audio [has] revealed that in the days following the January 6 insurrection, the minority leader had considered asking Trump to resign. Audio has also exposed that McCarthy told Republican lawmakers on a private conference call that Trump had admitted bearing some responsibility for the deadly attack.” </blockquote>
The other Members participated in some manner in feeding the frenzy that built onward from election day to January 6 – the date that is set by law, not by the Constitution – that culminated in the attack on the Capitol.
Democrats should be pleased if they refuse to honor the subpoenas. If, as looks probable, Republicans take control of the House as the result of this November’s Congressional elections, the Trumpers will look for every reason conceivable to return the favor. Not just for House colleagues, but for any and every Member of the Biden administration.
House Democrats will be able to pay scant attention to any subpoena by House colleagues and have no fear of legal jeopardy. Administration officials can, should, and will point to the failure of the five members to show up as a good excuse for showing the same level of courtesy and decency
The Congress is broken. It may not be fixable.
See you next week.