Current Events





Will the top law enforcement official in the nation be held in contempt?

Current Events


Today the House Judiciary Committee, led by Democrats, will vote on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr, appointed by a Republican President, in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena demanding the unredacted Special Counsel report.

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What’s “Contempt”?

Generally speaking, a person is held in contempt of court when they fail to abide by a court order (ex: not showing up for hearing or meeting with probation officer) or disrespects the court (ex: yells a judge).

Penalties range from $ to jail time.

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Contempt of Congress?

  • Congress issues subpoenas to obtain documents and/or elicit testimony as part of its oversight or investigative powers.
  • When someone refuses to comply, Congress may either pursue a criminal contempt case (via a contempt citation) or a civil lawsuit to enforce the subpoena.
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  • There’s actually a third option – Congress has an inherent contempt power that would allow the Sergeant-at-Arms to detain a person in the Capitol jail, but that hasn’t been used since 1935.
  • If the House Judiciary cmte votes to file a contempt citation against AG Barr, he’d be the 4th AG since 1980 to have one against him.
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  • Important but largely symbolic.
  • If today’s contempt vote is approved, it needs to pass the full House before a citation is issued.
  • Even then, a contempt citation wouldn’t force the DOJ to release the full report, and it doesn’t mean Barr will face a criminal charge.
  • It would send a criminal referral to the U.S. atty in D.C., a DOJ official, who is unlikely to pursue a case.
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Some say that neither the White House nor House Dems want any potential contempt cases to end up in a court of law, and that their real intentions are to keep these issues fresh in voters' minds as the 2020 election approaches.

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