House Judiciary Committee Votes to Cite Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten in Contempt of Congress for Refusing to Appear before Committee
Schiff calls Miers's and Bolten's actions audacious and without precedent
Washington, DC - Today, the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of citing former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in contempt of Congress, for their refusal to comply with subpoenas issued in the U.S. Attorney investigation. Rep. Schiff, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, called Ms. Miers's and Mr. Bolten's refusal to comply with the subpoenas audacious and without precedent.
Below are Congressman Schiff's remarks at today's Judiciary Committee hearing. A video of his remarks can be viewed by clicking here.
SCHIFF: "Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
"I just want to take a minute to discuss some of the claims that have been made in opposition to the issuance of the report and in support of the amendment. And I think it's important for us to step back for a minute and consider the context of where we are today.
"It would be one thing if the administration witnesses came before this body and said on a particularized basis that I can't answer this question or I can't submit this document because of a claim of executive privilege backed up by a letter from the President, that would be one thing.
"It would be yet another thing if the witnesses came into this committee room and said, "I refuse to answer any question. I refuse to provide any document," with a claim of executive privilege.
"But it is yet even another thing for the administration to take this position that, with respect to a former administration official, I won't even come into the Congress; I won't even show up. I have that much contempt for the institution of Congress, I won't even come.
"The audacity of that takes your breath away.
"On the question of whether an administration or former administration official can simply blow off a subpoena and not show up, there is no legal support for that whatsoever. That is beyond the pale.
"Whatever my friends on the other side of the aisle may think of the claim of privilege generally or the case law in this area, there is not a single case, not a single precedent, not a single legitimate argument in favor of simply not showing up.
"It would be as if someone who received a subpoena to come into any courtroom in the United States said, "I'm not coming. And I'm not even going to dignify this subpoena by coming and explaining why I won't testify."
"That, to me, is the real gravamen of why we're here.
"Now, my friends say, "Let's not challenge this, because if we lose, then it might affect our ability to get information in the future."
"And I say: If we don't challenge it, it will most definitely affect our ability to get information in the future. It will legitimize this refusal, this contemptuous refusal, to even appear.
"And, in fact, the reason why we are here, I submit, Mr. Chairman, is because for the last five or six years, this is exactly what we've done. We have rolled over with every claim of executive power. We have never challenged the President of the United States. We have never challenged the administration.
"When it stepped across the separation of powers, when it violated the rule of law, we have sat silent in this body.
"And that is exactly why it is not only refusing to come in here and make a claim, but even beyond that, it says that if the Congress finds us in contempt, we will instruct the U.S. Attorney to never go forward. Our word on executive privilege is the only word. It's the first word, the second word, the third word and the last word.
"That is the audacious breadth of what is being claimed before us today.
"And whatever my friends on the other side of the aisle may think about how much evidence there is of wrongdoing in the White House or connection to the White House, I would say, do not allow the White House to be so contemptuous of this institution that it will not even provide a former official -- a nonfederal employee -- to even come and state the basis of the privilege that she would claim.
"We can't allow that kind of contempt for this institution. We just can't. And, if we do, how can we ever complain when the administration abuses its authority? And what kind of a Congress are we going to leave behind in the next confrontation with the executive?
"Now, many of you feel: Well, we don't want to take issue with our Republican President. He's the President of our party.
"Well, in a year and a half, there may be a president who is not of your party. Will you take the same position then, if that administration says in response to a subpoena for a former member of that administration, We're not even going to come before Congress to dignify that with an answer'?
"I guarantee you that you'll rue the day that you sat on your hands if we allow the administration to walk over us, as it has attempted to do."