Congressional Democrats have a problem. They have been stiffed by Harriet Meiers and Josh Bolton, who have refused to so much as appear before Congress in response to subpoenas in conjunction with a congressional investigation of political interference with U.S. Attorneys. Normally, when legally binding orders are disobeyed, the solution is to hold the disobedient party in contempt. The trouble is that any criminal contempt citation must be presented to a grand jury and prosecuted by a U.S. Attorney. One need hardly point out the irony, and it goes without saying that Bush is not about to let this happen. So what should the Democrats do?
It's well established that Congress has inherent contempt power. In theory, it could hold its own trial and use its own officers to lock up Meiers and Bolton in its own prison in the bowels of the Capitol. As much as some of us would like to see this happen (it would make great TV!) it's not going to and probably shouldn't. But Congress could use its inherent contempt power to get the matter into court, where many people think the controversy belongs.
Here's what the Dems. should do: They should hold a contempt trial in Congress and, assuming the evidence so warrants, find Bolton and Meiers in contempt. Then, instead of trying to lock them up, they should send something labeled an "attachment order" to the banks holding Meiers' and Bolton's personal accounts. The order should say that the banks are required to turn over, say, $1000 for each day until Meiers and Bolton agree to testify. Either the banks will obey this order or they won't. If they obey, Meiers and Bolton will either have to testify, lose all their money, or go into court to force the banks to stop the hemorrhaging of their accounts. If the banks disobey, then Congress can sue the banks in court to enforce its order. Either way, the mattere could then be settled by Article III judges.