Cicilline (D): We May Have to Arrest and Imprison White House Officials for Not Obeying Subpoenas

April 25, 2019

Rep. David Cicilline (D., R.I.) said Democrats should be prepared Thursday to hold White House officials in contempt and "imprison" them if they refused to comply with congressional subpoenas.

President Donald Trump said this week his White House was "fighting all the subpoenas," including one for former White House aide Don McGahn to testify about the Robert Mueller report and calls for Trump's tax returns from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

"We’re fighting all the subpoenas," Trump said on Wednesday. "These aren’t, like, impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win 2020."

MSNBC host Chris Matthews told Cicilline he was concerned the White House would stonewall indefinitely and congressional Democrats would be unable to get the information they wanted. Cicilline noted, however, the options in front of them to deal with the White House's refusal to comply with subpoenas, including voting to hold people in contempt and "to imprison them."

"Congress has the responsibility and I would say the obligation to hold individuals in contempt who do not comply with a lawful subpoena, who do not produce documents and we ought to be prepared to imprison them," Cicilline said. "We've got to do it!"

Matthews cut in to ask how he would pull off getting the House Sergeant at Arms to break through Mnuchin's Secret Service detail, for instance, and put handcuffs on him.

American Constitution Society President Caroline Frederickson said the law was on Cicilline's side, but she wasn't sure of the politics of Congress arresting members of the executive branch. Cicilline promised Democrats would use all tools at their disposal to lay bare the Trump administration's behavior.

Matthews asked Cicilline to tip him off if they did arrest Mnuchin so he could be there with a camera.

"It's the threat of that that's going to force those witnesses to show up and comply with a subpoena," Cicilline said.