Private citizen before Congress

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Old 06-05-17, 04:08 AM
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Private citizen before Congress

I have a question that borders on political but I'll do my best to keep the politics out.

James Comey, former director of the FBI, has been asked to testify to a bi-partisan Congressional committee about certain items. He is refusing with the "reasoning" that as a private citizen (now) he is not required to answer any questions. So far he has gotten away with it.

Now with my limited education I have always been under the impression that when a person is called before Congress, they jump. That failure to comply is considered contempt and Congress can levy just about any punishment on that person they see fit. When Howard Hughes was called before Congress to answer for the government money he took to develop the HK-1 Hercules (popularly known as the spruce goose, a name Hughes detested) he was a private citizen but had no recourse but to answer their questions.

Same thing during the McCarthy hearings, I seriously doubt that any of the people that were called to testify were there willingly but they had no recourse. There are ONLY two reasons to refuse to testify before Congress that are valid in my mind; the first would be if information disseminated was detrimental to national security, in which case the hearings would be held behind closed doors, and the second would be if the information was self-incriminating, a practice banned by the Fifth Amendment. Even in the latter case a person could be granted immunity from prosecution if Congress wanted the information badly enough.

So where does this guy come off with a flip answer of, "I'm a private citizen, I don't have to answer your questions!" (Paraphrased) Why hasn't the committee at least warned him that he will be held in contempt and why haven't they actually done so?
 
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Old 06-05-17, 05:34 AM
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Did you read those articles or just post the URLs? The Wiki gave a brief history of the use of the procedure and the pdf went into significant detail. The last link was typical of "Ask Me" in that it basically said nothing.

But in none of it was any mention made of a private citizen having the "right" to refuse to testify in front of Congress or its committees. On the contrary, it appears that many "rights a person would enjoy in a regular court ARE waived during a Congressional investigation. One thing stressed in the pdf was that there is (almost) always a process of negotiation between the Congressional staff working the issue(s) and the respondent's counsel and the outcome of these negotiations could, and often do, limit the scope of the inquiry.

But as I understand things, and I'll admit I don't follow these things closely, Comey is simply refusing to provide any response to the committee's questioning and his "reasoning" is that as a private citizen he is exempt from the process. Any third-year law student who has taken a course in Constitutional law would tell him differently so is this guy incredibly stupid or does he have an incredibly stupid attorney advising him?
 
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Old 06-05-17, 10:13 AM
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I skimmed through all three, but did not read them in detail. As to the stupidity, could be either or both (or neither). I don't think your average citizen could get away with it, but this is Washington politics we're talking about here. As I recall, unless I'm remembering this wrong, there are some exceptions. Something about the executive branch being off limits. I don't recall all the small print involved and I think Bill Clinton had to answer questions under oath, before any impeachment had occurred, but that could have been voluntary.

Mostly these days I am ignoring anything coming out of Washington from both sides of the aisle. I have enough to worry about in my own sphere of influence.
 
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Old 06-05-17, 06:46 PM
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The pdf from the Constitutional law firm did go into some detail regarding executive privilege and in past cases the mere fact that someone reported directly to the president (as Comey did) was ruled as not sufficient to invoke executive privilege as the Constitution is quite clear that the duties of the president include enforcing ALL the laws. That has been taken to mean that the president's job of enforcing law takes precedence over his desire to protect an underling. Definitely not an "out" for Comey in my opinion.


Mostly these days I am ignoring anything coming out of Washington from both sides of the aisle.
I'm with your there, brother! I had just read an article (more of a fluff piece, really) about the "reasons" Comey was refusing testimony before Congress. I found it utterly insane that a man who had been head of the FBI could be that ignorant of the law.
 
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Old 06-06-17, 03:05 AM
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Where did you read he was refusing? I've seen several reports online and TV saying he is testifying, both in public and in closed session. CNN, NBC, Breitbart, Fox, NYT, Atlantic all say he'll testify June 8.
 
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Old 06-06-17, 03:22 AM
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"Sources". LOL
 
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Old 06-08-17, 02:54 PM
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I haven't read those links and probably will not although I am sure they are as accurate as possible on the internet. I do have one theory and that is that Comey may want to write a book about being an F.B.I. director. Some of that book and maybe even more likely all of the book may have to be inspected first by government officials. So I don't think he is being stupid although many in government are to some degree or the other. In this case I think he is being smart at least in his own mind by not revealing much before a book publication in my opinion. I agree too those hearings are boring.
 
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