Nancy Pelosi cool to using inherent contempt powers

May 16, 2019 GMT

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused Thursday to take a position on whether Congress should used its inherent contempt powers to fine or jail Trump administration officials though she said that, and impeachment, are always possible.

Mrs. Pelosi said those moves are steps down the line, and other options should be exhausted. But she didn’t rule it out.

“This is one of the possibilities that is out there. I’m not saying we’re going down that path, but it shouldn’t be excluded,” she said. “Nothing is off the table.”

Several of her committee chairs this week had floated the idea of using inherent contempt, which is separate from civil or criminal contempt. Inherent contempt involves Congress using its own powers to arrest and detain or issue fines to recalcitrant officials.


Mrs. Pelosi complained that the Trump administration is stonewalling House investigative requests, and was particularly incensed over a letter the White House sent to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday saying that it would only cooperate with “legitimate” inquiries.

Republicans have said House Democrats would be on firmer investigative ground if they pursued impeachment, but short of that their requests must have legitimate legislative purposes and can’t only be made to embarrass the president.

Mrs. Pelosi, though, said Congress needs to be able to do investigations to see if it wants to begin impeachment.

“One of the purposes that the constitution spells out for investigation is impeachment,” she said. “That doesn’t mean you’re going down an impeachment path but it means if you had the information you might.”