Richard Stengel, former under secretary of state in the Obama administration, said threatening “fines and jail” are prudent methods for House Democrats to ensure Attorney General William Barr testifies before Congress Thursday.
“I would say let’s bring it on,” Stengel said during a Tuesday appearance on MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber. “This is a conflict between Article One branch, which is Congress, and the Article Two branch, the executive. This is how our system is supposed to work. There is supposed to be conflict between them.”
Stengel went on to say that Congress has the power to attempt to fine or imprison a member of the executive branch for refusing to submit to questions.
“I think the fact that Congress is threatening these kinds of remedies, these are remedies which are well within its power,” he said. “Again, the executive can resist and ultimately the judicial system will decide, but I think this is exactly how our system of checks and balances is supposed to work and we’re seeing it play out in front of us.”
Stengel’s comments came in response to Rep. Elijah Cummings’s (D., Md.) Tuesday statements that he would consider fining and holding Barr in contempt of Congress if he does not appear to testify on Thursday.
“There is no tool in our tool box that we should not explore,” Cummings said. “We will look the at all the those tools from a very practical standpoint. Maybe we just want to deal with the fines. I don’t know. But it’s either fines or prison.”
Barr originally agreed to testify before Congress regarding his participation in the release of Mueller’s report, but he showed signs that he might not testify once House Democrats announced they would allow committee counsels to question him, in addition to questions from members of Congress.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said lawmakers “should be the ones doing the questioning. He remains happy to engage with members on their questions regarding the Mueller report,” according to a report from PBS.