Political analyst: Courts have given Congress wide latitude in prior disputes over subpoenas, investigations

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A showdown is looming in Washington between the Trump Administration and House Democrats over committee efforts to gain access to records and witnesses connected to the White House on a range of subjects, including  President Trump’s tax returns and a complete copy of the Mueller report.

Trump has made his position clear.

“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” he told reporters last week.

But WHNT News 19 political analyst Jess Brown said the founders gave Congress substantial power to investigate what laws are needed and how present laws are working. But it doesn’t have law enforcement power.

“The Constitution does not create three equally empowered branches of government,” Brown said. “They wrote the constitution where Congress would at times be dependent on the other branches, but Congress would be the dominant branch of government.”

Pushback is normal among the branches, Brown said, but when push comes to shove Congress is generally in the stronger position.

“The courts historically have ruled very few times on the scope of constitutional powers of Congress to pursue information,” he said. “But when they have generally ruled in a way that gave Congress the benefit of the doubt.”

Enter the third branch, Brown said.

“It will ultimately be decided by the courts,” he said. “A president who refused to honor the decisions of the appellate courts of our country, I am convinced, would rapidly lose popular opinion.

Brown doesn’t expect the president to lose the support of his base, but if the courts rule against the administration, prolonging the fight could be damaging.

“Then the politics begins to control the issue, because if public opinion is extremely high favoring the Congress, then Congress feels comfortable to take other more dramatic actions to include impeachment,” Brown said.

So, Trump’s standing with the electorate could be crucial.

“As long as public opinion stays like it is, Congress is not going to go with the heaviest hammer in its arsenal,” Brown said.

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to hold U.S. Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress.


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