At this writing, FBI agent Peter Strzok is scheduled to appear at a public hearing on Thursday at 10:30 AM Eastern Time, and it appears likely he’ll show, but of course, no one –- except, presumably, his lawyer –- knows for sure whether he’ll actually be there or follow Lisa Page’s lead and skip out. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte has expressed his extreme displeasure, and the Judiciary and Oversight committees sent a letter offering Page three choices:
RELATED READING: Lisa Page defies congressional subpoena, refuses to testify
1) Appear at Thursday’s public hearing with Strzok and answer questions along with him.
2) Appear on Friday for the closed-door session she was lawfully required to attend on Wednesday.
3) Get ready for some very serious legal trouble.
According to FOX News, Page’s lawyer was served Wednesday night with an electronic subpoena and simply ignored it. She had told the committee her client would be available for questioning “later this month,” but, sorry, after dodging subpoenas numerous times during the past month and already having seven months to prepare, that’s not good enough. Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy fired off a letter advising that their committee will initiate contempt charges against Page if she doesn’t testify Thursday or Friday.
“If she wants to come plead the Fifth, that’s her choice,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “But a subpoena to testify before Congress is not optional.”
True, a subpoena from Congress carries the force of law, but what happens if someone essentially flips the congressional committees an inappropriate hand gesture and refuses to comply? The next step is for Congress to refer the contempt charge to the DOJ for prosecution. (I’ll pause while you fall onto the floor, helpless with laughter.) If the DOJ chooses to act (okay, more laughter), presumably there will be a hearing, and Page’s lawyer will get to trot out her same ridiculous excuses and continue accusing the committees of “bullying” her client. Maybe (probably?) Page will get a sympathetic judge, so she’s no doubt been eyeing Option 3, taking her chances with the legal system. On the other hand, Congress is an independent branch of government and has the power to act on its own if the DOJ won’t. “It can hold somebody in contempt,” Alan Dershowitz explains. “It can literally order the person to go into the basement jail cell, and then that person would have to go to court to seek a writ of habeus corpus.”
This has rarely happened, mostly because the DOJ has rarely failed to enforce a subpoena, but Dershowitz warns Congress that “in the end, the legislative branch must enforce its own subpoenas and the Justice Department must comply with that; otherwise, our (concept of) separation of powers and checks and balances is really in trouble.”
I would add that if Page blithely sends her regrets once again and fails to appear this week, Congress must respond to Page this way: “Go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass ‘Go,” do not collect $200.”
Gosh, the suspense is killing me, wondering if we’re going to get to see Strzok and Page testify in the same room. (Just kidding –- that won’t be happening. If Page testifies at all, it will almost certainly be AFTER Strzok’s open session, to help her avoid perjury traps, and that may have been her reason for the delaying tactic.) In the meantime, here’s some great reading material: a story about some legal fallout from the Christopher Steele dossier that sheds light on just how unworthy it ever was of being taken seriously by anyone, let alone a media outlet such as Buzzfeed...or the FBI.