A Democratic lawmaker said Wednesday that the House sergeant at arms should lock up any witnesses in Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry who won’t answer questions.
‘I think that when the witnesses come and they simply refuse to answer questions, I think it’s time to call in the sergeant of arms, march them off to a little jail, which we do happen to have in one of the rooms of the Capitol, and let them sit there and cool off for a while,’ Congressman John Garamendi said on CNN.
In theory, Congress can enforce its own subpoena by dispatching a congressional officer called the sergeant at arms to arrest officials but such a move hasn’t been used from the 1930s.
Democratic Rep. John Garamendi said the House sergeant at arms should lock up any witnesses in Trump’s impeachment inquiry who won’t answer questions
Paul Irving (left) is the House sergeant at arms and is the chief law enforcement office in the House; he also escorts high-profile guests, like he does above with President Trump in November 2017, when they visit the Capitol
The Capitol ‘jail’ is actual known as Washington’s tomb and stores the Lincoln catafalque
The speaker of the House appoints the sergeant at arm and that person reports to her. It is considered a non-partisan role.
The Sergeant at Arms is the chief law enforcement and protocol officer of the House of Representatives. The person is responsible for maintaining order in the House.
The current office holder, Paul Irving, is a familiar presence to those who watch the State of the Union address. It is Irving’s job to announce: ‘Mrs. Speaker, the president of the United States.’
Irving also escorts high-profile guests around the Capitol building, such as guiding President Trump when he makes a rare visit to the Hill.
He was first appointed to the job on January 17, 2012, and, previously, was an Assistant Director of the U.S. Secret Service and served as a special agent with the agency.
The Capitol ‘jail’ that Garamendi referred to is actual known as Washington’s tomb. It’s an area two stories in the ground in the U.S. Capitol building and it was designed to hold the remains of George Washington, the nation’s first president.
When Washington died in 1799, the Capitol was still under construction. Both chambers of Congress passed a resolution calling for Washington to be entombed in the building upon its completion.
Washington’s will, however, stated his desire to be buried at his home at Mount Vernon and that is where his remains reside.
But the small, marble room, with a barred and padlocked gate, does resemble a jail cell and has earned that moniker – despite no evidence that anyone has ever been imprisoned there.
Situation beneath the dome and the crypt above it, the room is sometimes used to store the Lincoln Catafalque, the structure used to hold the coffin of a person who lies in state in the Capitol rotunda. It was built to hold President Abraham Lincoln’s remains.
Garamendi also argued the House of Representatives should hold a formal, full vote of the chamber on opening an impeachment inquiry – a move that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has resisted.
‘I think it’s time for us to put a vote on the floor, a resolution for the inquiry structured in such a way that it can move forward with full power of the Congress behind it,’ Garamendi said.
House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in June 2018
He expressed confidence it would pass in the Democratic-controlled chamber.
‘I think we ought to be prepared to go all out on this,’ he added.
Garamendi’s comments come after the president blocked his ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, from testifying before lawmakers on Tuesday about his role in the Ukraine scandal that sparked the impeachment inquiry.
The Ukraine is not in the EU yet Sondland took part in text messages among a group of diplomats trying to set up a meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – an endeavor that led to allegations that Trump leveraged nearly $400 million in aid in order to secure a promise from Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Democrats subpoenaed Sondland to appear at a hearing next Thursday at 9:30 a.m.
They warn him if he doesn’t show up, even at the request of the president, it would be seen as an obstruction of their impeachment inquiry.
‘Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena, including at the direction or behest of the president, the White House, or the State Department, shall constitute further evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry and may be used as an adverse inference against you and the president,’ the letter to him states.
Trump issued a declaration of political war against Democrats on Tuesday when White House Counsel Pat Cipollone fired off a scathing eight-page letter to Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats leading the impeachment effort, accusing them of trying to overturn the 2016 election with their probe.
White House counsel Pat Cipollone issued a political declaration of war with a letter to Speaker Pelosi on Tuesday that said the president won’t cooperate on impeachment
Speaker Pelosi declared, in response, the president is not above the law
‘Put simply, you seek to overturn the results of the 2016 election and deprive the American people of the President they have freely chosen,’ he wrote.
Cipollone also announced that neither the president nor his staff would cooperate in the impeachment inquiry.
‘Your unprecedented actions have left the President with no choice,’ he wrote. ‘In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch, and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances.’
Cipollone danced around the issue of a full House vote on an impeachment inquiry, stopping short of directly calling for one, because the GOP would likely lose in the Democratic-controlled chamber and some Republican lawmakers would be uneasy about being put in the politically tough spot of having to go on the record.
Pelosi had a strong response of her own.
‘Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable,’ she said in a statement Tuesday night in response to Cipollone’s letter.
‘This letter is manifestly wrong, and is simply another unlawful attempt to hide the facts of the Trump Administration’s brazen efforts to pressure foreign powers to intervene in the 2020 elections,’ Pelosi said.
‘Despite the White House’s stonewalling, we see a growing body of evidence that shows that President Trump abused his office and violated his oath to ‘protect, preserve and defend the Constitution’,’ she continued.
‘The President’s actions threaten our national security, violate our Constitution and undermine the integrity of our elections. The White House letter is only the latest attempt to cover up his betrayal of our democracy, and to insist that the President is above the law,’ Pelosi said.
President Trump blocked EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland from testifying before lawmakers on Tuesday
The White House brought in former Rep. Trey Gowdy to help President Trump battle the impeachment inquiry
Additionally, Pelosi has argued the blessing of the full House isn’t necessary for Democrats to proceed in their inquiry.
There ‘is no requirement under the Constitution, under House Rules, or House precedent that the whole House vote before proceeding with an impeachment inquiry,’ she told House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy in a letter last week after he urged her to hold a vote in the full House.
Given that Pelosi’s party holds the majority in the chamber, such a measure would be expected to pass.
But Republicans could be concerned about support slipping among their own lawmakers.
Pelosi has made such an argument.
‘There’s some Republicans that are very nervous about our bringing that vote to the floor,’ she said a press conference on Capitol Hill last week.
Polls indicate support among Americans – and slowly among Republicans – is building for the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
A Washington Post-Schar School poll out Tuesday showed 28 per cent of Republicans support the inquiry, a new high.
A vote now on an impeachment inquiry could lock in GOP lawmakers to the president’s side before further cracks in support show up.
And it would force them on the record at a time many of them have remained silent about the president’s predicament.
The president does have his public supporters among Republican lawmakers – including House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy.
The White House also has brought in former Representative Trey Gowdy as outside counsel to help the president battle the impeachment inquiry.