Law Professor: January 6 Committee Violates Constitutional Rights of Trump Allies, House's Own Rules
The Democratic-led January 6 Select Committee is continuing to pressure former President Donald Trump allies, some of whom have sued the panel over violation of their constitutional rights. US legal historian Stephen B. Presser believes that the Dems are desperately trying to divert the public focus from the party's utter failures in Congress.
American radio host Alex Jones and ex-National Security Adviser to Donald Trump Michael Flynn separately sued the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack in response to subpoenas the committee issued in late November in connection with the Capitol riot.
Select Committee's Subpoenas Violate Constitution
"The dispute between Alex Jones and Michael Flynn on the one hand, and the Congressional Committee investigating the events of January 6 on the other is really much more one of politics than it is of law", says Stephen B. Presser, leading American legal historian and professor of law at Northwestern University.
In his suit, Alex Jones argues that the committee doesn't have the authority to subpoena him to answer questions about the DC incident and says that he wants to assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Previously, the radio host offered to provide written responses, but the panel rejected the request, insisting that he had to appear in person for a deposition. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, also argues that the select committee's subpoena violates his First Amendment right to free speech as well as his Fifth Amendment right.
According to Presser, the committee's subpoenas are an interference with Jones and Flynn's First Amendment rights; furthermore, it is an attack on free speech and journalism, as well as an attack on Americans' constitutional right to petition the government.
When it comes to the Fifth Amendment, it allows Americans "to decline to answer questions that may tend to incriminate them, gives them the right to refuse to testify, though not to decline to appear", explains the professor.
17 December 2021, 14:00 GMT
Select Committee Violates House Rules
However, Jones and Flynn can attack the select committee not only on constitutional grounds, the academic emphasises: "[They] can attack [the panel] on the fact that the Committee, insofar as it does not include sufficient representation by Republicans, violates the House of Representatives' own rules".
There are only two Republicans and seven Democrats on the committee's panel. In July 2021, the House GOP denounced the Democratic-dominated committee's probe as a "sham process"
after Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred all Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's picks for the select committee and tapped Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois known as outspoken critics of former President Trump and his supporters.
15 December 2021, 14:01 GMT
It is unclear whether the courts will protect Jones and Flynn, since, "unfortunately, American courts have a tradition of not interfering in purely political matters", the academic remarks.
"Finally, one might eventually expect Jones and Flynn to bring actions against federal officials for interfering with their civil rights (actions which might entitle them to monetary damages) if they have not done so already, and that threat may eventually result in some kind of settlement of this dispute, such as the receipt of written testimony", he says.
According to the professor, most Americans are not really interested in the Democratic Party's political sideshow, however, and most have moved on from these matters.
Presser does not rule out that some Dems think that "this is a good way to shift attention away from the generally poor record of Congress and the executive during the first year of Biden's administration".
Most of the Democratic Party's landmark initiatives have stalled in Congress
. Meanwhile, moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin's refusal to vote for Joe Biden's signature Build Back Better act
in the evenly split Senate has dealt a severe blow to the party and the president, whose approval rating continues to plummet.
22 November 2021, 05:30 GMT
Subpoenaed Trump Allies Sue the Select Committee
The Democratic-led January 6 panel issued a batch of subpoenas against Trump supporters and close allies on 22 November. Earlier, Steve Bannon, a former White House strategist, was charged with contempt of Congress over refusing to comply with subpoenas and surrendered to law enforcement on 15 November.
For his part, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows handed a trove of roughly 9,000 documents to the panel in response to the congressional subpoena, but declined to testify in person. Meadows sued the committee and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on 8 December, arguing that the subpoenas are "overly broad and unduly burdensome", and adding that the committee "lacks lawful authority to seek and to obtain" the information requested.
11 October 2021, 16:00 GMT
The House of Representatives on 14 December voted 222-208 to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress after he declined to continue his cooperation with the panel.
Conservative lawyer John Eastman – yet another Trump ally – sued the Democratic-dominated committee last week. Eastman draws attention to the fact that the panel tried to get records for his personal cell phone from the telecom firm Verizon without any prior notice to him. The lawyer also emphasises that the panel's subpoena is invalid because it "was issued in violation of House Rules and the J6 Committee's own authorising resolution" and violates his Fourth Amendment right to privacy.