What Happens When You Mess with Congress: A Guide to Contempt

So, here’s the deal—when Congress calls you in to talk and you refuse, things can get pretty serious. Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden son, dodged a subpoena from Congress, and that got the lawmakers pretty ticked off. Let’s break down what this contempt of Congress fuss is all about.

Hunter Biden’s Standoff

When Congress wanted Hunter Biden to spill the beans behind closed doors for an impeachment inquiry into his dad, he said, “Nope, I’ll talk but only in public.” House Republicans weren’t up for that and wanted a private chat. Since they couldn’t agree, Congress bosses, James Comer and Jim Jordan, got riled up and are starting contempt proceedings against Hunter Biden for skipping his scheduled sit-down.

Remembering the Past

This isn’t the first time Congress has flexed its muscles. Back when Democrats ran things during Donald Trump’s presidency, they faced similar snags with uncooperative peeps connected to Trump. Some got away without facing charges, but others, like Stephen Bannon and Peter Navarro, had to deal with criminal contempt charges.

Criminal Contempt Drama

So, how does this whole criminal contempt thing work? Well, if the House Oversight Committee votes and finds someone guilty of criminal contempt, they take that decision to the full House for a vote. If the House gives the thumbs up, it’s passed on to the US attorney in Washington, D.C.

The attorney then presents the case to a grand jury for action. If found guilty, the person faces fines and could spend up to a year in the slammer. But hold up, this process is hardly used and rarely leads to jail time—it’s more of a warning shot, really.

Civil Contempt: Plan B

Instead of going all in with criminal stuff, Congress can opt for civil contempt. This means they’d ask a federal court to step in and order the person to follow Congress’s orders. It’s like saying, “Hey judge, make this person listen to us!” But, you know, courts move at their own pace, and it could take ages to resolve these standoffs. Just look at the Trump tax returns—Congress waited years for those.

Inherent Contempt: The Wild Card

Now, here’s the wild card option—something called inherent contempt. It’s like Congress telling their security folks to grab the person in contempt and lock them up until they play ball with Congress. But hey, this is super rare and hasn’t happened in ages.

What’s the Bottom Line?

When Congress wants you to talk and you don’t, things can get messy. Hunter Biden’s saga shows the drama of lawmakers trying to make people follow their orders. But these contempt-of-Congress showdowns? They’re not your everyday thing. It’s all about flexing power and making a point, even if it takes years to play out in court.