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Congress Can Compel Administration Officials to Testify, Says Professor Frank Askin in Washington Post Op-Ed

July 23, 2007 – 
In an opinion article published by the Washington Post on July 21, Professor Frank Askin, founder and Director of the Constitutional Litigation Clinic at Rutgers School of Law–Newark, argues that the U.S. Congress has the legal authority to take recalcitrant Bush administration officials into custody on civil contempt charges. The article is at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/20/AR2007072001802.html

Askin lays out the case for bringing civil rather than criminal contempt charges against senior executive branch members who have refused to appear before Congressional committees investigating White House involvement in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. Such a strategy sidesteps the Justice Department, which the White House has indicated will not prosecute such cases, and removes the possibility of presidential pardon should administration officials be indicted and prosecuted. Askin states that while in modern times the power to compel witnesses to answer questions on issues over which Congress has authority has been enforced by referring contempt cases to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, “no law says that indictment and prosecution by the Justice Department is the exclusive means to enforce congressional prerogative.”

An expert on constitutional law, Askin is listed in Woodward & White’s Best Lawyers in America. He has been a member of the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union since 1969 and one of the ACLU’s four general counsel since 1976.

Contact Professor Askin at 973-353-3239 (office) or faskin@kinoy.rutgers.edu.