President Donald Trump has proven to be the Master of Social Media, just as Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy were Masters of Television before him. Trump has used his Twitter account to slam the enemies of his administration, secure in the knowledge that his tweets will be argued about ad infinitum on cable television news, reaching tens of millions.
Rep Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., has become one of the latest people to rouse the president’s ire. Tlaib, a Palestinian American, is a member of the so-called “Squad” of House members of color known for their radical views and led by the now famous Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York.
Trump offered a one-line tweet, according to the Washington Examiner, “A despicable human being!”
Tlaib has been a thorn in the side of both the Trump administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi since she was elected to Congress in 2018. Her most recent melodrama concerned a proposed trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, allegedly to visit her grandmother, but actually to make trouble on behalf of the anti-Semitic BDS (Boycott, Disinvest, Sanction) organization that is waging economic war against the Jewish state.
Tlaib’s latest outrage, as reported by the Daily Wire, has been to openly speculate about administration officials and family members who refuse to testify at the secret impeachment hearings. President Trump ordered people who have been subpoenaed to appear to refuse to do so. Trump reasons that the House has never voted on the floor to open an impeachment hearing and therefore the current hearings are invalid.
Pundits have suggested that several reasons exist for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to not hold a floor vote. First, such a vote would subject some of the more moderate members of her caucus, especially those who were elected in 2018 from Trump leaning districts to discomfort. Second, a formal vote and the establishment of an official select committee on impeachment would give the minority Republicans powers, especially to call their witnesses, that Pelosi and the House Democrats prefer that they don’t have.
In any case, House Democrats are frustrated because of the lack of cooperation on the part of the Trump administration, though not so much that they would consider acceding to the president’s demands. That the president openly mocks the impeachment investigation on Twitter is not helpful either, from their point of view.
Tlaib, last week, let the cat out of the bag back on her Michigan district when she started relating how House Democrats, at least according to her account, are considering how they might place recalcitrant Trump officials and family members under arrest to compel them to testify.
The Hill quotes Tlaib as saying during an interview with Deadline Detroit, “There have been actual serious conversations about what the logistics would look like … if we did have to force someone through a court order to come before the Congressional committee. This is pretty uncharted territory for many of us and even for Congress.”
It is uncharted territory because it hasn’t been done before. Usually, when someone expresses a reluctance to testify, the House will negotiate with the potential witness to iron out the parameters of the testimony.
If House Democrats were to decide to start arresting people, the mechanics of the procedure is unclear. One idea would to dispatch the House Sargent at Arms or his deputy to take the balking witness into custody and then place him or her in the jail that Congress maintains.
What happens next is open to speculation. The Daily Wire suggests that the reason that Congress has not resorted to starting arresting people because the optics would be bad. Also, what the Sargent at Arms would do if the arrestee refuses to go quietly is something no one has ever considered. Would he come armed or would he have to come with the Capitol Police to back up his arrest warrant? What if the Capitol Police refuses to comply, the theory being that this sort of dispute is outside their jurisdiction?
In any case, Tlaib is not part of the inner circle that decides such things. Those who do, in the opinion of the Daily Wire, will have to consider very carefully whether or not they want to take the step that Tlaib is suggesting.