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Mon May 20, 2019, 05:12 PM

CNN: Judge Orders Accounting Firm to Hand Over Records to Congress



History has shown that congressionally-exposed criminal conduct by the President or a
high-ranking Executive Branch official can lead to legislation. The Senate Watergate Committee
provides an apt example.


As the Supreme Court observed in McGrain, the power to investigate is deeply
rooted in the nation’s history: “


“From the earliest times in its history, the Congress has assiduously
performed an ‘informing function’ of this nature.” Id. (citing James M. Landis, Constitutional
Limitations on the Congressional Power of Investigation, 40 HARV. L. REV. 153, 168–194
(1926)).


It is simply not fathomable that a Constitution that grants
Congress the power to remove a President for reasons including criminal behavior would deny
Congress the power to investigate him for unlawful conduct—past or present—even without
formally opening an impeachment inquiry. On this score, history provides a useful guide.
Cf. Tobin v. United States, 306 F.2d 270, 275–76 (D.C. Cir. 1962) (relying on historical practice
to determine the scope of a congressional investigation). Twice in the last 50 years Congress has
investigated a sitting President for alleged law violations, before initiating impeachment
proceedings. It did so in 1973 by establishing the Senate Select Committee on Presidential
Campaign Activities, better known as the Watergate Committee, and then did so again in 1995 by
establishing the Special Committee to Investigate Whitewater Development Corporation and
Related Matters.


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