September 28, 2007
House Moves to Quash Subpoenas to Twelve Representatives
As discussed in an earlier post (here), Brent Wilkes sent subpoenas to twelve members of the House of Representatives -- one was withdrawn -- for their testimony at his upcoming trial on corruption charges related to bribes paid to former Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham. The House general counsel moved to quash the subpoenas on a number of grounds, among them that the Speech or Debate Clause grants members of Congress an absolute privilege from testifying, the subpoenas seek their appearance while the House is in session, the subpoenas do not comply with the House rules, and the defendant failed to tender the appropriate witness fees and mileage allowances -- the last one is really in there. The filing also notes that an investigator for defense counsel stated that subpoenas will also be issued to four senators, the White House chief of staff, and the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, although they have not been served. The filing also contains the attachment for documents sent to two Representatives that seeks, inter alia, "documentation of all political contributions, meals, entertainment or other travel, goods or services offered to you or accepted by you in exchange for the performance of your duty as a member of the legislature or in exchange for any special treatment afforded to you by anyone . . . ." Somehow, I can't see the subpoena generating many documents responsive to this request.
The government filed a motion (see earlier post here) seeking to preclude Wilkes from offering a necessity or duress defense to the corruption charges. These subpoenas to Capitol Hill appear to be designed to put on a defense of a "culture of corruption" in Congress, and that Wilkes simply went along with the status quo and is now being made into a scapegoat. Whether the judge will allow such a defense is questionable, and unless Wilkes can show a plausible reason for subpoenaing so many Congressmen he never dealt with, the subpoenas probably will be quashed. (ph)
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There may be valid grounds for the quashing of these subpoenas, but the argument that the Speech and Debate clause gives members an absolute privilege against testifying shows just how elite the Congress has become. It's sickening.
Posted by: Greg May | Sep 28, 2007 8:30:13 AM