If John Bolton won't testify, Congress should arrest him

If ever there were a valid basis for Congress to punish contempt by imprisonment, it’s a private citizen’s refusal to give evidence that is crucial to presidential impeachment proceedings. There are few congressional actions that are as grave and requiring of a more thorough investigation. The House Intelligence Committee has so far declined to subpoena Mr. Bolton, with an official claiming that it has “no interest in allowing the administration to play rope-a-dope with us in the courts for months.” But that reservation was clearly founded on the committee’s assumption that its subpoena would be tested in court through civil enforcement proceedings. Considering its power to arrest Mr. Bolton, however, perhaps the House should reevaluate that decision – thereby giving Mr. Bolton the incentive to reevaluate his…

Bolton has claimed that he won’t testify for fear of potential legal repercussions from revealing confidential information, even though none of the hearing witnesses has yet to have this issue. In truth, he’s likely more worried about provoking the ire of the Republican Party.

But if he remains silent, it is highly unlikely that the dispute will stall in the courts. Should he be arrested, Bolton would surely have his lawyers file an emergency petition for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that he’s being held illegally. This request for immediate release would put his legal arguments against testifying on the fast track for judicial determination. When someone’s liberty is at stake, courts generally do not postpone hearings for weeks, as they might in a civil subpoena enforcement action. So there is little chance of martyrdom.