April 7, 2018

Joy Reid brought up something this morning that most of us have been wondering: What do we do if Trump simply refuses to comply with a subpoena from Robert Mueller? So she went to an expert -- former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman.

"Nick, the question that -- Lawrence O'Donnell and i were talking about this on his show the other day," Reid said.

"Let's say Donald Trump decides he doesn't want to give an interview with Mueller, and Mueller says oh, but you will. And he's subpoenaed. Donald Trump says I don't recognize that subpoena. This is a president whose behavior is outrageous as president of the United States. He doesn't follow convention.

"Who would force him to comply with the subpoena ordering him to do an interview with Robert Mueller?" she asked.

"A federal district court judge," Akerman said.

"How would they enforce it?"

"At that point, they would make a motion to hold Donald Trump in contempt. The question would be what would the federal district court judge do in terms of a remedy? Normally a person who refuses to testify before a grand jury winds up being incarcerated for the time period of the grand jury, which can be up to 18 months. So one way to enforce it is to have Donald Trump taken by the federal marshals and put in federal prison until he testifies," Akerman explained.

"What if he refuses to open the White House door? What if he fires any Secret Service agent who would allow the federal marshals in? What if Donald Trump simply decides, 'I don't have to follow the law. I refuse to be held under the law. No marshal can get into this White House, and any Secret Service agent who defies me is fired'?" Reid asked.

"Well, at some point he's gonna have to come out of the White House and leave," Akerman said.

"The U.S. marshals will be directed to take him into custody, bring him before the federal district court judge. He'll be basically told either he goes in and he testifies, or he takes the Fifth Amendment. If he takes the Fifth Amendment, there's not a problem. If he refuses to answer on the ground that a truthful answer would tend to incriminate him, he has the right to do that. If he does that, there's no contempt. If he doesn't do that, he can be directed to go directly to jail, do not pass go. Do not collect $200. End of story."

"I ask these questions because there is a finding in the Department of Justice that a sitting president can't be indicted," Reid said. "I wonder if Donald Trump decides he just doesn't recognize the authority of any of these investigators, I think that's when you get to what we generally used to call a constitutional crisis."

"It's also a question of the rule of law as to whether he'll follow it and how far the judiciary will go. I would think the judiciary is meaningless unless they can enforce grand jury subpoenas," Akerman said.

"He would have something Nixon didn't have. If he decided to defy it, he would have an immediate media chorus who would encourage him," Reid said.

"Right. But the judges don't have to listen to a fraction of politics, they have to follow the law what would happen is if he refused to testify, he would be ordered to appear before a federal district court judge. If he didn't do that, they would issue a bench warrant. The marshals would bring him before the federal court judge."

Here's hoping it turns out that way.

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