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Flynn Tells Schiff To Pound Sand And Read Watkins v. United States

Sidney Powell
Well, more correctly it was General Flynn’s lead attorney, former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, who told Rep. Adam Schiff that the much-abused General was refusing Schiff’s “theatrical” demand for an appearance before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which she also characterized as lacking propriety, conformance to prior practice and ethics.

In her letter Ms. Powell cited the case of Watkins v. United States a 1957 case decided by the Supreme Court.

The facts of Watkins were simple: In 1954, John Watkins, a labor organizer, was called upon to testify in hearings conducted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Watkins agreed to describe his alleged connections with the Communist Party and to identify current members of the Party. Watkins refused to give information concerning individuals who had left the Communist Party. Watkins argued that such questions were beyond the authority of the Committee.*

The case reached the Supreme Court after Watkins was convicted of a violation of 2 U.S.C. § 192, which made it a misdemeanor for any person summoned as a witness by either House of Congress or any committee thereof to refuse to answer any question "pertinent to the question under inquiry."

Summoned to testify before a Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities, Watkins testified freely about his own activities and associations, but he refused to answer questions as to whether he had known certain other persons to have been members of the Communist Party.

He based his refusal on the ground that those questions were outside of the proper scope of the Committee's activities, and not relevant to its work. No clear understanding of the "question under inquiry" could be gleaned from the resolution authorizing the full Committee, the legislative history thereof, the Committee's practices thereunder, the action authorizing the Subcommittee, the statement of the Chairman at the opening of the hearings or his statement in response to petitioner's protest.

The Supreme Court ultimately found that Watkins was not accorded a fair opportunity to determine whether he was within his rights in refusing to answer, and his conviction was invalid under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 354 U. S. 181-216.

But there are other elements of the decision that are relevant to not only General Flynn’s case, but other elements of the Democrats’ Trump witch hunt.

More than half a dozen specific points come immediately to mind:

1.)    The power of Congress to conduct investigations, inherent in the legislative process, is broad, but it is not unlimited. P. 354 U. S. 187.

2.)    Congress has no general authority to expose the private affairs of individuals without justification in terms of the functions of Congress. P. 354 U. S. 187.

3.)    No inquiry is an end in itself; it must be related to, and in furtherance of, a legitimate task of Congress. P. 354 U. S. 187.

4.)    The Bill of Rights is applicable to congressional investigations, as it is to all forms of governmental action. P. 354 U. S. 188.

5.)    A congressional investigation is subject to the command that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech or press or assembly. Pp. 354 U. S. 196-197.

6.)    A congressional investigation into individual affairs is invalid if unrelated to any legislative purpose, because it is beyond the powers conferred upon Congress by the Constitution. Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U. S. 168. P. 354 U. S. 198.

7.)    It cannot simply be assumed that every congressional investigation is justified by a public need that overbalances any private rights affected, since to do so would be to abdicate the responsibility placed by the Constitution upon the judiciary to insure that Congress does not unjustifiably encroach upon an individual's right of privacy nor abridge his liberty of speech, press, religion or assembly. Pp. 354 U. S. 198-199.

8.)    There is no congressional power to expose for the sake of exposure where the predominant result can be only an invasion of the private rights of individuals. P. 354 U. S. 200.

In its simplest terms in the Watkins case the Supreme Court was asked to decide if the actions of the HUAC constituted an unconstitutional exercise of congressional power.

The answer was, at least in the case of Mr. Watkins, yes.

We applaud attorney Sidney Powell for reminding Americans and Congress of the Watkins case. The Watkins case is an interesting one because it is the kind of “have you no shame Senator” case that old time Leftwing Democrat civil libertarians used to use to criticize anti-communists. But that Democratic Party is long dead and in its place are monsters like Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler who thrive on the abuses of power that the Watkins decision was thought to have eliminated.

*Case notes and analysis of Watkins courtesy of "Watkins v. United States." Oyez, www.oyez.org/cases/1956/261. Accessed 24 Sep. 2019 and Justia Opinion Summary and Annotations, https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/354/178/

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