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Could Congress jail Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt?

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Had the House tried to do so, it may have risked a showdown with executive branch police who protect Holder, according to Josh Chafetz, a law professor at Cornell University.

And it’s not as if Congress has been terribly effective at jailing those it has held in contempt, according to Senate Historian Donald Ritchie’s book, “Press Gallery,” and research by Mr. Chafetz, who is writing a book on congressional power.

In fact, it appears Holder might have had more fun being “jailed” in Congress than facing House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California.

The penultimate congressional jailing came in in 1848, when the Senate imprisoned New York Herald reporter John Nugent for publishing the then-secret Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War. But the Herald kept publishing letters from Mr. Nugent during his weeks of incarceration, with the dateline “Custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms” and doubled Nugent’s salary while he was locked down in Congress.

Weary of leaving Nugent to berate them from the relative comfort of his new digs in a Capitol Hill committee room – and embarrassed by his paper’s publication of a long list of senators who had leaked secret documents to the media – the Senate released Nugent with the face-saving claim of looking out for his health.

In 1871, the Senate put two reporters from The New York Tribune into the congressional stockade, after they paid $500 to purchase the secret Treaty of Washington, settling America’s Civil War claims with Great Britain.

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