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Democracy is under attack. Again.
The House of Representatives worked diligently on Saturday to pass a 45-day continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown. The House Freedom Caucus refused to support any measure that included funding for the ongoing war in Ukraine. Setting aside that peculiar revolt against the foreign policy blob’s ironclad preference for permanent war, however, it was a fall day in Washington, D.C., indistinguishable from so many others.
Until it wasn’t.
Unbeknownst to those members toiling inside the Capitol — which former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) once stirringly described as “a temple of our Democracy, of our Constitution, of our highest ideals” — Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), an enemy of freedom, of decency, of righteousness, conspired to assault the sacred operations of the United States Congress.
Sadly, he succeeded.
At 12:05 p.m., while the House deliberated on the budget resolution, Bowman, in what can only be fairly described as an insurrectionary act of brazen proportions, pulled a fire alarm to put a stop to those deliberations. He was even caught on camera doing so.
While we don’t know, and may never know, why the New York Democrat so brazenly defiled Our DemocracyTM (he claims that he thought that pulling the alarm would open a door), we can speculate that it was because the House seemed poised to refuse to further entangle America in a conflict half a world away that does not directly, or even arguably, implicate any of our core national interests (certainly none that pro-Ukraine fanatics have bothered to identify).
Regardless, Bowman’s conduct falls within the plain text of Section 1512(c)(2) of the United States Code, which provides that “whoever corruptly ... obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding ... shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both” (emphasis added). By pulling the fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building, thereby forcing an evacuation of the Capitol during an official proceeding of the nation’s highest legislative body, Bowman violated Section 1512 and committed a felony.
Indeed, that conclusion is compelled by a recent decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which held, over a dissent from Judge Gregory G. Katsas, that Section 1512 applies to hundreds of January 6 defendants. According to Julie Kelly, who has been ceaselessly reporting on that fateful day and its fallout, at least 320 defendants, including former President Donald J. Trump, have been charged under that same statute.
Simply put, the difference between January 6 and Bowman’s destructive act is one of degree, not of kind. He should be charged under Section 1512. That he is a legislator is irrelevant. Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution says that members of Congress “shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses.”
Bowman’s act constitutes a felony. At a minimum, he should be indicted and arrested. Pretrial detention, a condition that hundreds of January 6 defendants have been subject to, shouldn’t be out of the question, either.
Fundamentally, the United States is “a government of laws, and not of men.” Attorney General Merrick Garland, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on September 20, 2023, put it as well as anyone could hope. The Department of Justice’s job, he explained, “is to uphold the rule of law. That means that we apply the same laws to everyone. There is not one set of laws for the powerful and another for the powerless; one for the rich and one for the poor; one for Democrats, another for Republicans.”
Let’s hope that’s true and not just empty rhetoric. If it is true, then we can rest easier knowing separate standards of justice do not exist for “MAGA insurrectionists” and elected officials with “D” next to their names.
If Garland means what he says, then he should direct U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves, the man in charge of prosecuting the January 6 cases, to initiate a prosecution against Bowman.
If he won’t, then if and when the Republicans win the White House in 2024, the next attorney general should do so. Our DemocracyTM depends on it.
Deion A. Kathawa is an attorney who hails from America’s heartland. He holds a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame and a B.A. from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He is a 2021 alumnus of the Claremont Institute’s John Marshall Fellowship. Subscribe to his “Sed Kontra” newsletter.
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