- A congressional investigation is a hearing conducted by a committee or subcommittee of Congress to gather information needed to decide a certain issue such as the desirability of legislation or to investigate an alleged wrongdoing or other misconduct by an individual.
- These investigations can be beneficial because they can reveal presidential abuses of power, corruption by legislators, and other political scandals that could be harmful to the nation.
- An investigation could result not only in penalties and jail time but also the loss of trust of an individual’s constituents, damaged business relationships, and reputational losses from the increased media attention.
- However, the hearings can be a complex process, sometimes spanning years and consisting of endless document requests and subpoenas to appear and give testimony.
- Consider placing an attorney on your side to guide you through the congressional investigation process.
About Our Congressional Investigation Defense Law Firm
If you need advice regarding an impending congressional investigation, do not wait to get in touch with our defense team.
A congressional investigation can result in serious consequences for you and your firm including penalties and jail time. Most importantly, an investigation can destroy your constituent’s trust in you, damage business relationships, and irreparably injure your reputation.
At Oberheiden, P.C., our attorneys are recognized leaders in defending against an intrusive, protracted congressional investigation. We are a prominent national law firm employing the most skilled and diligent defense attorneys specialized to guide you through the congressional investigation process.
Our attorneys regularly assist clients in mitigating and avoiding the legal and political consequences of a congressional investigation.
Put Oberheiden, P.C. on your side today to fight for your liberty and reputation.
What is a Congressional Investigation?
A congressional investigation is a hearing by a committee or subcommittee of the legislative branch designed to gather information to make a decision. The investigation could be about the feasibility or desirability of a new law or uncovering some impropriety of an elected or public official.
The U.S. Constitution is silent on congressional investigations, though courts and history have demonstrated that such congressional power is broad since all legislative power is vested in the Congress of the United States.
The investigation can be made highly public and attract a lot of media attention, thereby transforming a typically congressional investigation into something radically different than a courtroom argument.
A congressional investigation can probe any industry sector and be conducted in either the House of Representatives or the Senate.
The committees and subcommittees with the authority to conduct their investigations have responsibilities over different areas such as intelligence, banking, finance, etc. Both Houses have the power to create investigative bodies or special committees to help with the investigation, provided certain conditions are met.
Investigations by Congress can be worrisome and challenging. Individuals and businesses who are under scrutiny by Congress should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
The Importance of Congressional Investigations
Congressional investigations or hearings are typically held to discuss upcoming legislation; to investigate federal programs; and to investigate other issues that may require legislation in the future.
Investigations are critical to help legislators make more comprehensive policy decisions for the better of the nation and also to help maintain federal checks on the other branches of government.
The Supreme Court has long granted Congress broad investigatory powers as a part of the inherent legislative duties bestowed by Article 1.
Congress regularly utilizes such broad investigatory power. Investigations can reveal presidential abuses of power, legislative corruption, or other political scandals that have been or could have been potentially dangerous to the wellbeing of the nation.
The rules of the legislative process depend on the committee. For instance, each committee and subcommittee adopt their own rules for planning and conducting investigations.
But matters change dramatically when you are placed under the microscope for allegedly engaging in improper behavior or harboring improper motives.
Further, because the rules depend on which committee or subcommittee is conducting the investigation, it is imperative to have a thorough understanding of what will be required of you. We are here to streamline the process.
Our team has the knowledge needed to advise and defend investigations initiated by multiple congressional committees including the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Finance Committee, House Financial Services Committee, House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the House Judiciary Committee, as some examples.
The Process of a Congressional Investigation
Historical Overview and Source of Authority
Congress has been compelling witnesses to give testimony for their investigations since the 1790s, beginning with bribery and contempt.
Article 1 vests in Congress the power to make laws that are “necessary and proper,” thus encompassing the power to investigate. The Supreme Court has similarly granted Congress the power to investigate anything as long as the matter relates to Congress’ power to pass legislation.
This makes a congressional investigation vastly different than a DOJ or FBI investigation. Nevertheless, if evidence of a crime is uncovered, Congress will generally pass the case on to these federal agencies for further prosecution.
The Procedures of the Congressional Investigation
Today, a typical congressional investigation begins as a response to major events (e.g., 2008 recession). It could also begin to investigate alleged wrongdoing.
Once a congressional committee or subcommittee initiates an investigation, it has broad power to summon any individual to give testimony.
Some of the evidence-gathering tools used by Congress include document review and production, depositions, testimony at public hearings, and issuing subpoenas for evidence and other documents.
Most individuals will testify and provide information willingly and voluntarily. Occasionally, the committee will need to subpoena individuals to appear and provide testimony.
These witnesses can sometimes claim their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, thereby refusing to testify. This presents a challenge to the committee conducting the investigation.
As a response, that individual claiming their privilege against self-incrimination can be given immunity under certain circumstances.
A grant of immunity given to an individual summoned to provide testimony can be beneficial if it provides the committee with the answers it was looking for. But it can similarly be risky because it can prevent further investigations into that issue.
The Ramifications of a Congressional Investigation
A congressional investigation, as mentioned, can sometimes lead to the discovery of a crime or other impropriety. In such a case, Congress will refer the matter to the appropriate federal agency, assuming immunity was not granted.
Therefore, an individual under a congressional investigation must consider the regulatory impacts and sharing of information that will likely occur between the committee and federal agencies.
These investigations could also take a significant toll on an individual’s and company’s reputation due to the increased media attention associated with these procedures. This is in contrast to the private and controlled atmosphere of courtroom procedures.
Request a Free Initial Consultation at Oberheiden P.C.
A congressional investigation can be very worrisome due to the complex procedures involved, the broad investigative powers granted to Congress, and the potential for significant reputational and business harm.
An investigation can be lengthy and has the potential to last for years with endless requests for document production and subpoenas to appear and give testimony.
The Oberheiden, P.C. attorneys are experienced in handling and reducing the significant risks associated with congressional investigations and thoroughly preparing our clients for the steps ahead.
We can provide assistance on responding to requests for testimony, preparing witnesses for examination, advising individuals and companies on the investigative process, and providing overall insight into the likely stages of a congressional investigation.
Call us today or contact our office for a free consultation and protect your reputation.