Biden says DOJ should prosecute Capitol riot committee subpoena resisters

Biden says DOJ should prosecute Capitol riot committee subpoena resisters
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President Joe Biden voiced support for the Justice Department to prosecute anyone who defies subpoenas from Capitol riot investigators, prompting a swift vow of independence from the agency.

"I do, yes," Biden said to reporters Friday evening after Marine One landed on the South Lawn of the White House following a visit to Connecticut. He was asked if the DOJ should prosecute anyone who resists subpoenas from the House Jan. 6 select committee, which has already committed to criminal contempt proceedings against one Trump ally.

In response to Biden's comment, which clashes with a pledge he made months ago to allow the Justice Department to remain independent, the agency stressed prosecutorial decisions would be kept free of White House influence.

"The Department of Justice will make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop," DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley told the Washington Examiner.

Biden also endorsed the House Jan. 6 select committee's efforts to enforce its subpoenas one day after the panel announced it is moving forward with holding former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for failing to show up for a deposition.

"I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable criminally," he said.

The Jan. 6 committee has scheduled a 7:30 p.m. vote on Tuesday to recommend criminal contempt for Bannon. If passed, it will go to the full House for consideration.

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Former President Donald Trump directed a quartet of close advisers, including Bannon, not to comply with subpoenas issued by the House Jan. 6 select committee that sought documents by last week and testimony this week. Bannon has so far played ball with that order.

"Mr. Bannon has declined to cooperate with the Select Committee and is instead hiding behind the former President's insufficient, blanket, and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke," said select committee Chairman Bennie Thompson in a press statement on Thursday. "We reject his position entirely. The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas, so we must move forward with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt."

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon. (AP Photo/Al Drago)

Bannon's team sent a letter last week informing the committee he would not cooperate in response to its subpoena.

"It is therefore clear to us that since the executive privileges belong to President Trump," wrote Robert Costello, Bannon's lawyer, "and he has, through his counsel, announced his intention to assert those executive privileges enumerated above, we must accept his direction and honor his invocation of executive privilege. As such, until these issues are resolved, we are unable to respond to your request for documents and testimony."

Mark Meadows, former White House chief of staff, and Kash Patel, a former Pentagon aide, were so far "engaging" with the committee, panel leaders said. Dan Scavino, another Trump White House aide, was served a subpoena on Friday after a struggle to locate him, according to CNN.

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Eleven others tied to the organization of the Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 rallies leading up to the Capitol riot have also been subpoenaed.

Biden's White House declined to assert executive privilege after Trump sought to withhold documents related to the Jan. 6 riot from Congress.

If the Justice Department prosecutes Bannon and he is convicted, he could face fines up to $100,000 and up to a year in prison.

Members of the Democratic-led Capitol riot panel have already put pressure on the DOJ to prosecute subpoena resisters.

Drawing a sharp contrast with the DOJ during the Trump administration, when House Intelligence Committee members said Bannon got away with answering "scripted" questions from White House officials during its Russia investigation, Chairman Adam Schiff told MSNBC on Tuesday the agency is now "independent" under Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Schiff said Garland "believes in the rule of law" and that "no one is above the rule of law."

If the DOJ acts, Schiff said, "That will be a sign that our democracy is recovering. That the Justice Department is upholding the principle that no one is above the law."

The Biden transition team revealed Biden selected Garland on Jan. 6, the same day as the siege of the U.S. Capitol, and he introduced the longtime judge as his pick the next day. The then-president-elect vowed his Justice Department would be independent.

“More than anything, we need to restore the honor, the integrity, the independence of the Department of Justice in this nation that has been so badly damaged,” Biden said.

President Joe Biden listens as Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during an event in the State Dining room of the White House. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

He also told Garland and his other DOJ picks: “I want to be clear to those who lead this department who you will serve. You won’t work for me. You are not the president’s or the vice president’s lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me. It’s to the law, the Constitution, the people of this nation to guarantee justice.”

Garland, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and former President Barack Obama's ill-fated 2016 nominee for the Supreme Court, pointed to Justice Department policies. He noted the “guaranteeing the independence of the department from partisan influence in law enforcement investigations” and promised that “if confirmed, my mission as attorney general will be to reaffirm those policies as the principles upon which the department operates.”

He added, “The essence of the rule of law is that like cases are treated alike — that there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends and another for foes.”

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Tags: News, White House, Joe Biden, Justice Department, January 6

Original Author: Daniel Chaitin, Jerry Dunleavy

Original Location: Biden says DOJ should prosecute Capitol riot committee subpoena resisters

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