President Joe Biden has indicated his support for launching criminal proceedings against those who choose to defy subpoenas from the House committee investigating the Capitol riot. At present, those undertaking such outright defiance include former top Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and that’s it — but there’s certainly the looming possibility of more of those who have been subpoenaed choosing to keep their distance from the committee entirely. The riot investigation committee has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday at which they’re set to take the first step towards a formal criminal contempt charge against Bannon.
Specifically, the committee is slated to formally approve a contempt finding against Bannon at that meeting, and the measure would then be voted on by the full House. Assuming a majority of the chamber supports it, then it’s subsequently transmitted to the Justice Department, where officials can decide to pursue formal criminal charges — or not. Asked this week for his “message” to “people who defy congressional subpoenas on the January 6 committee,” Biden commented as follows:
‘I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable.’
Directly asked in a follow-up question whether those defying subpoenas should be prosecuted, Biden said yes. Watch his remarks below:
Q: What's your message to people who defy congressional subpoenas on the January 6 committee?
POTUS: I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable.
Q: Should they be prosecuted by the Justice Department?
POTUS: I do, yes. pic.twitter.com/R7EZUz6BLl
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 15, 2021
White House press secretary Jen Psaki followed up Biden’s remarks by publicly reiterating that the president supports the Justice Department’s independent decision-making process, no matter his own feelings about things. As Psaki explained the matter:
‘As [President Biden] has said many times, January 6th was one of the darkest days in our democracy. He supports the work of the committee and the independent role of the Department of Justice to make any decisions about prosecutions.’
As @potus has said many times, January 6th was one of the darkest days in our democracy. He supports the work of the committee and the independent role of the Department of Justice to make any decisions about prosecutions.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) October 16, 2021
For his part, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) — who chairs the riot investigation committee — has insisted that the committee “will use every tool at its disposal to get the information it seeks, and witnesses who try to stonewall the Select Committee will not succeed.” Bannon has pointed to claims from Trump that his executive privilege covers information and testimony that the panel is after, but in Bannon’s case, he wasn’t even on staff at the executive branch around the time of the insurrection, and they’re not focusing on when he was. No communications housed entirely within the executive branch are even at issue. Thompson described Bannon this week as “hiding behind the former President’s insufficient, blanket, and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke.”