During an appearance on NBC this Sunday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) celebrated the decision by the Justice Department to charge former top Trump adviser Steve Bannon with two counts of contempt of Congress after the issuance of a criminal referral by the House. That referral was in connection to Bannon’s refusal to comply with a subpoena from the riot investigation committee, on which Schiff serves. Bannon tied his refusal to abide by the terms of the subpoena to claims by Trump that executive privilege covers what the committee is after — although executive privilege is a concept generally used to shield internal government deliberations, and Bannon didn’t even work for the government during the time period under consideration.
Schiff also laid out the stakes — if witnesses take the Bannon route and give the committee the rhetorical finger, then they can expect the possibility of criminal charges. And Schiff made clear that the committee isn’t backing down. As he put it:
‘Now that witnesses see that if they don’t cooperate, if they don’t fulfill their lawful duty when subpoenaed, that they too may be prosecuted, it will have a very strong focusing effect on their decision-making. So, it’s very positive — I view this as an early test of whether our democracy was recovering. If our law is to mean anything, it has to be applied equally. And so I’m very glad the Justice Department has moved forward in this fashion.’
Interestingly, former Trump adviser Michael Flynn — who was also subpoenaed — said on Fox that he planned to “respond” to his subpoena. Perhaps the deterrence effects of Bannon’s charges could be said to be becoming publicly clear. Schiff added as follows:
‘The fact that the Justice Department has moved as quickly as it did is really helpful. Because as I mentioned, that’s already having an effect on other witnesses who are coming forward and not choosing to go to jail, as Steve Bannon may. But also, in the civil litigation over our effort to get documents from the [National] Archives, the courts themselves have recognized that Donald Trump essentially played our institutions for four years and played rope-a-dope in the courts. And [the courts] moved with such expedition to reject Trump’s claims in the district court a week or so ago, now the Court of Appeals is saying they’re going to have a hearing by the end of the month… I think [the speed is] a recognition that Donald Trump has relied on justice delayed meaning justice denied.’
Check out Schiff’s comments below: