November 12, 2021
The House select committee probing the January 6 insurrection placed its credibility and legal clout deeper into the hands of Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday, November 8, with a new flurry of subpoenas targeting cronies of ex-President Donald Trump, reports CNN.
However, for the committee to retain hopes of compelling testimony from the group, the Justice Department must initiate a prosecution against another Trump adviser, Steve Bannon, who already has defied a subpoena.
The former President’s populist alter ego earned a rare Contempt of Congress citation for his intransigence. But two-and-half weeks on, the department has yet to say whether it will act on that gambit and indict Bannon through the Washington, D.C., U.S. Attorney’s office.
Without such a move, CNN reports, the committee’s enforcement capacity looks in serious doubt as it races to conclude before Democrats are at risk of losing the House of Representatives in next year’s midterm elections.
There are no current and public signs that Garland is feeling pressure to act quickly. In fact, a deliberative process would comply with his effort to shield the department from politicization after Trump weaponized it to protect himself during a scandal-plagued presidency and in his effort to steal the 2020 election.
But that also means the new batch of six Trump confidants, who have been subpoenaed for their alleged role in amplifying Trump’s lie about election fraud or abetting his coup attempt earlier this year, have reason to replicate the obstruction, at least for now. And even if Bannon is prosecuted, a long process of court cases and appeals could bog down the committee in a legal nightmare.
The six subpoenas issued on Monday targeted conservative lawyer John Eastman, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, Trump campaign officials Bill Stepien, Jason Miller and Angela McCallum, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn
According to CNN, such a scenario would not only allow Trump aides to outwit the committee’s efforts to find the truth about the most flagrant assault on a U.S. election in modern history. It could gut the power of Congress in the future and limit its constitutional role of serving as a check and balance on the executive branch.
And it would also mean that Trump, who incited a mob to march on Congress and disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden’s election win, would escape a reckoning yet again, even as he and his party paper over his autocratic tendencies ahead of a likely bid for the 2024 GOP nomination. The refusal of Trump’s orbit to submit to scrutiny is nothing new; it was a feature of both his impeachments, including over the insurrection earlier this year.
“If Merrick Garland does not prosecute Steve Bannon, all these other witnesses … they are going to have no deterrent either and they are going to see it as a free-for-all to do what they will. So there is a lot riding on what Merrick Garland decides to do here,” CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said.
Garland refused to discuss his deliberations in an unrelated media appearance Monday. The roughly two-week gap after Bannon’s contempt citation is hardly a lifetime in legal terms, however, so it would be unwise to read anything into it yet.
California Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, a member of the House select committee, said on CNN on Monday evening that the Justice Department needed time to study the case and precedent but said acting to enforce congressional subpoenas was crucial.
“If the Justice Department doesn’t hold Steve Bannon accountable, it only lends credence to the idea that some people are above the law and that cannot be true in this country,” Schiff said on “Cuomo Prime Time.”
Research contact: @CNN