A prominent member of the House Jan. 6 select committee gave cover to President Joe Biden for saying the Justice Department should prosecute anyone who defies subpoenas from Capitol riot investigators.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, who previously accused former President Donald Trump of improperly pressuring his Justice Department to his political whims, argued people are hazy on how a healthy relationship between the White House and the DOJ should look like after four years of the Trump administration.
“The first thing he said was that the committee should aggressively enforce our right to get people’s testimony and to get the documents we’ve subpoenaed, and there is no problem with that,” the Maryland Democrat told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday.
“I also don’t have a problem with him, as a citizen like me, saying he hopes the Department of Justice will aggressively enforce the law, so people don’t get away with committing crimes like this,” he added.
“Obviously, four years of Donald Trump has made everybody a little bit rusty in terms of executive branch relationships with the president and law enforcement in the Department of Justice, and I don’t think he was telling the Department of Justice what to do, but they will make their own decision, and we have confidence that the attorney general will do the right thing and DOJ will make the right decision,” Raskin said.
The Justice Department quickly issued a vow of independence from the White House after Biden was asked Friday if the agency 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. “I do, yes,” Biden said to reporters after Marine One landed on the South Lawn of the White House following a visit to Connecticut.
In response to Biden’s comment, which conflicts 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 spokesman Anthony Coley told the Washington Examiner.
Raskin, who is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee, later conceded the Justice Department “reminded” Biden about its independence.
“If the Department of Justice acts like a real Department of Justice, and I think they will, as you know, they just reminded the president that they’re going to make their own decisions based on the facts and the law. I think they’re serious about their job,” he said.
Only months ago, Raskin, who was the lead manager in the second impeachment trial against Trump, chastised Trump for working “very hard to try to convert the Department of Justice into a personal and political law firm for his own interests up until the very end.”
In an interview with C-SPAN in June, Raskin added, “We cannot accept this kind of politicization of the Department of Justice and the conversion of DOJ lawyers into a political weapon against the president’s enemies — or perceived enemies.”
On Friday, Biden also endorsed the House Jan. 6 select committee’s efforts to enforce its subpoenas one day after the panel announced it was moving forward with holding former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for failing to show up for a deposition after Trump urged his former advisers to resist the subpoenas.
“I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable criminally,” Biden said.
Raskin told Cooper he is “not aware” of the Capitol riot panel being in contact with the White House about discussions with former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and others about discussions surrounding the subpoenas.
The Jan. 6 committee has scheduled a 7:30 p.m. vote Tuesday to recommend criminal contempt for Bannon. If passed, it will go to the full House for consideration. 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.
Investigators have looked into efforts by Trump to push his Justice Department to do his bidding, including in relation to special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry and challenging the results of the 2020 election. Trump’s willingness to tweet about the Justice Department, before he was banned from Twitter, even prompted his attorney general, William Barr, to grouse about how it “made it impossible for me to do my job.”
It was revealed that Biden selected Merrick Garland to be his attorney general on Jan. 6, the same day as the siege of the Capitol, and he introduced the longtime judge as his pick the next day.
“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 declared.
Garland himself vowed, in his opening statement for a February confirmation hearing as Biden’s nominee, to enforce “policies that protect the independence of the Department from partisan influence in law enforcement Investigations.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans warned Garland this month against using federal law enforcement to “chill” or prosecute First Amendment-protected speech opposing “critical race theory” in classrooms following a DOJ memo about alleged threats and violence at school protests. DOJ officials have defended the memo as necessary to address alleged threats and intimidation.
The GOP members and concerned parents have raised concerns about possible conflicts of interest for the attorney general because his son-in-law, Alexander “Xan” Tanner, is the co-founder of Panorama Education, a software firm in thousands of schools that uses “social emotional learning” student surveys and teacher trainings as a “vehicle” to push left-wing ideas about race.
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Original Author: Daniel Chaitin, Jerry Dunleavy