Ex-Obama Aide Hushes Biden as POTUS Threatens Prosecution for Trump Team Holdouts in 6 January Probe
16:35 GMT 16.10.2021 (Updated: 18:47 GMT 16.10.2021)
The Democratic Party-controlled US House Select Committee tasked with investigating the 6 January unrest at the US Capitol was formed in July to probe the Trump administration’s role in the violence. The former president has dismissed the committee’s investigation as a “partisan sham” meant to distract Americans from President Biden’s “failures.”
Former senior Obama advisor David Axelrod has urged President Joe Biden to cool his rhetoric about “prosecutions” against Trump officials who refuse to testify in the House Select Committee probe.
“Probably best @POTUS leave this to the [attorney general Merrick Garland],” Axelrod tweeted late Friday.
The former advisor, one of the Democratic Party’s most respected political gurus, and a key policy aide to Barack Obama during his presidency, accompanied the tweet with a report on President Biden’s remarks suggesting that the Justice Department should prosecute individuals who defy subpoenas to appear before the Select Committee.
On Friday, after former Trump advisor and Breitbart media empire chief Steve Bannon failed to testify, Biden told reporters on the White House lawn that he hoped “the committee goes after” those who fail to appear “and holds them accountable.” When asked whether these individuals should be prosecuted, Biden said “I do, yes.”
The president’s remarks prompted the DoJ to immediately assure the public that it would not be influenced by political pressure coming from the White House. “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 said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki similarly back-pedalled on Biden’s remarks, tweeting Friday that the president “supports the work of the committee and the independent role of the Department of Justice to make any decisions about prosecutions.”
Select Committee chair Rep Bennie Thompson roared in anger at Bannon over his failure to appear before lawmakers, saying the committee would “not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas.” Thompson rejected Bannon’s alleged decision to hide “behind the former president’s insufficient, blank and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke,” and promised to convene the committee on Tuesday to hold Bannon in criminal contempt.
14 October 2021, 17:57 GMT
Contempt of Congress threatens a penalty of up to one year in prison, and a fine of up to $100,000. The committee previously threatened criminal referrals against anyone refusing interviews earlier this month.
Trump Dismisses Committee, Invokes Executive Privilege
Last week, Donald Trump blasted the Select Committee’s work as a “sideshow to distract America from MASSIVE failures by Biden and the Democrats,” and suggested that the 6 January riot at the Capitol would never have happened in the first place if the Capitol police and other security officials “did their job and looked at the intelligence.”
Before that, Trump repeatedly denied that he or any member of his administration had any role in the Capitol violence, which Democratic lawmakers and tech companies used to ban him from social media, and to impeach him in the final days of his term in office in a bid to permanently bar him from politics.
In September, Trump promised to fight the committee’s request for subpoenas for records and testimony in court on the basis of executive privilege.
Along with Bannon, the select committee has subpoenaed multiple other Trump allies, including Stop the Steal rally organisers, former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former communications aide Dan Scavino, and ex-Pentagon official Kashyap Patel.
The creation of the committee in the House in July follows Democrats’ failure to set one up in the Senate in May after Republicans pointed out that multiple government agencies and two Senate committees were already investigating the matter. The House committee includes two never-Trump Republicans – Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. The rest of its members are Democrats.
11 October 2021, 16:00 GMT
Not So Quiet Riot
On 6 January, thousands of pro-Trump protesters (and, allegedly, domestic intelligence agents) descended on the US Capitol complex to try to stop Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the November election. Several kilometres away, Trump, convinced that the vote was “rigged” and “stolen” from him, held a separate rally in front of the White House.
Democrats have accused the former president of being responsible for the unrest, while Trump and his allies have rejected the charges.
Five people died and dozens were injured as a direct or indirect result of the mayhem, and over 500 people have been charged with crimes ranging from trespassing and disruption of Congress, theft, weapons offences, threats and conspiracy.