Joe Biden Admits His Call to 'Go After' Those Defying 6 Jan. Probe Subpoenas Was 'Not Appropriate'
07:42 GMT 22.10.2021 (Updated: 08:06 GMT 22.10.2021)
President Joe Biden earlier explicitly urged prosecutions for those who defied the 6 January congressional subpoenas issued by investigators, such as former Donald Trump administration aides, saying on 15 October he hoped the House select committee “goes after them and holds them accountable criminally”.
Joe Biden on Thursday appeared to double back on his earlier remarks and reaffirmed the independence of the US Justice Department (DOJ) investigation into the 6 January attack on the Capitol.
“The way I said it was not appropriate,” the US President said at a CNN town hall in Baltimore on Thursday evening where he answered questions on a range of issues, including voting rights, the COVID-19 pandemic and his sweeping domestic agenda.
Referring to the Justice Department as having been “corrupted” under his predecessor Trump, Biden said that upon election one of his priorities was to “reestablish the reputation and integrity” of the DOJ.
“I did not, have not and will not pick up the phone and call the attorney general and tell him what he should or should not do in terms of who he should prosecute… I have yet to talk to the attorney general about anything,” added Biden.
Nevertheless, the President once again supported holding to account those who chose to ignore subpoenas from the House select committee.
“I think that anyone who does not respond to that kind of question from the legitimate committee and the House of Representatives [and] the United States Senate should be held accountable,” he said.
Call For 'Prosecutions'
On 15 October, Biden has voiced hope the department would prosecute those individuals who refuse to comply with subpoenas from the US House Select Committee investigating the 6 January attack on the United States Capitol. The POTUS had emphasised that he hoped the select committee “goes after them and holds them accountable criminally,” in a reference to former Donald Trump administration aides.
After investigators had subpoenaed the individuals in September former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon had refused to comply. Asked by reporters if he thought the Justice Department (DOJ) should prosecute such individuals, Biden said, “I do, yes."
In response, the DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley said the department would be making its “own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki went on Twitter that Friday to underscore that the President supported the work of the committee and the “independent role of the Department of Justice to make any decisions about prosecutions."
Ex-Trump Aide Found in Contempt of Congress
The developments come as former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was found in contempt of Congress on Thursday for defying a subpoena to testify before a committee investigating the events of 6 January at the Capitol.
© AP Photo / Mary AltafferPresident Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon waits to be introduced during an ideas festival sponsored by The Economist, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in New York. Bannon said he's surprised the #MeToo movement hasn't had more impact on corporate America.
President Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon waits to be introduced during an ideas festival sponsored by The Economist, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in New York. Bannon said he's surprised the #MeToo movement hasn't had more impact on corporate America.
© AP Photo / Mary Altaffer
The House of Representatives voted 229-202 for the resolution, essentially falling along party lines, aside from nine Republicans who sided with the Democratic majority. The House vote now refers the issue to the US Department of Justice. If found guilty, Bannon, one of many subpoenaed by the US House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, could face a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Democrats have vowed to probe the events, which had interrupted the electoral count certifying Joe Biden's victory in the November 2020 presidential elections.
“We will not allow anyone to derail our work, because our work is too important,” stated the committee's Democratic chairman, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson.
Republicans have slammed the probe as a “witch hunt.” Indiana Rep. Jim Banks described the investigation into the Capitol events an “illicit criminal investigation into American citizens”. There is uncertainty regarding whether the department will pursue charges, with Attorney General Merrick Garland saying at a House hearing on Thursday that they plan to “make a decision consistent with the principles of prosecution.”
© REUTERS / Shannon StapletonPolice release tear gas into a crowd of pro-Trump protesters during clashes at a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021.
Police release tear gas into a crowd of pro-Trump protesters during clashes at a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021.
On 6 January 2021 protesters had breached the US Capitol building following a rally held by Donald Trump outside the White House at which he alleged that Democrat Joe Biden had won the November 2020 election fraudulently. The riot had disrupted a joint session of Congress that was counting electoral votes to formalize Biden’s victory. Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died in the wake of the events.
Donald Trump, who had repeatedly claimed the “rigged” 2020 presidential election had been “stolen” from him, was accused of “inciting an insurrection”, and impeached by the US House of Representatives. Trump was later acquitted by the US Senate in a trial weeks after he left office.