President Joe Biden answered, “I do, yes,” when asked if he thinks the Justice Department should prosecute people who defy congressional subpoenas.
Reporters on the South Lawn of the White House questioned President Biden after he departed the Air Force One helicopter, Friday. Biden responded to one reporter’s question by saying any individual who ignores subpoenas related to the Jan. 6 investigation should be held accountable. “I hope the committee goes after them and holds them accountable criminally,” Biden said.
CNN Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins then asked Biden whether he thinks such individuals should be prosecuted by the Justice Department. “I do, yes,” responded the president.
Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley responded later that day. “The Department of Justice will make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop,” Coley said.
Coley’s message was a shorter, politer version of similar DOJ responses to former President Donald Trump. DOJ officials often criticized him for commenting on pending cases, saying his weighing in created a path for appeal on due process grounds.
Time Magazine published an opinion piece by Joyce Vance in February, 2020. Ms. Vance is a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. In her guest commentary, she said a tweet by then-President Trump remarking on a DOJ sentencing recommendation was “a sharp departure from the norms.”
“This is not a partisan matter – whether a President is a Democrat, a Republican or affiliated with any other ideology, he or she cannot be permitted to turn the criminal justice system into a political weapon,” opined Vance. “So it is critical that we have a process that is both fair and that people perceive as fair. The standards prosecutors apply to make decisions in criminal cases apply no matter who the defendant is.”
“Probably best @POTUS leave this to the AG,” tweeted former President Barack Obama advisor David Axelrod, referring to Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki attempted to recharacterize the president’s remark. She said the White House supports the Justice Department’s independence in any investigative matters related to Jan. 6.
Psaki said, “He supports the work of the committee and the independent role of the Department of Justice to make any decisions about prosecutions.”
Reporters questioned Biden after a lawyer for former Trump advisor Steve Bannon said his client would not cooperate with a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The committee is planning criminal charges against Bannon for defying their subpoena. Trump has reportedly instructed former aides and advisors not to cooperate with congressional investigators, claiming that would violate Executive Privilege.
Scroll down to leave a comment and share your thoughts.