Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: November 13, 2021
I know this isn’t breaking news to any Sky Dancers, but it’s still the best news in a long time. Steve Bannon has been indicted for contempt of Congress. More good news: it appears that Merrick Garland actually is taking the insurrection seriously. From the DOJ statement issued yesterday:
Stephen K. Bannon was indicted today by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress stemming from his failure to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol.
Bannon, 67, is charged with one contempt count involving his refusal to appear for a deposition and another involving his refusal to produce documents, despite a subpoena from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol. An arraignment date has not yet been set in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”
Katie Benner and Luke Broadwater at The New York Times: Bannon Indicted on Contempt Charges Over House’s Capitol Riot Inquiry.
A Justice Department spokesman said Mr. Bannon was expected to turn himself in to authorities on Monday, and make his first appearance in Federal District Court in Washington later that day.
A lawyer for Mr. Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The politically and legally complex case was widely seen as a litmus test for whether the Justice Department would take an aggressive stance against one of Mr. Trump’s top allies as the House seeks to develop a fuller picture of the actions of the former president and his aides and advisers before and during the attack on the Capitol.
At a time of deep political polarization, the Biden Justice Department now finds itself prosecuting a top adviser to the previous president of another party in relation to an extraordinary attack by Mr. Trump’s supporters on a fundamental element of democracy, the peaceful transfer of power….
After the referral from the House in Mr. Bannon’s case, F.B.I. agents in the Washington field office investigated the matter. Career prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington determined that it would be appropriate to charge Mr. Bannon with two counts of contempt, and a person familiar with the deliberations said they received the full support of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.
The indictment of Bannon serves as a warning to other Trump goons who have refused to testify before the House January 6 committee.
The charges against Mr. Bannon come as the committee is considering criminal contempt referrals against two other allies of Mr. Trump who have refused to comply with its subpoenas: Mr. Meadows and Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official who participated in Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
“Steve Bannon’s indictment should send a clear message to anyone who thinks they can ignore the select committee or try to stonewall our investigation: No one is above the law,” the leaders of the panel, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, and Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to use the tools at our disposal to get the information we need.”
Earlier they had released another blistering statement after Mr. Meadows failed to appear to answer questions at a scheduled deposition. Mr. Meadows’s lawyer, George J. Terwilliger III, informed the committee that his client felt “duty bound” to follow Mr. Trump’s instructions to defy the committee, citing executive privilege.
“Mr. Meadows’s actions today — choosing to defy the law — will force the select committee to consider pursuing contempt or other proceedings to enforce the subpoena,” Mr. Thompson and Ms. Cheney said.
They said Mr. Meadows refused to answer even basic questions, such as whether he was using a private cellphone to communicate on Jan. 6, and the location of his text messages from that day.
Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: The big warning signal Stephen Bannon’s indictment sends.
For more than two years, the Democratic-controlled House struggled to obtain crucial testimony from Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn in its Russia investigation. When he declined to submit to a subpoena, they fought it out in court. By the time an agreement was reached for McGahn to testify this year, Donald Trump was no longer in the White House, and the Russia issue had faded in both import and memories. McGahn said frequently in his testimony that he no longer fully recalled important episodes….
This time, though, the House and its select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob took a very different tack. And it resulted in both a legally and practically significant result.
Rather than try to get a court to make former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon testify, the Jan. 6 committee instead moved quickly to recommend he be held in contempt of Congress. That put the decision into the hands of the Justice Department, which would need to decide whether to file criminal charges. But it would at least be quicker.
On Friday, this approach — an extraordinary gambit necessitated by an extraordinary effort to stymie investigators for most of the past five years — led to an extraordinary outcome: Bannon has been indicted by a federal grand jury, making him the first person charged with contempt of Congress since 1983.
While an indictment is significant — it’s actually the second time Bannon has been indicted in fewer than 15 months, with the first earning a preemptive Trump pardon — the move is less punitive than it is precedent-setting.
Other witnesses, including former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who are also resisting cooperation with the inquiry, now have to contend with the prospect of potential criminal charges….an indictment is a bell that can’t be un-rung. Those like Meadows might defy the subpoenas in the hope of some kind of accommodation — perhaps allowing them to withhold a certain part of their testimony or documents that have been requested. Bannon’s indictment serves notice that the Jan. 6 committee can threaten to play hardball, with plenty to back it up….
Bannon and Meadows are among the first against whom this could even be deployed. Theirs were among the first batch of subpoenas, along with White House communications aide Dan Scavino and national security aide Kashyap Patel. In other words, plenty of others will now have very important decisions to make. Another big one will be Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, who spearheaded the effort to get his department to legitimize Trump’s false stolen-election claims.
Down in Georgia, Fulton County DA may be gearing up to impanel a Grand Jury to investigate Donald Trump for his efforts to overturn election results in the state. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Fulton DA mulling rarely used special grand jury for Trump probe.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is likely to impanel a special grand jury to support her probe of former President Donald Trump, a move that could aid prosecutors in what’s expected to be a complicated and drawn-out investigative process.
A person with direct knowledge of the discussions confirmed the development to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saying the move could be imminent.
Some legal observers viewed the news, first reported by the New York Times, as a sign that the probe is entering a new phase.
“My interpretation is that she’s gotten as far as she can interviewing witnesses and dealing with people who are cooperating by producing documents voluntarily,” former Gwinnett County DA Danny Porter said of Willis. “She needs the muscle. She needs the subpoena power.”
Special grand juries are rarely used but could be a valuable tool for Willis as she takes the unprecedented step of investigating the conduct of a former president while he was in office.
Her probe, launched in February, is centered on the Jan. 2 phone call Trump placed to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged the Republican to “find” the votes to reverse Joe Biden’s win in Georgia last November. The veteran prosecutor previously told Gov. Brian Kemp, Raffensperger and other state officials that her office would be probing potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, intentional interference with the performance of election duties, conspiracy and racketeering, among others.
The investigation could also include Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who promoted lies about election fraud in a state legislative hearing; and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who was accused by Raffensperger of urging him to toss mail-in ballots in certain counties. Both men have denied wrongdoing.
In other news, another Congressional committee is investigating efforts by the Trump administration to downplay the coronavirus pandemic. The Washington Post: Messonnier, Birx detail political interference in last year’s coronavirus response.