The Department of Justice on Friday emphasized that it will make its “own independent decisions in all prosecutions” after President Joe Biden said he hopes the department will prosecute individuals who defy subpoenas from the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“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 spokesperson Anthony Coley said.
Just an hour earlier, after departing Marine One, Biden said he hopes the select committee “goes after them and holds them accountable,” referring to people including former Trump administration aides investigators subpoenaed last month. Former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon’s lawyer has told the committee he won’t comply with the congressional subpoena.
When pressed on if the Justice Department should prosecute those who defy the subpoenas, Biden said, “I do,” according to White House pool reports.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted later Friday evening: “As @POTUS has said many times, January 6th was one of the darkest days in our democracy. He supports the work of the committee and the independent role of the Department of Justice to make any decisions about prosecutions.”
The House panel scheduled a vote to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress on Tuesday. If that vote moves forward, the full House, slated to reconvene next week, will then hold a vote. If the House moves to hold Bannon in contempt, which is likely with Democrats’ slim majority, then the matter will be referred to the U.S. Attorney for Washington D.C. for criminal prosecution.
But how the Justice Department will decide to proceed, and how quickly, is murky. Attorney General Merrick Garland has not indicated how he will handle such matters from the House, though he will likely be pressed on the issue next week when he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee.