Rep. Jamie Raskin, a former House manager during then-President Donald Trump’s second impeachment and now a prominent member of the select Jan. 6 committee, is providing political cover for Joe Biden after the president said the Justice Department ought to prosecute people who refuse to respond to subpoenas from investigators probing the Capitol riot.
The Maryland Democrat has accused Trump in the past of trying to improperly pressure his Justice Department into doing his bidding, but he excused Biden’s remarks by claiming that Americans are uncertain what a good relationship looks like between the White House and the DoJ after four years of Trump.
“I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable criminally,” Biden told reporters on Friday, in response to a question as to what he thought should happen after former top Trump adviser Steve Bannon defied a subpoena to show up and testify on Thursday before the panel.
“The first thing he said was that the committee should aggressively enforce our right to get people’s testimony and to get the documents we’ve subpoenaed, and there is no problem with that,” Raskin told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday before excusing Biden’s comment.
“I also don’t have a problem with him, as a citizen like me, saying he hopes the Department of Justice will aggressively enforce the law, so people don’t get away with committing crimes like this,” he continued.
"There will be, I predict, a criminal referral. We're going to try to charge these people with criminal contempt. That's a crime when Steve Bannon did not show up when he was told to show up… to testify before the US Congress."
– Jan. 6 select committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin pic.twitter.com/cNG8Kg4rfV
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) October 16, 2021
“Obviously, four years of Donald Trump has made everybody a little bit rusty in terms of executive branch relationships with the president and law enforcement in the Department of Justice, and I don’t think he was telling the Department of Justice what to do, but they will make their own decision, and we have confidence that the attorney general will do the right thing and DOJ will make the right decision,” Raskin added.
But Biden isn’t an ordinary citizen, he’s the president, and as such he is the head of the Executive Branch, under which the Justice Department falls. Ultimately, all Executive Branch employees and appointees answer to the president.
Other Democrats have voiced concerns about Biden’s remarks.
“Probably best @POTUS leave this to the AG,” David Axelrod, a former advisor to President Barack Obama, tweeted Friday in response to Biden’s remarks.
Also, Biden’s comments are in conflict with a pledge he made several months ago to remain aloof of the Justice Department, as officials there claimed prosecutorial decisions would not be at the direction of 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 told the Washington Examiner.
Raskin, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, went on to note that the DoJ “reminded” the president of its supposed independence.
“If the Department of Justice acts like a real Department of Justice, and I think they will, as you know, they just reminded the president that they’re going to make their own decisions based on the facts and the law. I think they’re serious about their job,” he said.
Earlier this year Raskin, as the lead House impeachment manager, accused Trump of trying “very hard to try to convert the Department of Justice into a personal and political law firm for his own interests up until the very end.”
And in a June interview with C-SPAN, he said, “We cannot accept this kind of politicization of the Department of Justice and the conversion of DOJ lawyers into a political weapon against the president’s enemies — or perceived enemies.”
The Democrat-controlled Jan. 6 panel has scheduled a Tuesday evening vote to decide whether to hold Bannon in contempt and seek criminal contempt against him. If the measure passes, it then goes to the full House for consideration.
Should the Justice Department decide to prosecute Bannon and he is convicted, he faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, the Examiner added.
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