House Republicans did everything they could to block a bipartisan investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. seat of government. Now they are promising retribution against Democrats over that probe after the Department of Justice indicted Steve Bannon for defying a congressional subpoena.
“Joe Biden has evicerated [sic] Executive Privilege. There are a lot of Republicans eager to hear testimony from Ron Klain and Jake Sullivan when we take back the House," Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio tweeted Friday after news of Bannon's indictment. Jordan was referring President Joe Biden's chief of staff and national security adviser.
What potential crimes Klain and Sullivan have committed in Jordan’s view remains unclear. Perhaps it’s the vaccine rollout that has paved the way for more than 225 million Americans to receive at least one vaccine dose. Or how about that ”socialist” bipartisan infrastructure bill Democrats delivered about nine months after Biden took office? Something about that must seem very fishy after Republicans came up dry on infrastructure despite the country enduring four long years of Donald Trump.
But here's the crux of what the GOP's revenge pledge means: Republicans are actively promoting lawlessness by engaging in a massive cover-up of the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and making common cause with people like Bannon, who actively worked to overturn the 2020 results.
And maybe that's the point—some Republicans already did make common cause with the perpetrators of the Jan. 6 siege, and they are scared stiff about that information surfacing.
Naturally, the GOP's chief messenger, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, really outshone Jordan with her duplicity and verve for incendiary lying.
“For years, Democrats baselessly accused President Trump of ‘weaponizing’ the DOJ. In reality, it is the Left that has been weaponizing the DOJ the ENTIRE TIME — from the false Russia Hoax to the Soviet-style prosecution of political opponents,” Stefanik, the third-ranking House Republican, tweeted Saturday.
Everyone should get ready for more baseless gaslighting from House Republicans—the select committee investigating Jan. 6 has subpoenaed at least 20 of Trump's top aides. Former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is next in line for a potential criminal contempt charge, or perhaps civil litigation, after he skipped his scheduled deposition last Friday.
Meadows apparently has plenty to hide based on his own refusal to sit for a deposition. He not only spent the entirety of Jan. 6 at the White House as Trump drank in the violence with glee, he also reportedly emailed a memo from Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis to a top adviser to Vice President Mike Pence outlining how Pence could block congressional certification of the election. Pence didn't actually possess the constitutional power to do that, but Ellis and other Trump allies argued that he did have the authority and developed a coordinated pressure campaign around the bogus legal strategy.
Regardless of what Jordan and others say, there's no evidence the courts believe that Biden has eviscerated executive privilege. Opting to enable a legitimate congressional investigation into an effort to overturn a legitimate election result by launching a two-pronged legal and physical assault on Congress isn't exactly eviscerating executive privilege. Republicans will surely launch as many investigations of the Biden White House as they can dream up if they regain control of Congress next year, but they'll have to come up with something legitimate to get the courts on their side.
In the meantime, Jordan—who has had a lot of trouble nailing down the timing of his calls with Trump on Jan. 6—and other GOP members appear to be running interference ahead of their own potential legal exposure.
“Now that Democrats have started these politically-motivated indictments for Contempt of Congress, I look forward to seeing their reactions when we keep that same energy as we take back the House next year!” declared Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado on Saturday.
Bannon's indictment on Friday represented a clear break from the previous five years in which the Trump administration's stranglehold on enforcement of congressional subpoenas repeatedly shielded top Trump officials from being compelled to testify before Congress, most notably during both of Trump's impeachment proceedings. The Trump administration's blanket obstruction of Congress in every matter concerning potential Trump wrongdoing crippled the congressional branch from serving as an effective check on executive branch power. Trump's takeaway—aided by Senate Republicans' lock-step refusal to indict him, even after Jan. 6—was clearly that he would never be held to account for anything he did.
As Congress works to reclaim its constitutional oversight powers aided by a White House that actually believes in the rule of law, the question now is how much the bipartisan Jan. 6 committee can accomplish before a potential GOP takeover following the 2022 midterms and how aggressively the Department of Justice will pursue the panel's conclusions.