President Joe Biden said the Department of Justice (DOJ) should prosecute individuals who defy subpoenas surrounding the Jan. 6 riot on Friday, prompting quick damage control from the administration.
Former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former administration official Kash Patel and former Trump aide Steve Bannon are among those hit with subpoenas from the Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the riot at the U.S. Capitol. Bannon has refused to comply with the subpoena and now faces potential criminal contempt charges.
While the White House has tried to distance itself from the situation, Biden issued a firm opinion Friday evening, telling reporters that he does believe that anyone refusing a subpoena in this situation should face prosecution.
“I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable,” the president declared. (RELATED: Jan. 6 Committee Threatens Contempt Referrals Over Defied Subpoenas)
The president’s comments mark a separation from the administration’s past messaging. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday that it’s “up to the Department of Justice” and issued a reminder that “they’re [DOJ] an independent agency.” The Biden administration has repeatedly stressed that the DOJ operates separately from the White House.
DOJ spokesman Anthony Coley responded to Biden’s comments with a stern statement Friday evening, according to Fox News.
“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.
Psaki also emerged to do damage control, tweeting Friday night that Biden “supports the work of the committee and the independent role of the Department of Justice to make any decisions about prosecutions.”
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.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) October 16, 2021
Former President Donald Trump has argued executive privilege amid the probes and his lawyers made moves to block documents from being turned over to the committee. The Biden White House, however, blocked the request earlier in October.
“President [Joe] Biden has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the documents,” White House Counsel Dana Remus wrote.
“The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield, from Congress or the public, information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself,” Remus added.