April 19, 2024


Equality opinion

Pundits Seek to Excuse the Lack of Prior Contempt Prosecutions in the Wake of the Bannon Sentencing – JONATHAN TURLEY

Pundits Seek to Excuse the Lack of Prior Contempt Prosecutions in the Wake of the Bannon Sentencing – JONATHAN TURLEY

After the sentencing of Trump strategist Steve Bannon to 4 months driving bars, obvious comparisons were raised with the slew of contempt scenarios that the Justice Section refused to even post to grand juries for the duration of prior Administrations.  The most cited was the contempt situation versus former Lawyer Standard Eric Holder. That has led to different pundits insisting that there is no such comparison and nothing at all to see there. In my viewpoint, they are suitable to attract distinctions but wrong to dismiss the issue over selective prosecution of contempt cases.

For the report, I earlier stated that the Property was on solid lawful ground in pursuing a contempt charge. He was a private citizen all through the critical interval less than investigation by the J6 Committee and formerly testified in other investigations. He also said soon ahead of trial that he was in actuality keen to testify. His authorized position was hopelessly conflicted and incomplete.

Bannon could have simply appeared and refused to testify below the Fifth Amendment. As an alternative, he took the even worse doable program: he defied Congress completely in the confront of a legitimate subpoena.

Holder was a traditional government privilege claim as the Lawyer Standard advising the President. In that perception, there is a environment of difference.

On the other hand, Holder (as I have lengthy argued) was plainly in contempt of Congress and abused govt privilege arguments to defend uncomfortable details tied to Procedure Speedy and Furious. Though Decide Amy Berman Jackson insisted that contempt was “unnecessary,” Congress had every cause to request his prosecution in the experience of his open defiance.

The Holder circumstance was also only one particular of this sort of scenarios scuttled by the Justice Department. There was Lois Lerner, the former IRS formal accused of concentrating on conservative groups and individuals.  Once more, as opposed to Bannon, she appeared and then invoked the Fifth Modification. That is a substantially much better reaction. Nonetheless, the Dwelling argued that she previously waived the privilege towards self-incrimination in previously testimony ahead of Congress. The Justice Department refused to prosecute.

There was also previous major Clinton aide Bryan Pagliano, who acquired two subpoenas from then Home Chair Jason Chaffetz and defied them both equally.  He never appeared.  While he experienced an immunity settlement with the Justice Department (which was also controversial), the subpoenas ended up different from that arrangement.

I have long been significant of the Justice Office in its refusals to prosecute Government Branch officers for contempt. The Bannon circumstance is absolutely distinguishable from previous cases, but it nonetheless begs the dilemma remaining from this record of non-prosecution.  It is not the Bannon prosecution per se that is troubling but its departure from historic follow at the Justice Division that raises legitimate fears.