David Axelrod, a former top political adviser to President Barack Obama, said Friday that Joe Biden ought to abstain from making comments regarding the Jan. 6 committee hearings and proceedings after the president told reporters on Friday that the Justice Department ought to prosecute witnesses called to testify but who ignore subpoenas from the panel.
“Probably best @POTUS leave this to the AG,” Axelrod tweeted, in reference to Attorney General Merrick Garland. The tweet also contained a link to an Axios story reporting Biden’s remarks.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) October 16, 2021
“I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable,” Biden said as he returned to the White House from Connecticut on Friday.
Biden’s comments, which critics will see as problematic since, as head of the Executive Branch he oversees all federal agencies including the Justice Department, came amid reports that some former aides and advisers to President Donald Trump were heeding his call for them to ignore the subpoenas while a legal case in which he is exerting executive privilege winds its way through court.
Later, according to reports, White House press secretary Jen Psaki attempted to distance Biden from his own comments, insisting that the Justice Department is independent when it comes to prosecutorial decisions.
So far, one-time presidential adviser Steve Bannon is refusing to honor a subpoena issued to him by the committee, while others are said to be “engaged” with the Jan. 6 panel. The Democrat-controlled committee is scheduled to hold a vote on Tuesday to decide whether to hold Bannon in contempt after he failed to show up for a deposition on Thursday.
“The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas,” U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the committee, said in a statement. “Bannon hiding behind the former president’s insufficient, blanket and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke. We reject his position entirely.”
Axelrod went on to tweet later that the Trump administration’s practice of ignoring subpoenas was “clear and familiar. Run out the clock.”
That said, Obama’s first attorney general, Eric Holder, ignored a subpoena issued by a GOP-controlled congressional committee in 2012, which also drew widespread criticism at the time.
The former Obama adviser has also been critical of Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president, once calling him “low energy” and claiming Biden “distorted” his political record during the 2020 presidential campaign. In addition, he called Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan “a disaster.”
As for compelling witnesses to testify, one of the Jan. 6 commission’s members, Florida Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy suggested during an interview earlier this week that the panel was engaging the U.S. Marshals Service and other federal law enforcement agencies to compel witnesses to show up for their scheduled depositions.
“We have engaged with a wide variety of law enforcement offices, including the U.S. Marshals, in order to issue the subpoenas,” Murphy told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program Wednesday. “We will use everything, as you said, with all due respect, we will use all of the agencies and all of the tools at our disposal to issue the subpoenas and enforce them.”
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