Investigators with the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 have been in touch with the U.S. Marshals Service with an eye towards enlisting the federal law enforcement agency’s assistance to bring in witnesses who may resist subpoenas issued for them to testify.
According to one member of the committee, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), hinted at the Marshals’ involvement earlier this week during an interview with MSNBC before the committee writ large announced it would move forward with efforts to hold former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in criminal contempt after he failed to show up for testimony on Thursday.
“We have engaged with a wide variety of law enforcement offices, including the U.S. Marshals, in order to issue the subpoenas,” Murphy told the “Morning Joe” program on 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.”
Former President Donald Trump instructed Bannon and three others who worked in his administration to ignore their subpoenas as he exerts executive privilege, which is likely to be challenged in court.
“Mr. Bannon has declined to cooperate with the Select Committee and is instead hiding behind the former President’s insufficient, blanket, and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke,” said Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) in a press release Thursday. “We reject his position entirely.
“The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas, so we must move forward with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt,” he added.
Earlier this week, Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor and a current professor of law at the University of St. Thomas, told The Hill the committee will likely have to entertain its options if anyone disregarded the panel’s subpoenas.
“That’s going to be something that will be considered at the highest levels at DOJ, and what they’re going to consider with any referral like that is how strong of a case is it, and even if it’s readily provable — how important is it that we do this?” he said.
Under U.S. law, Congress has the authority to refer someone to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution if they ignore a subpoena, but prosecutions for the offense have been exceedingly rare. In addition, Congress could instruct the Sergeant-at-Arms to arrest Bannon or anyone else who ignores the subpoena, but that, too, has not happened in modern times.
Bannon’s attorney, Robert Costello, noted in a letter to the committee that his client is awaiting a federal court decision regarding Trump’s executive privilege claims.
“It is therefore clear to us that since the executive privileges belong to President Trump, and he has, through his counsel, announced his intention to assert those executive privileges enumerated above, we must accept his direction and honor his invocation of executive privilege. As such, until these issues are resolved, we are unable to respond to your request for documents and testimony,” he wrote.
“We will comply with the direction of the courts,” he added.
Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, and Kash Patel, a former Pentagon aide, are reportedly “engaging” with the committee. Another former aide, Dan Scavino, was issued his subpoena last Friday after it took investigators some time to find him.
If Bannon is prosecuted by the Justice Department and convicted, he faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
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