I know the secrets that you keep. When you’re talking in your sleep. — The Romantics Talking In Your Sleep
OK, I feel better now. While I don’t blame or begrudge the House Select Committee their right to vote to hold Steve “Two Shirts” Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress, after the bastardization of democracy under the reign of His Lowness, it is critical for congress to show that the dog still has a bite, and that an independent DOJ will follow through and prosecute.
My sole complaint is that it’s so fucking slow! The House committee votes to hold Bannon in contempt, and sends the recommendation to the floor. After debate, the House holds an up or down vote, and if successful, refers the case to the DOJ for prosecution. Which starts a legal sausage grinder that likely takes 12-18 months to complete, while the clock is running on the investigation going into the midterms. A civil Inherent contempt of Congress charge, using a judicial order to comply, could have the shithead in the hoosegow in a matter of weeks if he refused to comply. That seemed to be a more immediate threat to me. But maybe I was wrong, at least in Bannon’s case.
But in the last hour or so, on The Reid Out, while waiting for the committee meeting to start, Joy Reid had former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner on to go into the particulars. And Kirschner did a wonderful job of going through the process, soup to nuts, which included an almost Hitchcockian twist I hadn’t known. And which makes a wonderful threat.
Basically, here’s the lowdown. If the full House votes for Contempt of Congress, the case is referred to the US attorney for processing. And according to Kirschner, the law states that the US Attorney shall present the complaint to the grand jury. Not much wiggle room there, the law says that the US Attorney should be taking these rare referrals to the grand jury.
But Kirschner went on to explain, and here’s where the Hitchcockian part comes in. Once the assistant US Attorney calls a grand jury, it becomes just another case. Which means that the normal grand jury protocols will rule. Now, in the case of Bannon, it would seem fairly simple
- The House Select committee issued a valid subpoena for Bannon to turn over documents and provide testimony
- Bannon refused to honor said subpoena with a specious claim of executive privilege
- The House votes to hold Bannon in Contempt of Congress, and forwards it the the Justice Department
- The AUSA presents the case to the grand jury in like 15 minutes, gets a true bill on indictment, and has time for a shot and a beer on the way back to the office, before unleashing the federales on Bannon
But not so fast. Because, according to Kirschner, the grand jury itself has inherent powers. And one of those powers is for the grand jury to consider the defendant’s intent in refusing to comply with a lawful congressional subpoena. Why would an innocent citizen choose to defy a lawful congressional subpoena?
Oh, boy! Talk about opening up a can of worms. When the AUSA takes over the case, he has his own subpoena power. He is free to use investigators to poke around, and then subpoena other people to come in and testify as to Bannon’s possible motivation. In Bannon’s case, it is likely he doesn’t want to implicate the guy who pardoned him on massive fraud charges.
But more importantly, what about people like Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino, Kash Patel, and Jenna Ellis? They are all under subpoena. How far do they want to go to obstruct, knowing that if they are referred for criminal prosecution, the risk having the FBI running all over the place, talking to people to try to determine why they were refusing to comply with a lawful subpoena. Who knows what skeletons are in those closets?
So yes, I would still like to see the House use Inherent Contempt proceedings to lay down a marker that justice can still be swift. But after hearing Kirschner talk tonight, I feel a lot better. After all, I called it the Don Cornholeone Mob for a reason. Trump surrounded himself with other corrupt pols. And now, when he needs them most, how much do they want the FBI nosing around for one thing, only to find all kinds of other criminal activities? Don’t touch that dial.
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What’s oft-forgotten about Bannon’s situation is that he’s between a rock and a hard place here. He’s already under investigation in New York State for crimes much harsher than mere contempt. Anything he says to the commission WILL be used against him in that proceeding. And by accepting a Trump pardon, he not only may have forfeited his right to plead the Fifth but he made himself arguably the second-most attractive target after Trump himself for Fed prosecutors. So…short of drinking himself to death, he’s screwed.
Hope so. I’m sick of these bastards getting away with all the crimes!
I’m not terribly hopeful about a swift prosecution, but for all the discussion about the Grand Jury’s inherent powers there are some things to keep in mind. First, this will go down in the District of Columbia and one of the federal judges there will be overseeing the Grand Jury’s work. If there are motions filed I’m pretty sure the judges won’t be in any mood for any fuckery and will dispose of disputes quickly. And the facts of the case and the law itself aren’t in Bannon’s favor. Second, a DC Grand Jury won’t be made up of a bunch of Trumpkins. There might be some on it but it’s highly unlikely they will be a majority of the members and DC isn’t exactly friendly territory for Trump and his gang whether it’s a Grand or Petit Jury. Finally, unlike in an actual trial where a jury much come to a unanimous verdict, in a Grand Jury when a vote is taken on whether or not to issue a True Bill it only takes a majority – again I note that even if there are a handful of hard core Trump cultists on the panel if they are outnumbered there isn’t a damned thing they can do about it. Better still, since Grand Jury proceedings are secret (although a target is free to talk about it either directly or through their lawyers) the members themselves can’t say shit. If they do violate the secrecy of the proceedings THEY are subject to criminal charges!
Still, I think it’s high time Congress dusted off it’s powers of inherent contempt and throw Bannon’s and other refuseniks asses in jail. They don’t have to do so on the Capitol Grounds. The Alexandria Jail across the river handles all manner of federal prisoners and could easily handle the incarceration aspect of things. If anyone objects to the cost a fund could be set up so people can make five dollar donations and I have no doubt the bill for Bannon and a bunch of others can easily be paid and the taxpayers won’t be on the hook for a single dime!
Criminal contempt works fine. Anything that doesn’t involve the Senate is fine.
Well said, Denis! You give me great hope!
I come to the Murph articles for the news, but stat for the culture, lol.
I never heard of The Romantics. So I watched that music video online. I like it…but that’s A LOT of hair. Holy cow the hairspray bills.
Hence the ozone hole. Considerably smaller now those hairstyles are out of fashion.
At least now WE can chant LOCK THEM UP LOCK THEM UP LOCK THEM UP!
From Kirschner’s lips to g_d’s ears.
I wish he was the prosecutor. I believe we’d hear the words of the red queen from wonderland, ” OFF WITH THEIR HEADS”!!!