Like an Ent of the woodlands hauling its trunked legs from the rooty firmness of the soil, Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Justice Department finally bestirred itself on Friday and rose against the castled walls of the previous presidential administration. After weeks of deafening silence, Garland brought two charges of contempt against Steve Bannon (ex-Trump adviser), who had refused to submit to subpoenas requesting documents and testimony.
“Since my first day in office,” noted Garland in a Friday statement, “I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law. Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”
Fine words, but not actually the message. The message that was telegraphed through the words and deeds of the attorney general was much simpler. Mark Meadows? Yes, you’ll be next. Former Trump White House Chief Of Staff Mark Meadows was also present that Friday. likewise blewSubpoenas were issued for testimony and production by the select House committee that investigated the Capitol attack. Scant hours later, the Bannon indictments were announced, and the elevator in Meadows’s stomach probably went all the way down to the basement.
The fate of these subpoenas now rests with the courts, which will have to decide if Trump’s all-encompassing legal theory on executive privilege has any bearing in reality or the law. The Justice Department made it clear that any potential witnesses who wish to make peace with Trump by defying congress must be prepared to trade subpoena compliance in exchange for a few felony charges.
“Mr. Meadows’s actions today — choosing to defy the law — will force the Select Committee to consider pursuing contempt or other proceedings to enforce the subpoena,” saidFriday’s joint statement from committee chair Bennie Thompson (left) and Rep. Cheney (right), “If his defiance persists and that process moves ahead, the record will reveal the wide range of matters the Select Committee wished to discuss with Mr. Meadows until his decision to hide behind the former President’s spurious claims of privilege.”
Monday was Monday when Bannon surrendered before federal authorities. He was charged with two counts contempt. “On the way into the FBI’s Washington Field Office to turn himself in,” reports ABC News, “Bannon cut a promo on one of his social media accounts for his radio show, advising his supporters to not ‘take their eye off the ball.’”
Bannon and Meadows are but the first on the select committee’s long list. “This week the committee released 16 new subpoenas over two days,” reports The Hill, “encircling Meadows by demanding depositions from a number of those he worked closest with at the White House…. The tension with Meadows is coming to a head as the committee seems determined to trace his involvement in Trump’s election efforts at the Department of Justice; in Georgia where Trump pressured the secretary of state there to ‘find’ 11,780 more votes; and in the planning of rallies just before Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.”
These latest developments come as new revelations about the Trump administration’s involvement in the 1/6 Capitol attack continue to emerge. Sunday ABC News Reporters discovered that another memo was written by a Trump lawyer. It contained a detailed plan for how to overthrow 2020’s election results. Jenna Ellis is a former Trump campaign lawyer. Meadows emailed the memo she wrote to Mike Pence, the top aide, just days before the insurrection.. According to ABC News:
In the memo, Ellis described a multi-step strategy. On January 6, when Congress was to certify 2020 election results, Pence would send back electoral votes from six battleground state that Trump falsely claimed he won. The memo said that Pence would give the states a deadline of “7pm eastern standard time on January 15th” to send back a new set of votes, according to [author Jonathan] Karl. Then, Ellis wrote, if any state legislature missed that deadline, “no electoral votes can be opened and counted from that state.”
Such a scenario would leave neither Biden nor Trump with a majority of votes, Ellis wrote, which would mean “Congress shall vote by state delegation” — which, Ellis said, would in turn lead to Trump being declared the winner due to Republicans controlling the majority of state delegations with 26.
The Ellis memo and the now-famous Eastman memo highlight the immense pressure placed on Pence. The vice president was the fulcrum upon which the entire plot depended; without his deliberate interference in the vote certification happening the day of the attack, Trump’s designs could go nowhere. Trump leaned hard on Pence to acquiesceBut, in the end, after some tough advice from Vice President Dan Quayle and a former Indiana senator, Pence decided to keep the constitution course and was almost murdered by an angry Trumpian horde.
As further evidence of Trump’s grip on Republican Party, a predictable clot GOP officeholders have stood in defense of Bannon. They don’t declare Bannon’s innocence or support the gossamer privilege claims to which he clings. No, they simply threatened the government with further chaos — “they will go after Biden’s aides for unspecified reasons if they take back the House majority in next year’s midterm elections,” accordingTo The Washington Post — if their man is not let go.
“Power in Washington shifts slowly, but when it shifts, it shifts with great force,” Esquire blogger Charles P. Pierce wroteAfter the events that took place on Friday. “You can feel it moving now, and when the former president looks out the window at Mar-a-Lago, he’ll notice that, out on a lake, the ducks are suddenly all in a row.”
We will see. The Ents of the Justice Department are finally on the march. Whether they’re headed toward a wood-chipper or not remains to be determined.