Biden’s DOJ emboldens Trump loyalists by dragging its feet on Bannon -- and sends a message of fear and weakness
Steve Bannon and Donald Trump (Composite / RawStory)

American democracy is on fire. But Merrick Garland and the Justice Department appear to think it's a false alarm.

It's been two weeks since Steve Bannon was referred to the Justice Department by the House, voting to proceed with criminal contempt of Congress, at the urging of the select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

Only the DOJ can make the charge and indict Bannon.

And Garland sits at the top of the DOJ, put there by a president who spoke out forcefully about the threat that January 6th posed to American democracy—and still does—and promised to bring justice.

But we're still waiting.

And CNN reports that Justice Department officials are "unfazed" by calls for swift action on Bannon:

Justice Department officials tell CNN that prosecutors don't feel pressure to act more quickly. Given that criminal referrals are rare and even more rarely enforced by the department, the Bannon decision will be dissected for years to come so the lawyers have to be sure they get it right, officials say….
…[W]ith the Bannon decision in limbo, much of the committee's work hangs in the balance, most notably its ability to compel cooperation from Trump allies who so far have remained elusive.

This line of thinking is enormously problematic. The DOJ, according to CNN, is more concerned about its long-term reputation than about an imminent threat to our democracy. There isn't an emergency posture there; no sense of the urgency we face. Instead, they're worried about how they'll be seen. Sure, of course they have to get it right so that it holds up right now. Any mistake can jeopardize the case and the work of the January 6th committee.

But again, it doesn't sound like they're focused so much on getting it right for this case as much as they're worried about the DOJ's longer-term processes, as Garland prioritizes efforts to bring back the DOJ's integrity and its independence from the White House, even if it means brushing aside the four years of corruption the country experienced. We've seen that already in a few outrageous actions, such as defending Trump in a defamation suit brought by E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of raping her.

We all get that Garland's larger mission is important — but it's not more important than the immediate threat we face. Every day that Bannon is flouting a legally-served subpoena he is thumbing his nose to the federal government. And he is teaching the rest of the Trump loyalists exactly what they need to do.

Former Trump DOJ official, Jeffrey Clark, the low-level staffer whom Trump was intent on installing as acting attorney general because he'd been pushing to pressure Georgia officials to overturn election results, stonewalled the January 6th committee last week.

Much was made of Clark actually complying with the committee, rather than following in Bannon's footsteps and ignoring the subpoena the committee issued. But instead of answering questions, Clark gave committee members a letter from his attorney, who'd himself worked on a lawsuit challenging the Georgia election results. That letter amounted to a bogus claim of executive privilege, which is exactly what Donald Trump has told loyalists to claim in refusing to talk.

Now the select committee is threatening a contempt of Congress referral to the DOJ for Clark.

"That's on the table," Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the committee said last week as committee members were infuriated and, oddly, seemed surprised by Clark's refusal to talk.

But isn't that becoming an empty threat? Does the committee's bark mean much if the DOJ doesn't provide the bite — and quickly enough so we get real results and protect democracy?

Trump and his stooges are expertly playing the game they did during his presidency: stalling, and stopping any action that would bring them to justice. A long delay in a Bannon indictment, or any others — and there will be more than Clark facing contempt charges, that is for sure — could prevent the committee from finishing its work in early 2022.

It's already perilous for Democrats in the 2022 mid-terms, with the GOP further gerrymandering Congressional districts and passing extreme voter suppression laws. The inability to deliver swift justice will not only depress voter turnout among Democrats and independents who will feel betrayed; it will allow the GOP's promotion of the Big Lie to be even more successful for 2022 and beyond.

And any investigation of January 6th will then be buried forever.