DOJ officials offer reasons why Steve Bannon's criminal referral is languishing
Steve Bannon leaving the federal courthouse in Manhattan (screengrab)

Faced with pressure from lawmakers as well as political commentators over the fact that it has been sixteen days since the House voted to send Steve Bannon's criminal referral to the Department of Justice only for nothing to happen, CNN is reporting that DOJ officials are pushing back.

Earlier on Saturday, CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza noted that MSNBC commentator Kurt Bardella expressed disgust that no indictment has been issued for contempt of Congress with a tweet that bluntly stated, "How the f*ck is Steve Bannon still a free man?" CNN is now reporting the DOJ officials believe they have good reasons for the delay.

According to CNN's Zachary Cohen and Evan Perez, the DOJ isn't ignoring its critics but is instead proceeding slowly out of fear they won't get it right and have their case thrown out or dismantled.

The CNN report notes, "...the longer it takes for the Justice Department to make a decision on whether to prosecute Bannon, the more questions swirl around whether this was the right strategy for congressional investigators. Democratic critics, already frustrated with Attorney General Merrick Garland over other moves, have focused their impatience over the Bannon referral on Garland because he has ultimate say on whether Bannon is prosecuted."

DOJ officials were prepared for the criticism because they have already become aware of Garland's "methodical" approach to cases and the Bannon case presents its own set of problems, they explained.

"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," CNN reported before adding that a change in leadership at U.S. Attorney level also has caused a delay.

'The referral also came amid a transition at the Washington, DC, US Attorney's Office, which is handling the matter. The Senate approved the new US attorney, Matthew Graves, on October 28 and he took office Friday, " the CNN report states before adding, "At Justice, the two weeks it has taken to review the referral isn't seen as consequential, officials say."

The report adds "members of the House select committee that's investigating the Capitol riot believe a quick indictment of Bannon is needed -- not only to send a message to other potential witnesses but also to reaffirm the power of the congressional subpoena."

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