White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday said there was 'hardly a comparison' between President Joe Biden and the Trump administration as she batted down a question about the president's comment that people who defy Jan. 6th committee subpoenas should be prosecuted.
Psaki was pressed on Biden's comment Friday evening, when he first said he hopes a select House committee 'goes after them and holds them accountable.' He then got asked if those who defy subpoenas should be prosecuted, and responded: 'I do, yes.'
Psaki on Friday night vouched for the 'independent role' of the DOJ – which Biden has pledged to uphold.
'The president continues to believe that Jan. 6 was one of the darkest days in our democracy,' Psaki said, focusing on the riot that resulted in the immediate deaths of five people. 'He also continues to believe that the Department of Justice has the purview and the independence to make decisions about prosecutions,' she said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki brought up the threat of mass resignations from the Justice Department in the final days of the Trump administration when asked to explain President Joe Biden's comment that those who defy subpoenas from the Jan. 6th committee should face prosecution
Peter Doocy of Fox News pressed her on the comment, who shot back that that 'was not what he said' – in reference to Biden's comment about DOJ.
'I just conveyed what his view is and that is also how he has operated, how he has governed and how he will continue to govern,' said Psaki.
Doocy brought up Biden's past comment not to follow Trump's lead, prompting her to bring up threats of mass resignations in the final weeks of the Trump presidency amid Trump's election overturn effort.
'Well, since you give me the opportunity, the former president used his office to incite an insurrection, he put political pressure on senior DOJ officials to propagate lies about the election to the point where they threatened to resign en masse. I think there's hardly a comparison there,' she said.
Several top House Democrats have said witnesses should face the full extent of the law if they defy congressional subpoenas. But Biden's own statement about what DOJ should do appears to contradict his own vows to stay out of the DOJ's lane.
'The Department of Justice will make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop,' DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley said in a blunt response to Biden's plea.
Biden said when he introduced then-Judge Merrick Garland as his nominee to head the DOJ: 'We need to restore the honor, the integrity, the independence of the DOJ of this nation that has been so badly damaged. I want to be clear to those who lead this department who you will serve: You won’t work for me. You are not the president’s or the vice president’s lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me. It’s to the law, the Constitution, the people of this nation.'
President Joe Biden upended days of silence from the White House regarding the Jan. 6 committee by asking the Department of Justice to hold those with subpoena's accountable. The DOJ snapped back by saying it will 'make its own independent decsion'
Press Secretary Jan Psaki said the president has been troubled by the riot, which she called one of the 'darkest days in our democracy'
Psaki tweeted in defense of Biden and claimed he supported the DOJ's decision
Biden's comments upended days of discipline from the White House, which had been distancing itself from the committee's expected criminal contempt referral against former Donald Trump ally Steven Bannon, who is refusing to comply with a subpoena.
Psaki attempted to clarify Biden's statement on Twitter, writing that the president supports the independent role of the DOJ.
'As @potus has said many times, January 6th was one of the darkest days in our democracy. He supports the work of the committee and the independent role of the Department of Justice to make any decisions about prosecutions,' Psaki tweeted.
Bannon has refused to comply with a Jan. 6 committee subpoena, and a statement by his lawyer pointed to Trump's direction that h will assert executive privilege.
The House select committee on Jan. 6th plans to vote on Tuesday on adopting a contempt of Congress report against Steve Bannon, a longtime adviser to former President Donald Trump who has not complied with the committee's subpoena.
If the committee approves the contempt case against Bannon, it would go to a full House vote. From there, the Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland would decide whether to pursue prosecution.
Steve Bannon, pictured in August, refused to testify before the Jan. 6 select committee
Bannon, pictured with Donald Trump, claims he is protected from testifying under the former president's executive privilege, which Trump said he'd use to resist against the committee
'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,' Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, who chairs the committee, said in a statement following Bannon's no-show.
The subpoena asked Bannon to testify on Thursday about any communications he may have had with the former president in the days around the storming of the Capitol.
Justice officials have not yet revealed what they will do with the referral to hold Bannon in criminal contempt, which has not been used to prosecute anyone in decades, CNN reported.
The Jan. 6 select committee is investigating the Capitol riot that erupted amid Donald Trump's claims of election fraud during the certification of Joe Biden's victory
Rioters clashed with Capitol officers as they broke through barriers to enter the building
'Though the Select Committee welcomes good-faith engagement with witnesses seeking to cooperate with our investigation, we will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral,' the committee said in a statement.
Despite Bannon's refusal to testify on Thursday, other Trump aids have appeared to comply with the committee's requests.
Former Trump DOJ official Jeffery Clark complied with a subpoena for his testimony and documents earlier this week, and former Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen sat down for an interview with the commission on Wednesday, Fox News reports.