Degrees of Contempt: Pundits Seek to Excuse the Lack of Prior Contempt Prosecutions in the Wake of the Bannon Sentencing

After the sentencing of Trump strategist Steve Bannon to four months behind bars, obvious comparisons were raised with the slew of contempt cases that the Justice Department refused to even submit to grand juries during prior Administrations.  The most cited was the contempt case against former Attorney General Eric Holder. That has led to various pundits insisting that there is no such comparison and nothing to see there. In my opinion, they are right to draw distinctions but wrong to dismiss the concern over selective prosecution of contempt cases.

For the record, I previously stated that the House was on solid legal ground in pursuing a contempt charge. He was a private citizen during the critical period under investigation by the J6 Committee and previously testified in other investigations. He also stated shortly before trial that he was in fact willing to testify. His legal position was hopelessly conflicted and incomplete.

Bannon could have simply appeared and refused to testify under the Fifth Amendment. Instead, he took the worse possible course: he defied Congress entirely in the face of a valid subpoena.

Holder was a classic executive privilege claim as the Attorney General advising the President. In that sense, there is a world of difference.

However, Holder (as I have long argued) was clearly in contempt of Congress and abused executive privilege arguments to shield embarrassing details tied to Operation Fast and Furious. While Judge Amy Berman Jackson insisted that contempt was “unnecessary,” Congress had every reason to seek his prosecution in the face of his open defiance.

The Holder case was also only one of such cases scuttled by the Justice Department. There was Lois Lerner, the former IRS official accused of targeting conservative groups and individuals.  Again, unlike Bannon, she appeared and then invoked the Fifth Amendment. That is a much better response. However, the House argued that she previously waived the privilege against self-incrimination in earlier testimony before Congress. The Justice Department refused to prosecute.

There was also former top Clinton aide Bryan Pagliano, who received two subpoenas from then House Chair Jason Chaffetz and defied them both.  He never appeared.  While he had an immunity agreement with the Justice Department (which was also controversial), the subpoenas were separate from that agreement.

I have long been critical of the Justice Department in its refusals to prosecute Executive Branch officials for contempt. The Bannon case is certainly distinguishable from past cases, but it still begs the question left from this history of non-prosecution.  It is not the Bannon prosecution per se that is troubling but its departure from historical practice at the Justice Department that raises legitimate concerns.

176 thoughts on “Degrees of Contempt: Pundits Seek to Excuse the Lack of Prior Contempt Prosecutions in the Wake of the Bannon Sentencing”

  1. When are we going to learn that there needs to be an amendment to the Constitution that makes Senatorial election campaigns voted on nationally and all Congressional elections should be statewide? Goes a long way toward dealing with the problem of dark money having to do little work to control government. Virtually eliminates gerrymandering…

    While we’re at it, having a social security number gets you automatically registered to vote. And two of the most senior justices on the SCOTUS time out every four years.

  2. “Taking the 5th” might have seemed like a bad option for Bannon since there is no crime in which his testimony might have tended to incriminate him. It is not a crime to advise the President that members of Congress should oppose certification or to help organise that effort peacefully.

    On the other hand, he could have appeared and asserted executive privilege in response to questions when he believed he was obliged to do so.

    That he chose not to do this suggests his main point may have been to challenge the legitimacy of the Committee arising from Pelosi’s unprecedented refusal to accept the appointees of the minority party. But in July, when Trump said he could testify, he was prepared to do so, suggesting that executive privilege was a significant factor.

    As I understand the situation today his sentence is stayed pending the resolution of his appeals on executive privilege and other matters. That is likely to take a while to play out. It may not be long enough to benefit from a pardon if the Republicans regain the Presidency in 2025.

  3. If having contempt for congress means jail time, I guess I will be next, because I have nothing but contempt for these inept, anti-American perverts and freaks!

  4. “Instead, he took the worse possible course: he defied Congress entirely in the face of a valid subpoena.”

    That was a self-destructive move. Being a martyr merely gives power to your enemies.

  5. If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.

    1. If you are making a direct quote, at least have the grace to credit the original source, in this case, Mark Twain. Using another’s work without credit is plagiarism.

      1. There is considerable controversy as to the source of the quote. Many, especially those on the left who consider it their sacred duty to defend the Democrat media, do their best to discredit it. They would love to see it buried.

        The statement has never been more relevant than it is today. Updated for today’s environment:

        If you don’t read the mainstream media, you are uninformed. If you do read the mainstream media, you are misinformed.

        And please, think twice before comparing anyone to the plagiarist-in-chief, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., who was disqualified from the 1988 presidential race for directly plagiarizing Neil Kinnock. Being lumped in the same category as Biden is a horrible way to start a Sunday morning. Just ask any Democrat up for election in the midterms. 😉

      2. “If you are making a direct quote, at least have the grace to credit the original source, in this case, Mark Twain. Using another’s work without credit is plagiarism.”–Joe Biden

  6. If DOJ prosecutors had limited their corruption to protecting their political comrades—such as Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, Lois Lerner, James Comey, and the Biden Crime Family—they could have slid by largely unscathed. Driven by an intense hatred of everything MAGA, however, DOJ prosecutors have extended their corruption by going after their political enemies—such as Donald Trump, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Peter Navarro, Steve Bannon, and every Trump supporter who came within 1000 yards of the Capitol on January 6. The conservatives being prosecuted will fight back hard. Nancy Pelosi and her gang will rue the day they decided to use the DOJ as a political weapon.

  7. The Justice Department has become an ironic shadow of its intended purpose.

    “he defied Congress entirely in the face of a valid subpoena”

    Is this what Clapper essentially did? Or Hillary with her cloth, wiping data away?

  8. You are WRONG, this was not a legitimate Committee, no matter how many damned times you lie and say it was. It had not minority participation, Pelosi appointed the committee.

    1. Not quite. Kevin McCarthy tried to seat Congressmen on the Committee like Jim Jordan who were involved in the plot at some level to derail or mickey the EC count on Jan 6th. That would be an obvious conflict of interest. When Pelosi and Bennie T. objected, McCarthy withdrew Repub participation, and Repubs Kinzinger and Cheney (who were not involved in the coup plot) were seated instead.

      In terms of the predominant voices of witnesses and Committee members, the greatest voices were Republicans.
      They were not puppets being controlled by Mrs. Pelosi. The work of the Committee was bipartisan, but to the exclusion of militant Repubs who supported the attempted coup.

      1. Not quite. Kevin McCarthy tried to seat Congressmen on the Committee like Jim Jordan who were involved in the plot at some level to derail or mickey the EC count on Jan 6th.
        So you are using the conclusion of an investigation, that has not yet started, as a way to rig the committee. Or if you prefer, prior restraint. That’s the kind of transparency that instills confidence.

        predominant voices of witnesses and Committee members, the greatest voices were Republicans.

        I simply adore leftists spitting out talking points they are to stupid to realize, they missed the central facts.
        You have no Idea of who the Committee has interviewed. So blind by partisanship, you haven’t caught on. The public portion of the committee’s presentation only account for 1% of the information the committee has gathered.
        My question to you, how often do the dems have to lie to you before you catch on, the Dems hate you too.

        1. ‘too stupid’…

          That’s how you spell it, and as I’ve said multiple times on this blog, if you can’t spell your words correctly when insulting someone’s intelligence you just prove yourself to be a tool. And in your case, a liar as well.

          1. “That’s how you spell it . . .”
            You left out two commas.

            If you’re going to be a language scold, look in the mirror.

            1. Big difference in spelling and rhythm of speech, cap. One is objective, the other subjective. However, as to which is which, I know you’ll get that wrong as well.

              1. “One is objective, the other subjective. ”

                The purpose of a comma is clarity of meaning, which is also the purpose of spelling.

                Typical sophist’s move, though. Manufacture a false distinction to rationalize a falsehood.

          2. The fact remains, we have no idea who has been interviewed. You only know what you are told. Ignoring the overwhelming quantity of information gathered

      2. “tried to seat Congressmen on the Committee like Jim Jordan who were involved in the plot “

        Ludicrous. What did Jim Jordan do that was illegal? You can’t say, can you? Do you know why? Because what you are saying is LUDICROUS. Jim Jordan did nothing illegal except what is in your mind and the committees. He opposed Democrats, and he, unlike the lockstep Democrats, is an intelligent patriot.

        Democrats and you approve of a sham ‘court’. Isn’t that why many were interviewed privately where only portions of their testimony were provided to the public on video? That is why we didn’t see Pelosi in front of the committee explaining why she refused troops authorized by Trump. That is why we didn’t see an investigation into the killing of at least two protestors. That is why we didn’t hear the testimony of FBI officials or agents that were involved in J6 some of whom were egging on violent actions.

        Your statement is ludicrous and far below your abilities.

        The J6 committee was more about ‘Let’s get Trump.’ Are you going to stand there without embarrassment and say Liz Cheney is impartial where Trump is concerned? Of course not. You are smarter than that, but you say “The work of the Committee was bipartisan”. Who on that committee supported Trump? Who on that committee was impartial? What about that committee demonstrated that they were truly looking into J6?

        Pbinca, hopefully, you will do better next time.

          1. Take note how you couldn’t debate anything said, but you are able to call others morons. You probably think that is a sign of intelligence. LOL

  9. There is no comparison between Eric Holder’s case and Steve Bannon. The most glaring distinction is that Eric Holder is a bona fide Deep State functionary. Steve Bannon. on the other hand, is an adversary of the Deep State. Consequently, an entire different legal standard applies under our esteemed two-tier system of justice. Any comparison between the two cases is silly.

  10. Bannon himself said, “I’m gonna make this the misdemeanor from hell.” He made a calculated choice. The J6 committee is an unconstitutional political sham show trial and it deserves nothing but contempt. God bless Steve Bannon.

    1. Amen. Do not comply. The J6 committee deserves nothing but contempt. Pelosi and every single person on her sham committee are the ones who should be prosecuted for corruption and put behind bars for the rest of their lives. Hang them all.

    2. ROFL. He stole your money in a promise to build a wall that didn’t get built.

      1. And Joe let in 2.5 million illegals since he was installed. YOU will pay for them.

        1. Glad to see you’re settling in nicely with getting taken by a con man (men) and justifying with rhetorical lies.

      2. ATS, no money was stolen. Keep your facts straight. The funding group permitted everyone to get their money back if they felt it was not used properly.

        A wall didn’t get built because Democrats want illegals whether they are good people or murderers. Democrats like Fentanyl coming across the border so that instead of the number of deaths falling the number of American deaths from Fentanyl can increase threefold while continuing to rise. Democrats of today do not care about our young and don’t care about the huge number of deaths from Fentanyl. They don’t even support our immigration laws. Someway, somewhere Biden has to pay for not enforcing our immigration laws which have caused a huge amount of deaths.

          1. The money didn’t go into Bannon’s pocket. That shows how ignorant you are about this subject.

  11. There is a 504 page PDF online from the DOJ IG about Fast and Furious. A great deal of minutiae to let Holder off. Nothing is worth reading but Appendix F I think it is where the DOJ is forced to admit they lied about how secure the guns were; this only because Nunes and Issa kept writing back “hey you did not answer our questions”.
    I have seen the interview with the federal agent on the scene, in a chase car as they were (as planned) going to pull over and arrest the gun buyers before they reached the border. A radio call came in saying to to let them go. The IG report ignores this; who made that call and who authorized it? That’s a cover-up like the FBI not being able to find the bullet in the Vince Foster case or McVeigh’s accomplice “never existed”.

  12. I disagree. Had he just submitted….and taken the fifth…n0ne this needs to happen. Fine. If he’s just taken the 5th….it would be zero jail time. So how can it be 4 months in jail because he took the sixth? And listened to a “LAWYER”? ASKING F OR A FRIEND…..JUST SAYING!

    1. If he had the right to take the fifth…..then he can’t be punished by flowing the sixth. To do so would not be rationale. Then no body needs a lawyer and bad couSal…doesnt matter. So the right to a jury ….doesnt matter…. Either does the right ta an attorney. Nor any the other we are ready….when you stiff bannon….you get a revolution. Are you
      war? That’s coming!

      1. Thing is his hired help will never argue the obvious! It’s just another “forsham” case…And he’s the contro!led
        opposition.. Read “forsham’…..nicely named. Just like ‘Gunn’ vs Alabama was. They mock us. And we don’t get it.! Or do we lajes86 545499a?

  13. I like to think that all of the awful things the democrats have done will create precedents for the new congress. Impeachment of lower level persons us under used.
    In addition there are lots of FBI members who have tested the limits of “unconditional immunity”. They either have it or the don’t, but if they do it should not be greater than the president’s.
    Then where is malfeasance by DoJ that should rectified.
    Something has to be done. Congress is so inept, now “Big Everything” is re-writing the constitution an no one seems to care.
    What is a citizen to do that doesn’t require a harbor and tea?

    1. But a gun and learn how to use it behind a blade of grass. Blade of grass tbd!

  14. Rabid anti-Trump people dominate the DOJ, the FBI, federal intelligence agencies. and DC juries. Their day of reckoning is drawing nigh.

    1. Im still a Trump voter.. but he had 4 years to make some changes. He did a great job on foreign policy, but he failed miserably at reigning in the swamp monsters.

      1. President cannot change the judicial system.
        Trump appointed as many clean Judges as possible. Even that was sabotaged by evil Congress.

      2. After fighting the lies from the left, 2 fake impeachments and the fake Russian Hoax that Hillary paid for, when was he supposed to have the time TO reign in the corrupt??

      3. It’s because trump is king of the swamp monsters. And his foreign policy was awful.

          1. Anonymous, I see no time wasted deleting your foul-mouthed replies. You could have been easily deleted based on your ignorance of when different leaders were in power.

  15. Another big problem is that D.C. juries will not convict Democrats of anything and will indict and convict conservatives for nothing, regardless. The DOJ has a Star Chamber waiting in every D.C. courtroom. The streets are lawless and the courts are lawless. D.C. has become a bleeding symbol of Democrat barbarism and hypocrisy.

  16. Of course the law is applied differently to Republicans than Democrats. We now live in a banana republic, with a State Democrat Party in control of most 3 letter agencies, most news media, social media, Google algorithms, the K-graduate school education system, and Hollywood.

    Social media and the news media act like the Democrat Pravda, burying stories injurious to Democrats, like the Hunter Biden laptop scandal, and they promote propaganda, like the January 6th riot was supposedly an attempt to overthrow the US government through the clever use of face paint. We are told to ignore the Democrat anarchy and lawlessness that burned cities, and seized entire city blocks at gunpoint. We are told to ignore the consistent objections by Democrats to certifying election results, and calls for audits.

    1. “Of course the law is applied differently to Republicans than Democrats.” This is completely true. If anyone other then Trump stole top secret documents they would already be in jail.

        1. The same year that SandyPants stole those documents (likely to cover for the Clintons incompetence–or worse–in the run-up to 9/11) another archives theft case came up, the theft of a Civil War map with no conceivable national security aspect. The thief got 3 years in the federal slam.
          This entire era has been an orgy of grotesque unequal treatment. Manafort gets prison for acquiring money that went to (hjs partners) the Podestas and they walk with no questions. BTW no investigation of them either over the Wikileaks material, if you have never read those emails give it a try. It’s why I always assumed “Q” was a Deep State disinfo op. “Hey look over there!”

      1. Trump didn’t “steal” any documents. In fact, it’s quite usual for the National Archives to spend years running down documents. General Services boxed up Trump’s office. Trump showed the FBI where the boxes were stored in Mar-a-Lago. The FBI made recommendations for security upgrades.

        That’s not “stealing”.

        In addition, the president has the right to declassify any document he wishes.

        Now, let’s talk about Democrats who stole or mishandled documents who didn’t go to jail.

        Hillary Clinton evaded the State Department control of communications by using her own illegal server. She sent and received classified information. Her claim that since she didn’t type “classified” on some of them, they weren’t classified, is not truthful. She backed the server up to the Cloud, which essentially broadcast it to all bad actors. She allowed people without any clearance at all access to the server. Then, she lied about the existence of the servers, and later, wiping them clean while under subpoena. “Do you mean, did I wipe it with a cloth?”

        Hillary Clinton’s aid, Sandy Berger, walked into the National Archives, stole classified documents, and stuffed them down his pants to steal them. He then destroyed the documents, and lied to the NA staff when they told him the documents were missing. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor and served no jail time.

      2. What did trump steal? You don’t know any of it…..even if he stole what they reported….the people deserve to know it…..are we suppose to believe…..every six months the mu!llabs have a weapon we need to buy off? ?? We need to know thAt so Mr ice cream first but the off again! Wedding want to buy them off again! We’d rather as Hillary put it…Innihilate them! So don’t ducking presume what the American people want! To know or not!

      1. It seems you lack the ability to know what you are looking at. Listen carefully to those not in lockstep with the Dem Illiberal Party. Many are independent, many were Democrats, some are more the JFK type Democrat and some are libertarian. You are a member of the lockstep group so everyone else looks different, but everyone else is not a Republican though they might vote against the Democrats.

  17. I’m remembering Jerry Nadler’s sending out over 80 ‘packages’ to individuals asking them to provide information and/or appear before Congress.
    When the GOP controls the House the first week of January, how many such packages will go out to Democrats and what will their responses be.
    It’s only 11 weeks away – and it will feed the news cycle for quite some time.

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