The White House on Monday disputed a reporter’s suggestion President Joe Biden broke his promise to support an independent Justice Department in his administration.
The president said Friday evening that loyalists of President Donald Trump should be prosecuted by the Justice Department if they refuse to appear to testify to the select congressional committee to investigate the January 6th riot on Capitol Hill.
“I do, yes,” Biden replied, when asked by a reporter if he felt the Justice Department should prosecute Trump supporters refusing to testify.
Q: What's your message to people who defy congressional subpoenas on the January 6 committee?
POTUS: I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable.
Q: Should they be prosecuted by the Justice Department?
POTUS: I do, yes. pic.twitter.com/R7EZUz6BLl
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 15, 2021
Biden’s comment was a departure from his repeated promise to keep prosecutions from the Justice Department independent from his personal preferences.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki refused to concede during the daily press briefing that Biden’s comment meant the president had either broken his promise to support an independent Justice Department or he misspoke.
“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,” Psaki replied to reporters who asked her about the comment.
Psaki’s approach to the comment signals that what the president actually said in response to a question does not matter, but rather the official position reiterated by her and White House staff.
The president’s comment, however, sparked enough concern from the Justice Department that they addressed it publicly shortly after it happened.
“The Department of Justice will make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop,” Department of Justice spokesperson Anthony Coley said Friday.
The president has still not personally clarified his comment.