ClAIM: President Joe Biden has “never once … suggested to the Justice Department what they should do.”
VERDICT: FALSE. He said people who defied the January 6 Committee’s subpoenas should be prosecuted.
President Biden responded to a shouted question on Thursday from a left-wing journalist who asked him why Americans should trust the Department of Justice — not because it may be prosecuting his political opponent, for the first time in American history, but because that opponent had the temerity to criticize it for doing so.
In his reply, Biden claimed that he had never told the department to charge, or not to charge, any individual:
Q: Mr. President, What do you say to Americans do convince them that they should trust the independence and fairness of the Justice Department when your predecessor, Donald Trump, repeatedly attacks it?
Biden: Because you notice, I have never once, not one single time, suggested the Justice Department what they should do, or not do, relative to bringing a charge or not bringing a charge. I’m honest.
However, that is false. Biden specifically and publicly said on October 15, 2021, that those who defied subpoenas from the Democrat-run January 6 Committee should be prosecuted.
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
Reuters reported at the time:
WASHINGTON, Oct 15 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday the U.S. Justice Department should prosecute people who defy subpoenas to testify before a congressional select committee probing the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.
“I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable,” Biden said, referring to the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee investigating the riot.
Asked whether he believed the Justice Department should prosecute, Biden told reporters, “I do, yes.”
Biden’s statement was so extraordinary that then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had to clean it up.The White House
From the White House transcript of a press briefing on October 18, 2021:
Q Okay. Why did the President break his promise not to enter into any decisions about what cases the Justice Department should bring and not bring?
MS. PSAKI: How did he break his promise?
Q Well, he was asked if the DOJ should prosecute people who defied January 6th committee subpoenas, and he did not say, “I will let the Justice Department decide.” He said, “Yes.”
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me reiterate — and I put out a statement also on Friday night to this — on this, where I conveyed clearly that, one, the President continues to believe that January 6th was one of the darkest days in our democracy. He also continues to believe that the Department of Justice has the purview and the independence to make decisions about prosecutions. And that is — continues to be his view, and that it continues to be how he is — he will govern.
Q You say that that is his view, but that is not what he said.
MS. PSAKI: 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. And I think that’s what’s important for people to watch.
Whatever the spin, Biden did, in fact, suggest that the Department of Justice prosecute specific individuals who were opposed to him politically.
The department did, in fact, go on to charge former Trump aides Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro for contempt of Congress, despite declining to do so when Obama administration officials had been referred for contempt.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.