Yesterday, a few hundred right-wingers showed up for Steve Bannon's "Big Lie" rally for Glenn Youngkin in suburban Richmond. Trumpanzee phoned in to talk about his grievances and Big Lie stalwarts like Amanda Chase and Arizona laughing stock Mark Finchen were there looking for attention but you know who stayed away? Yep-- Youngkin, knew a toxic brew when he saw one. (Also last minute no-shows were Jason Miyares, the GOP nominee for attorney general, as well as Del. Terry Kilgore and Sen. Bill Stanley, both of whom were advertised speakers.)
Why would anyone want to get anywhere near Bannon-- determined to turn himself into a martyr to fascism-- at this point? As CNN put it this morning: Bannon's game of chicken with the House committee investigating the attempted Trump coup "is on the cusp of entering a new and critical phase Thursday as he faces his last chance to reverse course and comply with the panel's subpoena before lawmakers likely move to seek criminal charges. Because of McCarthy's insistence that the GOP boycott the select committee, the two Republicans on it-- Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger-- are in agreement with all the Democrats (making it bipartisan and unanimous), that the book be thrown at Bannon.
Bannon's lawyer on Wednesday wrote a letter to the panel saying that his client will not provide testimony or documents until the committee reaches an agreement with former President Donald Trump over executive privilege or a court weighs in on the matter. "That is an issue between the committee and President Trump's counsel and Mr. Bannon is not required to respond at this time," attorney Robert Costello wrote.
The letter doubled down on previous instances in which the former White House adviser made clear he has no intention of appearing for a deposition Thursday as ordered by the committee and essentially dared lawmakers to sue or hold him in criminal contempt earlier this month in response to the subpoena.
If Bannon is a no-show, the committee is expected to immediately begin seeking a referral for criminal contempt after the subpoena deadline passes-- essentially making an example of Bannon's noncompliance as the House seeks more witnesses, sources familiar with the planning told CNN.
..."The reason why some of these witnesses, people like Steve Bannon, who have been public about their contempt for Congress feel they can get away with it is for four years, they did," committee member Rep. Adam Schiff told MSNBC on Wednesday.
Yesterday Greg Sargent noted in his Washington Post column that "The right wing in this country, particularly under Donald Trump, has pulled off a spectacular trick. It has persuaded many neutral observers that its chronic anti-democratic bad acting is a natural and inevitable background feature of our politics that is properly seen as beyond accountability, and that forbearance in response is the price for future democratic stability. This is why the coming battle over Trump cronies who are likely to defy the Jan. 6 select committee’s subpoenas is so important. At stake is not just whether we’ll achieve basic accountability for a sustained effort to overturn U.S. democracy. Also at stake is whether our system can uphold the rule of law in the face of a concerted campaign to cow good faith actors into accepting that the price of peace is special treatment that places bad actors above the law."
Sargent is one of the keenest observers of DC politics writing today. He spoke with one of the smartest guys on Capitol Hill about this, Jamie Raskin, a constitutional scholar and member of the committee who told him that "Given the nature of the congressional investigation, the Department of Justice would have every reason to enforce criminal contempt referrals from Congress. This is about protecting the democracy against violent insurrections and coups... People are held in criminal contempt all of the time, all over the country, for disobeying subpoenas and not showing up in court. There’s nothing remotely unusual about it. Contempt proceedings are the way we deal with people who refuse to honor the justice system’s pursuit of the truth. There is no exception for the cronies of former presidents... Trump somehow hypnotized the country into thinking that the right wing is immune to prosecution for criminal violations. That cannot be right. The law applies neutrally to everyone."
In other words, this is something we should expect as a matter of due course, not something we should see as an extraordinary step that violates settled understandings.
We do not know how the Justice Department will react to criminal referrals. But in other situations, senior department officials have indicated a reluctance to be perceived as acting politically by re-litigating past battles over Trump, seeing this as a threat to the restoration of normalcy.
In this case, we should be particularly wary of such a mind-set.
That’s because Trump and his GOP allies have sought to construct a barrier of immunity for their crimes against democracy and their assaults on civil order by casting efforts at accountability themselves as the real threat to future civil peace.
When Trump faced impeachment for inciting the mob to violently disrupt his election loss, he hinted more violence might result, posing a “tremendous danger to our country.” His congressional allies fake-worried that such accountability might “incite further violence” or prevent the “healing of this great nation.”
Separately, the House GOP leadership has openly threatened retribution against private companies that honor the Jan. 6 committee’s lawful subpoenas. Again and again, in one way or another, Trump-allied Republicans have tacitly or overtly insisted that immunity from accountability is the price for national stability and future well being.
This sort of thing also games our discourse. It ends up portraying efforts at accountability as themselves representing disruptive norm-violations. This effectively reduces GOP bad faith and bad acting to a natural background feature of our politics, and recasts acting against it, or even efforts at communicating basic truths about it, as the real departure from normality.
...The only way to break this cycle is for Democrats to insist that true accountability is the price for moving on, rather than the other way around.
Not unrelated, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan "has," reported Reuters, "repeatedly sentenced people who stormed the U.S. Capitol to more prison time than prosecutors sought, saying that even people who were not violent should face consequences for joining the unprecedented assault." My kind of judge-- except it would prefer years, not days on these sentences! At one of the hearings she said "There have to be consequences for participating in an attempted violent overthrow of the government, beyond sitting at home."
On Wednesday, Chutkan sentenced two cousins who breached the Capitol and took selfies while doing so to 45 days in jail.
Prosecutors had asked Chutkan to sentence each of the defendants-- Robert Bauer of Kentucky, and Edward Hemenway of Virginia-- to 30 days in prison.
A day earlier, Chutkan sentenced an unrelated defendant, Dona Sue Bissey of Indiana, to two weeks of incarceration.
Prosecutors recommended Bissey, 52, serve probation, citing her early acceptance of responsibility and cooperation with law enforcement.
Bissey's friend, Anna Morgan-Lloyd, avoided jail time after pleading guilty to the same crime, receiving a sentence of three years of probation from a different judge in June.
Chutkan, a former public defender appointed to the federal judiciary by former President Barack Obama, last week sentenced another defendant who admitted to the misdemeanor charge, Matthew Mazzocco, to 45 days in prison.
That court hearing marked the first time that one of the judges overseeing the hundreds of Jan. 6 prosecutions imposed a sentence that was harsher than what the government asked for.
Chutkan is not the first judge to second-guess the Justice Department's handling of the Jan. 6 prosecutions.
Beryl Howell, the chief judge of the federal court in Washington, has suggested prosecutors were being too lenient in allowing some defendants to plead guilty to misdemeanor offenses.
At a hearing in August, Howell said even defendants facing low-level offenses played a role in "terrorizing members of Congress" on Jan 6.
During a plea hearing, the judge asked: "Does the government, in agreeing to the petty offense in this case, have any concern about deterrence?"
So far, no judge has rejected a plea deal offered by prosecutors in a Jan. 6 case.
Almost all of the defendants to be sentenced so far pleaded guilty to non-violent misdemeanors. The Justice Department has signaled that it plans to seek much stiffer penalties for felonies.
In the case of Florida man Paul Hodgkins, who pleaded guilty to one felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding, the Justice Department requested an 18 month sentence. U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss went lighter on Hodgkins, sentencing him to eight months.
UPDATE: Bannon A No Show
As expected, Bannon ignored the subpoena and didn't show up for his deposition today. Criminal charges are nigh. Select Committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS): "The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas, so we must move forward with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt. I’ve notified the Select Committee that we will convene for a business meeting Tuesday evening to vote on adopting a contempt report." Next up: Kash Patel, Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino. Scavino wasn't severed until last week so he has some time but Patel and Meadows were, like Bannon, were due to give depositions today and didn't come. Unlike with Bannon, though, the committee seems willing to give Patel and Meadows a little more time because they have been "engaging" with them instead of daring them to do anything, the way Bannon did. Also, Bannon already has a criminal record; none of the others do.