Democrats and other critics of the former President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse Freedom Caucus elects rep. Scott Perry as new chairman Meadows ‘between a rock and a hard space’ with Trump, January 6 panel On The Money – Biden closes infrastructure week MORE celebrated when criminal charges were brought Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonMeadows ‘between a rock and a hard space’ with Trump, panel January 6 Defiant Bannon warns of ‘offense from hell’ for Biden The Hills 12:30 report – Presented by Facebook – Trump officials face for legal consequences defy subpoenas MORE late last week.
But the political backside of the hunt for Bannon is becoming clearer day by day.
There is no guarantee that the underlying purpose of the prosecution – forcing Bannon to cooperate with the House Committee investigating the January 6 uprising – will work.
Bannon may ultimately prefer the risk of a fairly short prison sentence and the martyrdom it would give him from Trump supporters, rather than testify.
Even if he were to cooperate, the question then becomes whether the public will learn anything more judgmental than it already knows about Bannon and his former boss.
After all, Bannon said on his podcast the day before the riot that “hell will break loose tomorrow.” And Trump’s central role in encouraging the uprising was so obvious that he became the first president in American history to be sued twice.
Above all, the criminal case has given Bannon the biggest platform he has had in years.
The news that he had been indicted on two charges of contempt for Congress last Friday was the main story on the website of The New York Times and other leading news organizations.
Bannon’s first appearance on Monday was another media circus in which news broadcasts from the network ran footage of Trump’s former White House chief strategist, paralyzing the prosecution and President BidenJoe BidenBiden reiterates commitment to ‘one China’ policy on Taiwan in conversation with Xi Biden raises human rights with China’s Xi during a four-hour meeting with Biden, Xi holds ‘sincere’ discussion amid high tensions MORE. Bannon livestreamed his comments out of court on the social network Gettr, a favorite among pro-Trump conservatives.
On Thursday, Bannon will get another bite of the publicity cherry if, as expected, he is formally put on trial.
Bannon “swallows it. He loves it,” said Allan Lichtman, a professor of history at American University who compared the former Trump assistant’s zeal for media attention with another colleague of the former president. Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneDeSantis floats police force formation to crack down on election crimes. Stone says he will run for governor of Florida if DeSantis does not review the White House’s orders that Trump’s records be released to the committee on Jan. 6 MORE.
Bannon’s zeal for the limelight is well known throughout Washington – even among journalists who find him more personally engaged than his sinister public figure suggests.
He had appeared to be a marginalized figure after Trump denied him back in early 2018 following the publication of a damaging book by journalist Michael Wolff. But Bannon eventually came back to Trump’s good mercy and conferred with him in the wake of the then president’s election loss last year.
Now, in an attempt to get details on what exactly was said between Trump and Bannon, the former aide’s opponents have brought him back to the center of the political scene. From there, he is sure to reinforce Trump’s fictions about, among other things, election fraud.
But does all that mean that the Democrats, and Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandFlight stewards union president: Air-rage incidents creating ‘hostile environment’. Despite Bannon warning of ‘misdemeanor from hell’ for Biden Southwest employee hospitalized after alleged assault by passengers MORE‘s Ministry of Justice, is it wrong to have pressed the case against him?
The DOJ would probably not pursue the case if it was not sure of the verdict. Garland announced the indictment, saying he kept his promise to “show the American people with words and deeds that the department is upholding the rule of law.”
Allowing Trump and Bannon together to clear their noses at a congressional inquiry into the serious attack on the Capitol was simply unacceptable to most Democrats and many other Trump critics.
Reps. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonMeadows ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Space’ with Trump, Panel January 6. Defiant Bannon Warns of ‘Offense from Hell’ for Biden Steve Bannon Surrenders on Accusation of Contempt for Congressional Prosecutors MORE (Miss D) and Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyWyoming GOP votes to no longer recognize Cheney as a Republican Meadows comes under growing panel spotlight January 6 Gosar faces rising odds of no confidence vote on House floor MORE (R-Wyo.), The chairman and vice-chairman of the committee, respectively, on January 6, said in a statement that the indictment “should send a clear signal to anyone who thinks they can ignore the selected committee or try to stone our investigation: No one is above the law. “
Some prominent Democrats were even more emphatic.
The indictment showed, “that even Donald Trump’s rebel allies are not above the law, and the U.S. justice system is back in business,” the rep said. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinSubpoenas shows panel focus on Trump’s plans Jan. 6 Overnight Energy & Environment – Presented by American Clean Power – Democrats prepare to grill oil executives Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over “dirty” hydrogen supply in climate agreement MORE (D-Md.) Tweeted.
“Welcome back to the rule of law,” Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellMo Brooks says he would ‘be proud’ if staff helped organize the January 6 rally GOP wins in return for Congressional Baseball Game Greene ravages Democrats and they shoot back on the Capitol stairs MORE (D-Calif.) Tweeted when the news of Bannon’s indictment was made public.
But for Democrats, the problem is that the enemy – Bannon and the GOP – also gets a vote.
In Bannon’s case, it means a characteristically non-judgmental rhetoric outside the courtroom about how he “breaks down the Biden regime” and how his criminal prosecution will be the “offense from hell” for Biden, Garland and others.
More substantively, the door is now open for future use of the same process by Republicans, no matter what time they regain control of Congress – a result that looks set to happen in a year.
Some Trump loyalists are already drooling at the prospect.
“Joe Biden has removed Executive Privilege,” Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanMeadows comes under growing Jan. 6 panel spotlight Sunday shows preview: Biden administration confronts inflation girl Republicans recapture campaign mojo – and it’s Bush, not Trump MORE (R-Ohio) tweeted Friday.
Referring to key Biden aides, he added: “There are many Republicans who are eager to hear testimony from Ron KlainRon KlainBiden’s aides praise Harris after critical CNN report Inflation rise gives ammunition to Manchin. Will the Supreme Court accept Biden’s work-around vaccine as constitutional? MORE and Jake SullivanJake SullivanBiden raises human rights with China’s Xi during a four-hour meeting with Biden, Xi holds a ‘sincere’ discussion amid high tensions Overnight Defense & National Security – Presented by Boeing – Major Russia’s weapons test triggers tensions MORE when we take the house back. “
House GOP Conference Chair Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikVirginia emerges as ground zero in battle for House majority Republicans see education as a winning issue after Virginia successes GOP leader says Republicans could turn 60 seats next year MORE (RN.Y.) complained, also on Twitter, that under fhv President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaEquilibrium / Sustainability – Presented by Southern Company – COVID-19 kills snow leopards in US Zoo David Axelrod calls Rittenhouse judge ‘defense lawyer on the bench’, Manchin must give up or break Biden’s climate pledge MORE‘s time in office both Advocate General Erik HolderEric Himpton HolderBen Affleck, Tracee Ellis Ross joins anti-gerrymandering fundraiser with Clinton, Holder North Carolina lawmaker approves new US House card Holder says he is “worried” about some defendants on Jan. 6 not being tall enough MORE and former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner was held in contempt of Congress, and “no charges or arrests were made.”
Even some Republicans who are critical of Trump are questioning whether the precedents currently being created will have bad consequences further down.
“This is dangerous territory,” said Rick Tyler, a GOP strategist who has been highly critical of Trump for years. “It’s tricky. When you have power, you do not use it to govern, you use it to avenge your political enemies.”
Others, like Lichtman, counteract by saying that Democrats need to show some determination in their pursuit of figures like Bannon.
“One of the shortcomings of Democrats is that they do not have much of a backbone,” he said. “Republicans are ruthless, they will do whatever it takes.”
Democrats are trying to take a page from that book now.
But the risk is higher than they might have imagined.
The memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.