OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon delivered an undeniable message to Joe Biden and Democrats on Monday after he emerged from a D.C. federal courthouse.
Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse with his lawyer Douglas Schoen, Bannon promised to deliver Bannon, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the “misdemeanor from hell” after a grand jury indicted him for contempt of Congress last week.
Below is a transcript of the exchange between Bannon, Schoen, and reporters.
SCHOEN: “Listen, ordinarily we don’t like to comment on the case, but I have obligation to respond to something Attorney General Garland wrote. Attorney General Garland wrote, he promised Justice Department employees would show the American people by word and deed Justice Department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and law, and pursues equal justice under the law. I assume here you can take off your masks?”
BANNON: “Do it.”
BANNON: It’s a free country.
SCHOEN: “There is nothing about this case that reflects a pursuit of the equal justice under the law. This thing was a scam from the beginning. The committee — the committee — the committee that was convened here was convened exclusively of people who have made prejudgments and announced them publicly. The chair of the committee sued President Trump personally before he was even appointed to his position, determined and put in writing that President Trump was responsible for the events of January 6. This is not an investigative committee. There’s nothing for him to investigate when he’s made a prejudgment. There are other members of the committee who announced their prejudgments well in advance. It’s not equal justice under the law, Mr. Garland, to charge a matter like this criminally. The holder of the privilege in this case, executive privilege, invoked the privilege. Mr. Bannon is a layperson. When the privilege has been invoked by the purported holder of privilege, he has no choice but to withhold the documents. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Mr. Bannon acted as his lawyer counseled him to do by not appearing and by not turning over documents in this case. He didn’t refuse to comply. He made quite clear that if a court ordered him to comply, he would do that. But he had an obligation to honor the privilege that was invoked. And in terms of prosecuting this criminally, it violates settled Department of Justice policy that’s binding on the executive branch. It is outrageous that a criminal charge was brought in this case. It is a misdemeanor, but it’s being treated as if it were a capital case. Mr. Bannon takes this very seriously. It’s outrageous what the government did. The principles of equal justice under law that Attorney General Garland speaks about are vitally important to all of us, and we all lose as Americans when they’re selectively used and when we violate that principle.”
BANNON: “You see these signs right here and the guys over here saying ‘insurrection’ and all that? That’s what this country is about. It’s freedom of speech. They got their opinions, we have our opinions. Okay? Hang on. They have their opinions. I’m telling you right now, this is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. Joe Biden ordered Merrick Garland to prosecute me from the White House lawn when he got off Marine One. And we’re going to do, we’re going to go on the offense. We’re tired of playing defense, we’re going to go on the offense on this and stand by. By the way, by the way, you should understand Nancy Pelosi has taken on Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, she ought to ask Hillary Clinton how that turned out for them, okay? We’re going on the offense. Stand by.”
REPORTER 1: “[inaudible] jail time for not providing documents during the case?”
SCHOEN: “You should be outraged if he ever faced that possibility, as an American. There is nothing criminal about any conduct that occurred in this case and when we respond to Merrick Garland, we say apply the law equally. Who else did they prosecute for invoking executive privilege in a criminal prosecution? Read the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel letters, it’s unconstitutional according to their own opinions, from some real luminaries, including, by the way, read the Office of Legal Counsel opinion by Eric Holder from the Obama administration, the Fast and the Furious case. This is unheard of to force a person to violate the invocation of executive privilege. By the way, I mean, the court of course hasn’t ruled yet in President Trump’s case, in Trump vs. Thompson, on whether executive privilege applies. But even beyond that, the Office of Legal Counsel opinions make clear that it applies to discussions with former government officials, and that makes sense. It makes sense because we often see former officials kept in the loop, that the president needs to consult with, and whatever you happen to think the president — President Trump talked about at the time, that’s what executive privilege exists for. So that people can speak freely with the president, talk about strategy matters and talk about national security and other important matters.”
BANNON: “By the way, by the way, not just Trump people and not just conservatives. Every progressive and every liberal in this country that likes freedom of speech and liberty, okay, should be fighting for this case. That’s why I’m here today. For everybody. I’m never going to back down and they took on the wrong guy this time, okay? They took on the wrong guys.”
REPORTER 2: “[inaudible] Why did you —“
SCHOEN: “Because he was instructed by his attorney not to show up in Congress. A layperson has to follow his attorney’s advice, in my view at least. When he’s faced with a subpoena, he doesn’t know anything about legal process otherwise. He relies on a lawyer and the lawyer gave the advice. And I must say, relies on the Office of Legal Counsel opinions which very clearly say that he need not show up.”
REPORTER 3: “So, did he get bad advice or what?”
BANNON: “No — (crosstalk)”
SCHOEN: “There’s no other choice. Once the privilege is invoked, what would the choice be? Show up and testify, and by the way, they asked to have — if he were to testify, to have those people invoking the privilege, a representative of the person invoking the privilege present just to be able to monitor it and make an objection if a privilege matter came up. They refused to allow that.”
BANNON: “By the way, if the administrative state wants to take me on, bring it. Because we’re here to fight this, and we’re going to go on offense. And you stand by, you see how we’re going to go on offense, okay? Nancy Pelosi, Merrick Garland, Joe Biden, the whole — all of them. Okay?”
SCHOEN: “What he means by offense is we’re going to challenge this affirmatively. We’re going to fight to defend his rights, and to defend your rights also”
BANNON: “Your rights.”
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