Note: this piece was originally published in NBC Think, and was written by Checks & Balances member Stuart Gerson, Harvard professor Lawrence Tribe, and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut.
Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon surrendered to federal authorities on Monday, and was later released on his own recognizance after surrendering his passport. Bannon has been charged with two counts of contempt of Congress thanks to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s commitment to restoring the rule of law. By demonstrating that severe sanctions follow the flouting of subpoenas, whether from Congress or the courts, the Justice Department has sent a clear message to other witnesses that Bannon’s path of defiance can result in very real consequences — including possibly jail.
Before the indictment was announced on Friday, former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows proved why such consequences are necessary. Meadows was AWOL for his subpoenaed appearance before the House Select Committee, set for Monday. In light of the Bannon indictment, the committee should give Meadows a few days to rethink his options.
Meadows very well might do what former Trump acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey B. Clark did on Nov. 5: Show up but refuse to answer any substantive questions on grounds of executive privilege. While that might pay lip service to the power of legal compulsion, both Clark and Bannon’s executive privilege claim is a weak one. The resolution of that questionable defense may come from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which is considering Trump’s own privilege claim. The court will hear that case on Nov. 30 after Friday’s order to expedite the briefing.
Continue reading at NBC Think.