For anyone who still needs it, most Republican House members last week provided more evidence that the GOP — once the “law-and-order” party — is now the party that coddles criminals.
By overwhelmingly voting against holding Donald Trump crony Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for his refusal to testify in the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, this shameful roster (which included all six of Missouri’s GOP House members, and all four of Virginia’s Republican congressmen) is once again running interference for a lawless ex-president who tried to overthrow a valid election.
This certainly isn’t the first time congressional Republicans have sided with criminality lately. Not once but twice, most of them voted against holding Trump accountable for clearly impeachable acts (extorting a foreign ally for political support, and inciting the Capitol riot).
They defended or silently tolerated Trump’s outrageous string of self-serving, swampy pardons for criminally charged or convicted supporters like Michael Flynn, Roger Stone and Bannon himself. They’re currently defending wealthy tax cheats by blocking Democratic efforts to strengthen Internal Revenue Service collection powers.
With a law-and-order party like this, who needs crooks?
The crime that Bannon committed to merit Thursday’s House vote to hold him in contempt is, like so much of the lawbreaking the GOP tries to ignore these days, pretty clear-cut: When Congress issues a subpoena, the subject of that subpoena is legally required to provide the information being sought — in this case, testimony about Bannon’s conversations with Trump before the Jan. 6 attack. Bannon’s excuse for refusing is that Trump is claiming executive privilege, which legal scholars say is nonsense because Trump is no longer president.
The strategy for protecting Bannon included a pathetic diversionary tactic by Republican Rep. Rodney Davis of Illinois, who prattled on, flush with fake outrage, about “serious security vulnerabilities that have not been addressed by this House in 11 months after Jan. 6.” As if security lapses excuse what Trump and his violent supporters did that day. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of just nine Republicans who voted to hold Bannon accountable for thumbing his nose at a legally issued congressional subpoena, saw right through Davis’ act, saying: “Don’t let my side use the security structure as the straw man.”
Republicans also argued Bannon should be out of the reach of the investigation because he is just a private citizen. Bannon’s own argument that he’s shielded by Trump’s (nonexistent) executive privilege would seem to suggest otherwise.
This really isn’t that complicated: A congressional probe to establish exactly who did what in advance of a mob attack on the seat of America’s government is not only justified but required. Congress has the legal authority to subpoena relevant witnesses for that probe. Those who defy such subpoenas are breaking the law.
And the party that tries to shield those lawbreakers should stop pretending it cherishes law and order.