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Crime Justice Department The Trump Adminstration

Former US Attorney: DOJ Is Moving Slow On Indicting Bannon – But That’s A Good Sign

Three weeks ago, the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection made a referral to the Justice Department for criminal contempt of Congress against former Trump administration staffer Steve Bannon when he refused to obey a subpoena for his testimony.

In those three weeks, many of us who believe in the rule of law have wondered: Is the DOJ ever going to file charges against Bannon? Or will he be allowed to get away with a crime most of us would face jail time for committing?

According to former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, the delay in charging Bannon is actually a very good sign.

In an op-ed she wrote for MSNBC, Vance notes:

There’s an old saying prosecutors like to repeat to one another: If you shoot at the king, you’d best not miss. Roughly translated, that means don’t indict a suspect before your evidence is in place. The government bears the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the highest standard of proof we use in our legal system, and to meet that burden, the prosecution must have admissible evidence of guilt. Prosecutors can’t rely on what everyone thinks they know or what people believe. Ensuring they have evidence to establish every element of a crime, even in a matter that seems as self-proving as this one, takes time and effort.

Silence, Vance continues, doesn’t necessarily mean inaction:

The basics of preparing to indict, including obtaining evidence the prosecution needs in an admissible form, can take time. Subpoenas have to be authorized, cut and served on people and entities from which prosecutors seek information. It takes time for subpoenaed materials to be returned to the grand jury. While there’s no way to know whether the Justice Department is using grand jury subpoenas to compile evidence in this case, it’s entirely possible. That process can add weeks before prosecutors have the essential evidence they need to indict.

The delay could also mean that Bannon is being investigated for more than one crime, and prosecutors have to gather all the evidence before they bring formal charges.

However, she concludes, everything is working the way it’s supposed to, and we just need to learn to be patient:

So as we wait, frustrated and concerned, we must remind ourselves that there are good reasons for prosecutors to take the time to do a thorough and thoughtful job. That we want a system of government in which the rule of law works, not one that responds to crowds that loudly chant “lock him up.” And that while it’s not easy to live through the struggle to restore a functioning democracy, the hard work and even the waiting are worth doing.

Bannon’s day before the bar of justice is coming. We just have to try and be patient. But imagine the celebration when it happens.

By Andrew Bradford

Proud progressive journalist and political adviser living behind enemy lines in Red America.

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