Schiff calls DOJ decision not to charge 2 Trump aides ‘deeply troubling’

Washington — Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, a member of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, harshly criticized a decision by the Justice Department not to prosecute two top aides to former President Donald Trump for defying congressional subpoenas, calling the move “deeply troubling.”

In an interview with “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Schiff said it was “puzzling” that the Justice Department declined to charge former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino for refusing to cooperate with House investigators, but did indict former White House adviser Peter Navarro and Trump ally Steve Bannon.

“There is no absolute immunity. These witnesses have very relevant testimony to offer in terms of what went into the violence of Jan. 6, the propagation of the big lie,” Schiff said. “The idea that witnesses could simply fail to show up, and when the statute requires the Justice Department to present those cases to the grand jury, they don’t, is deeply troubling.”

Schiff said the select committee hopes to learn more from the Justice Department regarding Meadows and Scavino, but said it’s a “grave disappointment, and could impede our work if other witnesses think they can, likewise, refuse to show up with impunity.”

Meadows, Scavino, Navarro and Bannon were all summoned to appear before House investigators as part of its examination of the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack, though all four refused to comply with subpoenas for testimony. As a result of their decision not to cooperate, the full House voted to hold all four in criminal contempt of Congress.

While Navarro and Bannon outright refused cooperation with the select committee, Meadows and Scavino engaged in negotiations with committee lawyers. Meadows turned over 9,000 pages of emails and text messages to the panel before he stopped cooperating.

Schiff said the two aides, who worked closely with Trump and were involved in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, can testify before the committee with no “plausible claim” of executive privilege, as they both were involved in campaign issues and have records they could turn over to investigators.

“None of this is protected by privilege, and the idea that you can simply refuse to show up rather than show up and say, ‘As to this question, I’m going to exert a privilege,’ that just invites others to be in contempt of Congress or be in contempt of judges around the country, in other courtrooms, and I think it’s a very dangerous precedent to set,” he warned.

Nearly a year into its investigation into the events of Jan. 6 and Trump’s efforts to thwart the presidential transfer of power by claiming the 2002 election was rife with voter fraud, the select committee is poised to present its findings to the American people, beginning with a public hearing in primetime on Thursday.

The panel said during the proceedings, they will “present previously unseen material documenting January 6th, receive witness testimony, preview additional hearings, and provide the American people a summary of its findings about the coordinated, multi-step effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and prevent the transfer of power.”

This week’s hearing will be the first of several, and Schiff said the goal of committee members is to “present the narrative of what happened in this country, how close we came to losing our democracy, what led to that violent attack on the 6th.”

“The American people, I think, know a great deal already. They’ve seen a number of bombshells already. There’s a great deal they haven’t seen,” he said. “But perhaps most important is the public hasn’t seen it woven together, how one thing led to another, how one line of effort to overturn the election led to another and ultimately led to terrible violence, the first non-peaceful transfer of power in our history.”

While he would not comment on specific witnesses who will testify before committee members, namely Marc Short, former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, Schiff said one of the “themes” the panel is examining is the fact there was an understanding of the propensity for violence on Jan. 6, given the participation of far-right extremist groups and the continued spreading of the so-called “big lie” — that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump — to rile up the former president’s supporters.

The New York Times first reported and CBS News confirmed that the day before the Jan. 6 attack, Short warned the Secret Service that there could be a potential threat to the vice president.

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