(WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department on Friday evening issued a statement reiterating its commitment to remain independent soon after President Joe Biden told reporters he hoped that witnesses who defy subpoenas from Congress’ select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot would face federal prosecution.
“The Department of Justice will make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop,” DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley said.
The statement came after comments from Biden following his arrival back at the White House Friday when he was asked what his message is for those who defy subpoenas from the Jan. 6 select committee.
“I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable,” Biden said after returning from a trip to Connecticut.
When asked whether he thinks those individuals should be prosecuted by the Justice Department, Biden answered, “I do, yes.”
Biden’s comments came just a day after the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced it would meet next Tuesday to consider criminal contempt proceedings against Steve Bannon, a former Trump aide who has refused to comply with a subpoena seeking testimony and any communications he may have had with with the former president in the days around the storming of the Capitol.
As both a candidate and while in office, Biden has repeatedly pledged to put up a wall between the White House and the Justice Department on criminal matters that critics had argued had completely deteriorated during his predecessor’s years – where Trump repeatedly called for the prosecutions of his political enemies and pressured officials to take actions they later said they resisted.
“Though the Select Committee welcomes good-faith engagement with witnesses seeking to cooperate with our investigation, we will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral,” the committee said in a statement.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has similarly stated his desire to reinstate the department’s independence from political matters.
Prior to their statement Friday seemingly pushing back against Biden’s comments, the Justice Department has repeatedly declined to comment to ABC News on how it might act if and when the U.S. House votes for a criminal contempt referral stemming from a Jan. 6 committee witness declining to cooperate.
ABC News’ Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.
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