No sympathy for Steve Bannon? Really?

If Paul A. Gigot, editor of the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, had written his October 22 editorial, "No Sympathy for Steve Bannon" for a course in Trump-loathing, his editorial would have gotten an A+.  If, however, he submitted the editorial to a course in Congressional Procedure, he would have gotten an F.   Let me explain.

The Journal's October 22 editorial agreed that Mr. Bannon should go to jail for flouting the "lawful subpoena" issued to him by the House Select Committee on Jan. 6.  Where the editorial strayed from accuracy was in those two words: "lawful subpoena."

The Jan. 6 committee was established pursuant to the terms of H. Res 503, which called for a committee consisting of eight Democrats and five Republicans, called for a ranking (minority) member, and did not provide for a vice chair.  Matters such as subpoenas were to be the result of consultations between the chairman and ranking member.

The committee's five Republicans were to be named by House speaker Nancy Pelosi in consultation with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.  Mr. McCarthy named Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks as his first selections.  The speaker rejected Jordan and Banks, not because they had the same first name, but because they are not Trump-haters.  With the Pelosi veto, Mr. McCarthy saw no point in putting forth other Republicans, and the speaker constructed a committee made up of seven Democrat Trump-haters and two Republican Trump-haters.  In a course on Trump-loathing, the speaker's unilateral action would meet with fervent approval.  In a course in Congressional Procedure, the speaker's action would be seen as antithetical to the organizing resolution.

The absence of a ranking member meant that there could be no consultations between the chair and said ranking member to agree to matters including the issuance of subpoenas.  As the subpoena that the Journal's editorial called "lawful" was issued under the authority of the chair alone, a Trump-loathing course would approve, but a Congressional Procedure course would take more points off the editorial.  If Mr. Gigot were to demand meeting the instructor grading the editorial and argue that the vice chair of the committee, Rep. Liz Cheney, approved the Bannon subpoena, the instructor would remind Mr. Gigot: "H. Res 503 did not create a vice chair; your argument further contradicts the applicable procedure under the organizing resolution.  Your failing grade on this editorial is final."

The editorial went on to point out that the Department of Justice, hitherto refusing to indict Democrats who ignore subpoenas issued by House committees chaired by a Republican, should now apply a single standard to congressional committee subpoenas.  But this is to confuse apples and oranges.  The Department of Justice apparently ignores subpoenas that are lawfully issued from a Republican-chaired committee.  In the case of the subpoenas that have poured out of the Pelosi committee selected by the speaker for partisan inquisitions, these cannot be considered lawful — unless a new rule has been adopted by the House:  "House committees  that are selected by the speaker, acting alone, that ignore the express terms of the organizing resolution are appropriate because in matters related to the presidency of Donald J. Trump, any and all House committees are deemed as above House rules and resolutions."

The next logical question: While individuals served Jan. 6 committee subpoenas have challenged the subpoenas as invalid because the select committee has ignored the terms of H. Res 503, why has no court nullified these subpoenas?

The answer might be suggested from the following question: "you wouldn't call 'lawful'  a subpoena issued by a Republican chair of a committee of Clinton-haters, flouting the terms of this committee's organizing resolution, would you?"

You see, the Journal's October 22 editorial recognizes that a double-standard operates in the matter of House-issued subpoenas depending on the party of the committee chair.  This double-standard also would equate an unlawful subpoena with a lawful subpoena — when it comes to matters involving, or related to, Donald J. Trump.  And who is to say that the courts are immune to double-standards considered popular with the media?

Coda: This observer does not expect The Wall Street Journal to criticize the subpoena issued by the inquisition panel to former president Trump on the basis of the precedent by former President Truman in rejecting a Republican House committee subpoena in November 1953, ten months after he left office.  The GOP chair who issued that subpoena accepted Truman's rejection.  After all, for the media, when it comes to Donald J. Trump, anything goes.  Now, who threatens our democracy and its procedures?

Image: FRONTLINE PBS via YouTube, CC BY 3.0 (cropped).

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