The U.S. House Committee investigating the January 6 Insurrection announced Thursday that it is moving to charge former President Donald Trump’s erstwhile strategy, Steve Bannon, with criminal contempt. Bannon refused to comply with a subpoena for testimony about the right-wing attack at the Capitol.
“The select committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas.”
“Mr. Bannon declined to cooperate with select committee, but is instead hiding behind former president’s vague, insufficient, and blanket statements about privileges he claimed to have invoked,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D–Miss. In a statement, , the panel’s chair, stated .
As CNN reported, “Bannon was scheduled for a deposition in front of the committee on Thursday, and Bannon’s lawyer wrote in a letter the day before to the panel saying that his client will not provide testimony or documents until the committee reaches an agreement with former President Donald Trump over executive privilege or a court weighs in on the matter. Thompson stated that he rejects his position completely. “
“The select panel will not tolerate Mr. Bannon’s subpoenas. Therefore, we must proceed with proceedings to refer him for criminal contempt.” Thompson said that he had scheduled a business meeting next Tuesday to vote for a contempt report.
Thompson’s announcement was met with praise from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a watchdog group that responded to the news with a simple, “Good. “
The panel’s move comes less than a week after President Joe Biden ordered federal record-keepers to give House lawmakers involved in the January 6 probe access to Trump’s White House documents–denying Trump’s attempt to shield potentially incriminating information from scrutiny through executive privilege.
CNN explained “what happens next”:
The business meeting next week is the first in a series of steps needed to move forward with criminal contempt. The committee will then adopt a contempt reporting, which details the efforts made by the committee to get the witness to comply with the subpoena and the witness’s failure to do so.
The House is then invited to vote on the report. If the vote is successful, Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.], the House Speaker, certifies that the report has been submitted to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. This certification requires that the United States attorney “bring the matter to the grand jury for it’s action.” However, the Justice Department can also make its own decisions for prosecution.
A person found guilty of contempt of Congress can be sentenced to a fine or up to 12 month imprisonment. This process is seldom invoked and rarely results in jail time.
As serious as a criminal contempt referral may sound, the House’s decision to use the Justice Department might be more of an alarm shot than a solution. It could take many years to hold Bannon in criminal contempt. Moreover, appeals and acquittals have hampered previous criminal contempt cases.
Three additional Trump allies–his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, and former administration official Kash Patel–are also subject to subpoena deadlines this week.
While Meadows, Patel are reported to have been “engaging” in conversation with the panel, it’s not clear if this contact escalates to the point of cooperation. After struggling to locate Scavino for weeks, the committee served him a subpoena just five days ago, “and his deadline to appear for a deposition has likely been delayed,” according to CNN.
Thompson stated that the select committee would use all its tools to obtain the information it needs, and that witnesses who attempt to block the committee’s efforts to do so will be unsuccessful. “
” All witnesses are required to give the information they have to enable the committee to get the facts,” he said. We are grateful for the many people who have volunteered to participate and the witnesses who have complied with subpoenas. Many of these witnesses met the deadline to start supplying materials to the select committee. “
” We’re moving quickly to get answers to the American people regarding what happened on January 6,,” he said, to “help ensure the future of American democracy.” “
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