House Capitol Attack Committee votes to recommend prosecution of Steve Bannon

House Capitol Attack Committee votes to recommend prosecution of Steve Bannon

The House select committee investigating the attack on Capitol Hill voted on Tuesday to recommend the prosecution of former Donald Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon after he challenged a subpoena over their investigation into the insurgency. January 6.

The select committee unanimously approved the contempt of Congress citation, sending the report to the Democratic-controlled House, which is expected to allow the panel on Thursday to go to court to punish Bannon for his non-compliance.

“It is essential that we get Mr. Bannon’s factual and full testimony in order to get a full account of the January 6 violence and its causes,” said Bennie Thompson, chair of the select committee.

“Mr. Bannon will comply with our investigation or he will bear the consequences,” he said. “We cannot allow anyone to stand in the way of the select committee while we are working to get the facts. The stakes are too high. “

Members of the select committee took aggressive action against Bannon to warn Trump’s White House officials and others linked to the Capitol attack that defying subpoenas would have serious consequences, a panel source says .

The select committee had issued a series of subpoenas to some of Trump’s closest advisers – White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, his deputy Dan Scavino, Defense Department aide Kash Patel and Bannon – under the threat of criminal prosecution.

But under the orders of the former president and his lawyers, Bannon ignored his entire subpoena and convincing testimony. The three other aides in the Trump administration have opened negotiations on the extent of their possible cooperation.

The ramifications of Bannon’s challenge are significant: Once passed by the House, the Department of Justice transfers the case to the District of Columbia’s United States Attorney’s Office, which is required to take the case to a federal grand jury.

By pushing to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress, the select committee also set up a potentially perilous legal moment for Bannon as he resists investigation into what Trump knew before efforts to stop certification of victory. election campaign of Joe Biden.

A successful contempt prosecution could result in up to one year in federal prison, $ 100,000 in fines, or both – although the misdemeanor offense may ultimately not lead to his cooperation and the prosecution of the The charge could still take years.

Bennie Thompson, committee chair, speaks as Liz Cheney, right, and Zoe Lofgren listen ahead of the vote on the criminal contempt charges against Steve Bannon. Photograph: Olivier Douliery / AFP / Getty Images

Bannon remains a key person of interest to House Select Committee investigators, in large part because he was in constant contact with Trump and his team in the days leading up to January 6, as the former president crafted a strategy to return to the Oval Office.

He also appeared to have advanced knowledge of the Capitol Attack, predicting on his War Room podcast the day before the uprising that left five dead and 140 injured: “Hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” “

In opening statements before the vote, Republican MP and committee member Liz Cheney said, “Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s arguments of privilege seem to reveal one thing, however: they suggest that the president Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6. . And we’ll get to the bottom of it.

But Trump’s former chief strategist told the select committee he would not cooperate with his September 23 subpoena on the grounds that communications involving Trump are protected by executive privilege and cannot be disclosed to Congress.

The legal argument faces an uphill battle, with Biden’s Justice Department appearing inclined to adopt a narrow interpretation of executive privilege, previously allowing senior Trump Justice Department officials to testify before Congress around January 6. .

And as the Justice Department examines the expected House referral in more detail, prosecutors may place Trump in legal danger as he may have obstructed justice by ordering Bannon and other assistants to challenge subpoenas.

The select committee said in the contempt report that Bannon had no reason to refuse his subpoena because Trump never actually asserted executive privilege – but also because Bannon tried to use a claim executive privilege for non-executive branch documents.

As part of the subpoena requiring documents and testimony, the report said, included contacts with members of Congress and Trump campaign officials in the days leading up to Jan.6, who are apparently unrelated to the communications between Bannon and Trump.

The contempt report added that even if the select committee accepted its claim for executive privilege, the law makes it clear that even senior White House officials advising sitting presidents enjoy the type of immunity from Congressional inquiries claimed. by Bannon.

The report further stated: “If a witness so close to the events leading up to the January 6 attack could refuse to provide information to the select committee, Congress would be severely crippled in its ability to exercise its constitutional powers. “

The prospect of prosecution does not appear to have worried Bannon, who spent the day before his date of testimony a hundred miles away in Virginia, where he attended a Republican rally featuring a flag allegedly carried by a rioter during of the attack on the Capitol.

Trump lashed out at the select committee after announcing he would vote to despise Bannon. “They should be held guilty of criminal contempt for cheating in the election,” he said, repeating lies about a stolen election refuted by the Justice Department.

However, the net of the select committee seems to be getting closer to the former president. Thompson, the chairman of the select committee, said on CNN Thursday that he would not possibly rule out issuing a subpoena for Trump himself.

Maanvi Singh contributed reporting


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