Bannon Held in Contempt 10/20 06:17
A House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection voted
unanimously to hold former White House aide Steve Bannon in contempt of
Congress after the longtime ally of former President Donald Trump defied a
subpoena for documents and testimony.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol
insurrection voted unanimously to hold former White House aide Steve Bannon in
contempt of Congress after the longtime ally of former President Donald Trump
defied a subpoena for documents and testimony.
Still defending his supporters who broke into the Capitol that day, Trump
has aggressively tried to block the committee's work by directing Bannon and
others not to answer questions in the probe. Trump has also filed a lawsuit to
try to prevent Congress from obtaining former White House documents.
But lawmakers have made clear they will not back down as they gather facts
and testimony about the attack involving Trump's supporters that left dozens of
police officers injured, sent lawmakers running for their lives and interrupted
the certification of President Joe Biden's victory.
The committee's chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said Tuesday that
Bannon "stands alone in his complete defiance of our subpoena" and the panel
will not take no for an answer.
He said that while Bannon may be "willing to be a martyr to the disgraceful
cause of whitewashing what happened on January 6th -- of demonstrating his
complete loyalty to the former president," the contempt vote is a warning to
"We won't be deterred. We won't be distracted. And we won't be delayed,"
The Tuesday evening vote sends the contempt resolution to the full House,
which is expected to vote on the measure Thursday. House approval would send
the matter to the Justice Department, which would then decide whether to pursue
criminal charges against Bannon.
The contempt resolution asserts that the former Trump aide and podcast host
has no legal standing to rebuff the committee --- even as Trump's lawyer has
argued that Bannon should not disclose information because it is protected by
the privilege of the former president's office. The committee noted that
Bannon, fired from his White House job in 2017, was a private citizen when he
spoke to Trump ahead of the attack. And Trump has not asserted any such
executive privilege claims to the panel itself, lawmakers said.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney -- one of just two Republicans on the committee, and
a rare GOP critic of Trump -- said Bannon and Trump's privilege arguments
suggest the former president was "personally involved" in the planning and
execution of the day's events.
"We will get to the bottom of that," Cheney said.
The committee says it is pursuing Bannon's testimony because of his reported
communications with Trump ahead of the siege, his efforts to get the former
president to focus on the congressional certification of the vote Jan. 6 and
his comments on Jan. 5 that "all hell is going to break loose" the next day.
Bannon "appears to have had multiple roles relevant to this investigation,
including his role in constructing and participating in the ?stop the steal'
public relations effort that motivated the attack" and "his efforts to plan
political and other activity in advance of January 6th," the committee wrote in
the resolution recommending contempt.
The Biden White House has also rejected Bannon's claims, with Deputy Counsel
Jonathan Su writing Bannon's lawyer this week to say that "at this point we are
not aware of any basis for your client's refusal to appear for a deposition."
Biden's judgment that executive privilege is not justified, Su wrote, "applies
to your client's deposition testimony and to any documents your client may
Asked last week if the Justice Department should prosecute those who refuse
to testify, Biden said yes. But the Justice Department quickly pushed back,
with a spokesman saying the department would make its own decisions.
While Bannon has said he needs a court order before complying with his
subpoena, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former White House
and Pentagon aide Kashyap Patel have been negotiating with the committee. The
panel has also subpoenaed more than a dozen people who helped plan Trump
rallies ahead of the siege, and some of them are already turning over documents
and giving testimony.
Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin said all the other witnesses who were subpoenaed
are "either complying or acting in good faith as opposed to just blowing us
off," as Bannon has.
The committee is also conducting voluntary closed-door interviews with other
witnesses who have come forward or immediately complied with their requests.
For some of the witnesses, Raskin said, "it's a privilege and really an
opportunity for them to begin to make amends, if they were involved in these
events." Some of them "feel terrible about the role they played," he said.
Still, there could be more contempt votes to come.
"I won't go into details in terms of the back and forth, but I'll just say
our patience is not infinite," said Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the panel's
other Republican, about some of the witness negotiations.
The vote came a day after Trump sued the committee and the National Archives
to fight the release of documents the committee has requested. Trump's lawsuit,
filed after Biden said he'd allow the documents' release, claims that the
panel's August request was overly broad and a "vexatious, illegal fishing
Trump's suit seeks to invalidate the entirety of the congressional request,
calling it overly broad, unduly burdensome and a challenge to separation of
powers. It requests a court injunction to bar the archivist from producing the
The Biden administration, in clearing the documents for release, said the
violent siege of the Capitol more than nine months ago was such an
extraordinary circumstance that it merited waiving the privilege that usually
protects White House communications.