Thursday, December 2

House of Representatives Capitol Strike Committee Votes to Recommend Impeachment of Steve Bannon | Attack on the US Capitol

The House Select Committee investigating the Capitol attack voted Tuesday to recommend the criminal prosecution of former Donald Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon after he challenged a subpoena related to his investigation into the January 6 insurrection. .

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

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

“Mr. Bannon will either comply with our investigation or face the consequences,” he said. “We cannot allow anyone to get in the way of the select committee as we work to get to the facts. The stakes are high. “

Members of the select committee took the aggressive step against Bannon to warn Trump White House officials and others connected with the attack on Capitol Hill that challenging the subpoenas would have serious consequences, according to a panel source.

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 threat. of a criminal process.

But under orders from the former president and his attorneys, Bannon completely ignored the documents and convincing testimony of his subpoena. The other three Trump administration advisers began negotiations on the scope of their possible cooperation.

The ramifications of Bannon’s challenge are significant: Once approved by the House, the Justice Department transfers the case to the US Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, which must take the matter before a federal grand jury.

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

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

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

Bannon remains a key person of interest to investigators on House select committees, in large part because he was in constant contact with Trump and his team in the days leading up to Jan. 6 as the former president devised strategies to return to the House. Oval Office.

He also seemed to have prior knowledge of the attack on the Capitol, predicting on his War Room podcast the day before the insurrection that left five dead and 140 wounded: “All hell will break loose tomorrow.”

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

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

The legal argument faces a steep and uphill battle with Biden’s justice department seemingly inclined to adopt a narrow interpretation of executive privilege, previously allowing top Trump justice department officials to testify before Congress. around January 6.

And as the Justice Department examines the House’s expected referral in more detail, prosecutors may expose Trump to legal danger to the extent that he has obstructed justice by ordering Bannon and other aides to challenge the subpoenas.

The select committee said in the contempt report that Bannon had no basis to reject his subpoena because Trump never asserted executive privilege, but also because Bannon attempted to use an executive privilege claim for non-executive branch materials.

Within the scope of the subpoena demanding documents and testimony, according to the report, included contacts with members of Congress and Trump campaign officials in the days leading up to Jan.6, which are apparently unrelated to communications between Bannon and Trump. .

The contempt report added that even if the select committee accepted his claim for executive privilege, the law makes clear that even senior White House officials who advise incumbent presidents have the kind of immunity from Congressional investigations that Bannon claims.

The report further noted: “If any witnesses so close to the events leading up to the January 6 attack were to refuse to provide information to the select committee, Congress would be seriously hampered 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 deposition date a hundred miles away in Virginia, where he attended a Republican rally that featured a flag allegedly carried by a rioter in the attack on the Capitol.

Trump lashed out at the select committee after he announced that he would vote to disrespect Bannon. “They should have criminal disdain for cheating in elections,” he said, repeating lies about a stolen election disproved by the justice department.

Still, the select committee network appears to be closing in on the former president. Thompson, the chair of the select committee, said on CNN Thursday that he would not rule out eventually issuing a subpoena for Trump himself.

Maanvi Singh contributed reporting

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