(CNN) — The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol is expected to formally begin the process to charge Steve Bannon – one of former President Donald Trump’s closest allies – of contempt of Congress. , this Tuesday night, when the panel meets and forward a referral to the Department of Justice.
The measure is expected to go to a vote in the plenary session of the House without any opposition from the members of the commission; This marks a critical milestone in the investigation, as the panel hopes that even the remote threat from jail will inspire cooperate with more witnesses aligned with Trump.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the commission will adopt a contempt report, which was released Monday night and outlines the commission’s efforts to get a witness to comply with the subpoena and non-compliance by the witness.
This report is then sent to the House of Representatives for a vote. If the vote is successful, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi certifies the report to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. Under the law, this certification requires the United States attorney to “bring the matter before the grand jury for action,” but the Department of Justice will also make its own determinations for prosecution.
Any individual found guilty of contempt of Congress is then guilty of a crime that can result in a fine and between one and 12 months in prison. But this process is rarely invoked and rarely leads to jail.
As serious as a criminal contempt referral sounds, the House’s decision to use the Justice Department may be more of a warning than a solution. Holding Bannon in criminal contempt through prosecution could take years, and historically, criminal contempt cases have been derailed by appeals and acquittals.
The commission sent a letter to Bannon on Friday, rejecting your argument for not complying with your subpoena and dismissed his claim for executive privilege, particularly regarding his communications with people other than Trump, according to a copy obtained by CNN.
Bannon has previously argued that he cannot cooperate with the commission until matters of executive privilege are resolved by the courts, but Friday’s response makes clear that the panel believes his “willful refusal to comply with the subpoena constitutes a violation of federal law “.
“As explained in the letter from the Select Commission, on October 8, 2021 […] The former president has not communicated such a claim of privilege, either formally or informally, to the Select Commission. Furthermore, we believe that such an assertion of privilege – if the former president does so – will not prevent the Select Commission from legally obtaining the information it seeks, “the letter says.
And even if the commission was “inclined to accept the unfounded premise” that executive privilege reaches communications between Bannon and Trump, the letter notes that Bannon “does not enjoy any form of absolute immunity to testify or produce documents in response to a summons from Congress. “
CNN has contacted Bannon’s attorney seeking comment. The letter was first reported by The Washington Post.
The panel’s decision on Bannon
Bannon’s attorney, Robert Costello, wrote to the panel the night before Bannon was scheduled to appear for a private deposition, alleging that the commission charging his client with defiance was “inappropriate.”
Costello said Bannon was not ignoring the panel’s request, but was following Trump’s instructions in his efforts to defend executive privilege. Costello also wrote that Bannon would not cooperate with the panel until an agreement was reached between the panel and Trump regarding his claims of privilege.
“Until he reaches an agreement with President Trump or receives a judicial decision on the scope, scope and applications of executive privilege, in order to preserve the claim of executive and other privileges, Mr. Bannon will not produce documents or he will testify, “the letter read.
A day later, the commission officially announced its decision to go ahead with a criminal disregard for Bannon, an effort that begins with Tuesday’s meeting and vote.
In a letter obtained by CNN on Monday, Deputy White House attorney Jonathan Su told Costello that the Biden administration will not support any attempt by Bannon to refuse to cooperate with the commission on grounds of executive privilege.
Su informed Costello that Biden has determined that any of Bannon’s interactions with someone in the White House, after leaving the Trump administration, is fair play for the panel’s investigation.
“As you know, Bannon’s tenure as a White House employee ended in 2017,” Su wrote. “To the extent that any privilege may apply to Bannon, his conversations with the former president, or White House staff after his term expires, President Biden has already determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the public interest. and, therefore, it is not justified with respect to certain issues within the scope of the Select Commission. “
– CNN’s Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism