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House Jan. 6 committee recommends holding Steve Bannon in criminal contempt

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The House select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol unanimously voted Tuesday night to hold Steve Bannon, who was an adviser to former President Donald Trump, in criminal contempt of Congress over his refusal to comply with its subpoena request.

The measure to hold Bannon in contempt now heads to the House floor. It is likely to pass the Democratic-controlled chamber, at which point it will be forwarded to U.S. attorneys.

Bannon’s case would mark the first time an individual was charged with criminal contempt of Congress since 1983.

It also serves as a warning to other witnesses who might be considering not complying with the committee’s subpoenas.

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“Bannon will comply with the investigation, or he will face the consequences. Maybe he’s willing to be a martyr to the disgraceful calls whitewashing of what happened on Jan. 6,” Democratic committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson said in an opening statement. “If you're thinking of following the path Mr. Bannon has gone down, you are on notice that is what you will face.”

Bannon, who had no formal government role on Jan. 6, was subpoenaed for documents and a deposition relating to the events leading up to and on the day of the riot. Dozens of other individuals were asked for information as well.

Thompson and Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, confirmed in a statement earlier this month that a number of Trump administration officials, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former Pentagon aide Kash Patel, have engaged with the Jan. 6 committee. Thompson said Tuesday that Bannon “stands alone” in his defiance of the subpoena.

Bannon’s attorneys, though, told the select committee that he planned to not comply with the subpoena, arguing that the information sought is protected by “executive privilege," an argument that Trump is making, and that he is “not required to respond at this time.”

Cheney, vice chairwoman of the select committee, said Tuesday that Bannon has direct knowledge of key events leading up to the attack and that he had no basis to argue that the communications were privileged.

“Based on the committee's investigation, it appears that Mr. Bannon had substantial advanced knowledge of Jan. 6 and likely had an important role in formulating those plans,” Cheney said in an opening statement. “Mr. Bannon was in the war room at the Willard [hotel] on Jan. 6. He also appears to have detailed knowledge regarding the president's efforts to sell millions of Americans the fraud that the election was stolen.”

Congressional subpoenas are notoriously difficult to enforce, and the committee’s Tuesday vote signals a symbolic takeback of Congressional authority. But historically, the executive branch has been reluctant to enforce congressional subpoenas for current or former administration officials.

President Joe Biden, though, has signaled that he thinks the Department of Justice should prosecute those who resist the committee’s subpoenas. That has raised concerns about the Justice Department's impartiality, though the department said it will make decisions about productions independently.

“That's a decision they have to make. We certainly hoped to expect that they will follow through on this,” Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a member of the select committee, told reporters Tuesday when asked about issues of the Department of Justice's independence.

Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin told reporters that Trump and his representatives have not directly contacted the committee to argue that any records are subject to executive privilege, and no one has the right to blow off a congressional subpoena.

"If Mr. Bannon wants to show up and plead the Fifth Amendment because he will incriminate himself, he has that constitutional right. We, of course, had the authority to offer him use immunity so that we wouldn't use any evidence against him directly," Raskin told reporters. "That's been well established by the Supreme Court. So there are procedures for people who've gotten themselves into criminal trouble like Steve Bannon."

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In the past, congressional committees have negotiated with individuals on the information sought for a subpoena. Another option is attempting to enforce the subpoena in civil court.

It could take years to litigate Bannon’s refusal to comply with the subpoena and for Congress to administer holding him in contempt.

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Tags: News, Congress, Liz Cheney, January 6, January 6 Commission, Steve Bannon

Original Author: Emily Brooks

Original Location: House Jan. 6 committee recommends holding Steve Bannon in criminal contempt

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