U.S. House committee rejects Bannon 'privilege' argument in Jan. 6 probe

FILE PHOTO: Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court in New York City
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By Patricia Zengerle and Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. congressional committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol said on Monday that it rejected Steve Bannon's arguments for failing to cooperate with the probe, as the panel pursues a contempt of Congress charge against the long-time adviser to former President Donald Trump.

Trump has claimed that materials and testimony sought by the House of Representatives Select Committee are covered by executive privilege, a legal doctrine that protects the confidentially of some White House communications.

Bannon, through his lawyer, has said he will not cooperate with the committee until Trump's executive privilege claim is resolved by a court or through a settlement agreement.

In its report released on Monday making the case for criminal contempt charges against Bannon, the committee said Bannon "relied on no legal authority to support his refusal to comply in any fashion," and said his testimony is critical because he appears to have "had some foreknowledge about extreme events that would occur" on Jan. 6.

According to the report, Bannon in a podcast on Jan. 5 told his listeners, "All hell is going to break loose tomorrow... So many people said, 'Man, if I was in a revolution, I would be in Washington.' Well, this is your time in history."

The Select Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday evening to vote on the report recommending that the House cite Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress and refer him to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for prosecution.

The U.S. Justice Department has not said whether it plans to prosecute Bannon for contempt of Congress, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Bannon's attorney, Robert Costello, did not respond to a request for comment on the committee's argument.

The attack on the Capitol by thousands of Trump supporters took place as Congress met to certify Democrat Joe Biden's election victory over Trump, delaying that process for several hours as then-Vice President Mike Pence, members of Congress, staff and journalists fled. More than 600 people face criminal charges stemming from the event.

The committee also said that Bannon has "had multiple roles" relevant to its investigation, including helping to construct and participate in the "stop the steal" public relations effort that helped motivate the Jan. 6 attack.

"Stop the steal" refers to Trump's false claims that Biden's victory was the result of widespread fraud. Multiple courts, state election officials and members of Trump's own administration rejected those claims as false.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle in WashingtonAdditional reporting by Jan Wolfe in WashingtonEditing by Aurora Ellis, Matthew Lewis and Cynthia Osterman)

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