BREAKING: House panel votes to hold Trump-aid Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress

A House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot voted unanimously Tuesday to hold former White House aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress after he defied a subpoena for documents and testimony.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, 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 other witnesses. “We won’t be deterred. We won’t be distracted. And we won’t be delayed,” Thompson added.

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.

The committee says it is pursuing Bannon’s testimony because of his apparent role in the events of Jan. 6, including his communications with Trump ahead of the siege, his efforts to get the former president to focus on Jan. 6, the day Congress certified the presidential vote, 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 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 possess.”

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 [The Mercury News].

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