US House panel holds former Donald Trump advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt
Washington: A special committee of the US House investigating the January 6 Capitol riot case voted unanimously to approve a report which holds a former adviser to former President Donald Trump in criminal contempt of the Congress.
Released on Monday night, the report recommended that the House holds Steve Bannon, former chief strategist for Trump, in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with the panel’s subpoena and appear for a deposition, Xinhua news agency reported.
The report rebutted the executive privilege of Bannon, cited in his refusal. It also provided a legal argument for why Bannon must comply with the subpoena.
The report will go to the full House, where CNN cited a source as saying a floor vote could be expected on Thursday. After the House vote, the report will be referred to the Justice Department.
Before Tuesday’s vote, Bennie Thompson, Democratic congressman who chairs the special committee, said, “I expect that the House will quickly adopt this referral through the Justice Department and that the US attorney will do his duty, and prosecute Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress.”
Bannon has told the special committee through his attorney that he won’t cooperate with the investigators until the dispute is settled about Trump’s invocation of executive privilege to block certain documents sought by the committee.
The select committee has requested a trove of documents and communications within the White House concerning what happened on Jan 6, when a mob of Trump’s supporters raided the Capitol in an attempt to stop the Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election.
In a letter to the special committee cited by CNN, Bannon’s lawyer said, “The executive privileges belong to President Trump,” and “we must accept his direction and honor his invocation of executive privilege.”
The letter suggested that the courts may ultimately decide whether Bannon should be forced to cooperate with the House investigators.
While it can be expected that the Democratic-controlled House, which impeached Trump in January for inciting the Capitol insurrection, will vote to adopt the referral, it is uncertain whether the Justice Department would choose to prosecute the criminal contempt charges against Bannon. And even if it does, the contempt cases are difficult to win.
In addition to Bannon, former senior officials in the Trump administration who were also sent subpoenas include former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel and Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department lawyer who positioned himself as a Trump ally.
Despite being asked by Trump not to cooperate in any way with the investigators, some of the witnesses have been engaging with the panel, allowing for their depositions to be delayed.