House lawmakers will vote next week on whether to hold Steve Bannon in contempt and refer him for criminal charges, lawmakers said Thursday, as a committee investigating the January 6 U.S. Capitol riot fights to compel former President Donald Trump’s allies to testify about the riot and Trump's efforts to overturn the election.
Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon leaves a courthouse in Washington, D.C., after he testified at the ... [+] Roger Stone trial November 8, 2019.Getty Images
The January 6 committee will vote on a contempt report for Bannon Tuesday, after Bannon told legislators this week he would not hand over documents or sit for testimony, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee’s chair, said in a statement.
If the committee approves this report, the entire House of Representatives could vote on whether to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress and ask the Department of Justice to weigh criminal charges, the committee said Thursday.
What To Watch For
The select committee said prosecutors have a “duty” to bring witnesses held in contempt of Congress before a grand jury for possible criminal action, citing federal law. But in practice, criminal charges are likely up to the DOJ, which has argued in the past that it has broad discretion to decide whether to refer people to a grand jury or pursue criminal action for contempt of Congress. For example, the Obama-era DOJ chose not to prosecute former Internal Revenue Service staffer Lois Lerner after the House held her in contempt in 2014.
Congress has also sued to enforce subpoenas in the past, but this route can be slow and cumbersome. House Democrats sued to enforce a subpoena for Trump’s tax records two years ago, and the case still faces legal uncertainty.
“The Select Committee will use every tool at its disposal to get the information it seeks, and witnesses who try to stonewall the Select Committee will not succeed,” Thompson wrote in his statement Thursday.
Bannon has reportedly argued complying with the January 6 committee’s subpoena would clash with Trump’s assertion of “executive privilege,” a legal concept that gives presidents the ability to keep certain information confidential. Bannon’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.
Composed of seven Democrats and two Republicans, the select committee investigating the January 6 riot has asked a range of Trump allies to turn over records and appear for testimony. The committee subpoenaed several former Trump administration staffers, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Jeffrey Clark, a DOJ official accused of trying to use the department to pursue Trump’s unfounded voter fraud allegations. Lawmakers also asked the government to turn over records from the Trump White House.
Trump has argued many of the records requested by House investigators are protected by executive privilege. The Biden administration rejected this argument last week, declining to shield an initial round of Trump-era documents from the committee.