The January 6 committee voted tonight to hold Steve Bannon in contempt for refusing to testify before the select panel.
Earlier today, the panel probing the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters rejected an attempt by Bannon to refrain from testifying.
This vote now paves the way for the entire House to vote on whether to recommend contempt charges.
A source familiar with the schedule said that the vote was planned for Thursday.
If the House approves the referral, the Justice Department will decide whether to pursue a criminal case.
‘I would just say that what we just saw was a unanimous bipartisan determination by the January 6 Select Committee to ensure that our subpoenas are observed,’ Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, a member of the panel, said to reporters immediately following the vote.
‘No one in the United States of America has the right to blow off a subpoena by court or by the United States Congress,’ he continued. ‘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, that’s been well established by the Supreme Court.’
In a Monday report, the panel argued that Bannon made statements suggesting he knew ahead of time about ‘extreme events’ on January 6, when Congress was scheduled to certify Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election against Trump.
Bannon said on a January 5 podcast: ‘All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.’
The next day, thousands of Trump supporters descended on the Capitol as part of a ‘Stop the Steal’ rally in an attempt to overturn Trump’s election defeat, which Trump still claims was the result of widespread fraud.
Before leaving office in January, Trump pardoned Bannon of charges he had swindled the Republican president’s supporters. Trump has urged former aides subpoenaed by the panel to reject its requests, claiming the right to withhold information because of executive privilege, a legal principle that protects many White House communications.
President Joe Biden’s White House argues Trump has no legitimate privilege claim.
‘The former president’s actions represented a unique – and existential – threat to our democracy that can’t be swept under the rug,’ White House spokesman Michael Gwin said. ‘The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself.’
More than 670 people have been charged with taking part in the riot, the worst attack on the U.S. government since the War of 1812.
So far, the select committee has issued 19 subpoenas.
When asked about how others who were called to testify may respond, panel member Adam Schiff said he’s confident the swift action of the committee will deter further noncompliance.
‘I don’t think we have perfect visibility on whether these witnesses are going to comply – or we’re going to have to go the route we did with Steven Bannon.’
‘We made it very clear with how quickly we moved to hold Bannon in criminal contempt that we are not wasting time,’ the Democratic California representative said after the Tuesday evening vote.
Trump filed suit on Monday, alleging the committee made an illegal, unfounded and overly broad request for his White House records, which committee leaders rejected.
Many legal experts have said Trump’s executive privilege claim is weak because the committee has a compelling need to see the requested materials.
The U.S. Supreme Court said in 1821 that Congress has ‘inherent authority’ to arrest and detain recalcitrant witnesses on its own, without the Justice Department’s help. But it has not used that authority in nearly a century.
In 1927, the high court said the Senate acted lawfully in sending its deputy sergeant at arms to Ohio to arrest and detain the brother of the then-attorney general, who had refused to testify about a bribery scheme known as the Teapot Dome scandal.
The select committee was created by House Democrats against the wishes of most Republicans. Two of the committee’s nine members – Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger – are Republicans who joined House Democrats in voting to impeach Trump in January on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 attack in a fiery speech to supporters earlier that day.
Multiple courts, state election officials and members of Trump’s own administration have rejected Trump’s claims that Biden won because of election fraud.