Bannon defies the commission’s January 6 subpoena, and risks contempt charges
By Marie Claire Jalonic, Eric Tucker, Jill Colvin, and Michelle R. Smith
A congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection on the Capitol has set a vote to recommend criminal contempt charges against former White House aide Steve Bannon after he defied the committee’s subpoena Thursday.
The committee chair, Representative Benny Thompson, D-Mies, said the committee will vote next week to recommend the charges. This would send the recommendation to the full House of Representatives for a vote.
If the House votes to recommend contempt charges against Bannon, the Justice Department will ultimately decide whether or not to prosecute. The commission requested documents and testimony from Bannon, who was in contact with President Donald Trump before the violent attack.
“Select Commission will not tolerate challenging subpoenas, so we must move forward with actions to refer Mr Bannon for criminal contempt,” Thompson said in a statement.
The committee had scheduled Bannon’s filing for Thursday, but his lawyer said that on Trump’s instructions he would not appear. Bannon also failed to submit documents to the commission by last week’s deadline.
Another witness demanded his testimony Thursday, and former Defense Ministry official Kashyap Patel also refused, according to two people familiar with the secret negotiations, whose identities have not been revealed for discussion. But the people said Patel is still involved with the commission, and the commission is not pursuing the contempt charges against him.
Two other aides who worked with Trump — former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino, Trump’s longtime social media director — are due to make the filing on Friday. It is unclear if they will appear. Like Patel, Meadows is speaking with the committee.
Bannon’s testimony is just one aspect of an escalating Congressional investigation, with 19 subpoenas issued so far and thousands of pages of documents pouring in. But his challenge is a crucial development for the committee, whose members pledge to restore the binding force of congressional subpoenas after they were routinely mocked during Trump’s tenure in office.
“Mr. Representative Thompson said in his statement that Bannon has refused to cooperate with the Select Committee, and is instead hiding behind the former president’s insufficient, exhaustive and vague statements regarding the privileges he allegedly invokes. “We completely reject his position.”
Other witnesses are collaborating, including some who organized or worked at Trump’s rally on the Ellipse behind the White House that preceded the violent riots. The committee summoned the 11 organizers of the rally and gave them a Wednesday deadline to hand over documents and records. They were also asked to appear at the scheduled statements.
Among those who responded was Lyndon Printnal, whose company was contracted to provide security at the Ellipse event that day. “All documents and correspondence requested by the subpoena have been delivered,” he told The Associated Press.
Brentnal had previously said, “As far as we are concerned, we have run security at a legally permitted event being organized jointly by the US Secret Service and the Park Police.”
Two longtime Trump campaign and White House staffers, Megan Powers and Hannah Salem, who are listed in the January 6 rally permit as “Operations Director for Scheduling and Routing” and “Director of Logistics and Communications Operations,” have submitted the documents or are planning to do so.
It remains unclear whether the others summoned intend to cooperate. A spokesman for the commission declined to comment on Wednesday on the responses it received and the number of 11 who complied.
Additional rally organizers, Ali Alexander and Nathan Martin, as well as Stop Theft, have also been called in to obtain the documents, which are due to be submitted on October 21.
Several of the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6 marched to the National Mall after attending at least part of Trump’s rally, where he repeated his baseless allegations of election fraud and pleaded with the crowd to “fight like hell.” Dozens of police officers were injured when Trump supporters stormed windows and doors and boycotted President Joe Biden’s victory.
The rioters repeated Trump’s false allegations of widespread fraud as they walked through the Capitol, despite government officials’ confirmation of the election results and their upholding by the courts. Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, said the Department of Justice had not found any evidence of widespread fraud that could overturn the findings.
Also on Wednesday, the committee issued a subpoena for a former Justice Department attorney who has positioned himself as a Trump ally and aided the Republican president’s efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election.
The requests for documents and testimony from Jeffrey Clark reflect the commission’s efforts to investigate not only the insurgency but also the turmoil that engulfed the Department of Justice in the weeks before that, as Trump and his allies relied on government lawyers to file his campaign claims.
Clark, the Trump administration’s assistant attorney general, has emerged as a pivotal figure. A report from a Senate committee last week showed that he defended Trump’s efforts to roll back the election results and as a result clashed with Justice Department chiefs who resisted pressure, culminating in a dramatic White House meeting in which Trump veered to raise Clark to the position of attorney general.
The committee’s demands of Trump aides and associates are likely complicated by Trump’s pledge to fight their cooperation on the basis of executive privilege.
Biden formally rejected Trump’s claim for an executive privilege surrounding a batch of documents requested since the former president’s tenure in the White House, setting up the prospect of releasing the documents before Congress in mid-November. White House counselor Dana Remus wrote to the National Archives in a letter released Wednesday that Biden believes that “asserting executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States.”
Colvin report from New York and Smith from Providence, Rhode Island. Associated Press writers Varnosh Amiri and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.