WASHINGTON (AP) – A House Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol uprising voted unanimously on Tuesday to contempt former White House aide Steve Bannon after longtime ally of former President Donald Trump challenged the subpoena for documents and testimony …
Still defending his supporters who broke into the Capitol that day, Trump aggressively tried to block the committee’s work by directing Bannon and others did not answer questions during the investigation. Trump has also filed a lawsuit to prevent Congress from obtaining documents from the former White House.
But lawmakers have made it clear they will not back down as they gather facts and evidence of an attack involving Trump supporters that injured dozens of police officers, fled for their lives, and cut off President Joe Biden’s victory certificate.
The committee chairman, Rep. Benny Thompson, D-Miss, said on Tuesday that Bannon “stands alone in his complete disobedience to our subpoena,” and the commission will not accept “no” for an answer.
He said that while Bannon may “wish to be a martyr for the shameful reason for whitewashing what happened on January 6 – showing his total loyalty to the former president,” the vote of disrespect is a warning to other witnesses.
“They won’t stop us. We will not be distracted. And we won’t be late, ”Thompson said.
The vote on Tuesday night is sending a contempt for annulment by the House of Representatives, which is expected to vote on the measure on Thursday. With House’s permission, the case will be forwarded to the Justice Department, which will then decide whether or not to prosecute Bannon.
The contempt resolution argues that the former Trump aide and podcast host has no legal right to rebuff the committee – even though Trump’s lawyer 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, who was fired from his White House job in 2017, was a private individual when he spoke to Trump ahead of the attack. Trump has made no claims to executive powers of the commission itself, lawmakers said.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney – one of two Republicans on the committee and a rare critic of Trump’s GOP – said Bannon and Trump’s privilege arguments suggest the former president was “personally involved” in planning and running the day’s events.
“We’ll figure this out,” Cheney said.
The committee says it is harassing Bannon’s testimony because of his reports of communications with Trump ahead of the siege, his attempts to force the former president to focus on congressional confirmation of the Jan. 6 vote and his Jan. 5 comments about what the hell. going to break out ”the next day.
Bannon “appears to have played several roles relevant to this investigation, including his role in creating and participating in the public relations efforts to“ stop the theft ”that motivated the attack” and “his efforts to plan political and other activities until January 6. “, – the commission wrote in a resolution recommending disrespect.
Biden’s White House also dismissed Bannon’s claims, and Deputy Legal Counsel Jonathan Su wrote to Bannon’s lawyer this week that “we do not know of any reason for your client’s refusal to testify at this time.” Su wrote to Su that Biden’s opinion that executive privilege is not justified “applies to your client’s testimony and any documents he may have.”
When asked last week whether the Justice Department should prosecute those who refuse to testify, Biden said yes. But the Justice Department quickly backed down, and a spokesman said the department would make its own decisions.
While Bannon said he needed a court order before he could execute the subpoena, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former White House and Pentagon aide Kashyap Patel were in talks with the committee. The group has also summoned more than a dozen people who helped plan Trump’s pre-siege rallies, some of whom are already handing over documents and testifying.
Maryland spokesman Jamie Raskin said all other witnesses summoned to court “either obey or act in good faith, and not just push us away,” as Bannon did.
The Committee also conducts voluntary interviews behind closed doors with other witnesses who have spoken or immediately complied with their requests.
For some of the witnesses, according to Ruskin, “this is a privilege and indeed an opportunity for them to start making amends if they were involved in these events.” Some of them are “terribly worried about their role,” he said.
However, there may be even more votes against disrespect.
“I won’t go into details in terms of controversy, but I will just say that our patience is not limitless,” Illinois spokesman Adam Kinzinger, another Republican of the group, said of some of the talks with witnesses.
The vote came the day after Trump sued the committee. and the National Archives to combat the publication of documents requested by the committee. Trump’s lawsuit, filed after Biden said he would allow the documents to be released, alleges the commission’s August request was an overly broad and “annoying illegal fishing expedition.”
Trump’s lawsuit seeks to completely nullify the Congressional request, calling it too broad, overly burdensome, and a challenge to the separation of powers. It requires an injunction prohibiting the archivist from providing documents.
The Biden administration, when negotiating documents for the release, said the violent siege of the Capitol more than nine months ago was such an extraordinary circumstance that it deserves to relinquish the privilege that normally protects the White House connection.
Associated Press contributors Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Zeke Miller, Nomaan Merchant, and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.