By Patricia Zengerle and Jan Wolfe WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. congressional committee probing the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol met on Tuesday to consider a report recommending contempt-of-Congress charges against Steve Bannon, a longtime aide to former President Donald Trump, calling it “shocking” that anyone would not cooperate with the investigation. The […]
U.S. House committee nears contempt vote on Trump aide Bannon
By Patricia Zengerle and Jan Wolfe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. congressional committee probing the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol met on Tuesday to consider a report recommending contempt-of-Congress charges against Steve Bannon, a longtime aide to former President Donald Trump, calling it “shocking” that anyone would not cooperate with the investigation.
The nine members of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives Select Committee are expected to approve the report at the meeting, which began at 7:30 p.m. (2330 GMT), after Bannon refused to comply with subpoenas seeking documents and testimony.
“It’s a shame that Mr. Bannon has put us in this position. But we won’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” Representative Bennie Thompson, the panel’s chairman, said in his opening remarks.
Approval of the report will pave the way for the entire House to vote on whether to recommend contempt charges. A source familiar with the schedule said that vote was planned for Thursday.
If the House approves the referral, the Justice Department will decide whether to pursue a criminal case.
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 argued that 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. The select committee has issued 19 subpoenas.
Noting that the committee is investigating a violent attack that took place as lawmakers met to certify the results of the 2020 election, Thompson said: “It’s shocking to me that anyone would not do everything in their power to assist our investigation.”
‘ALL HELL IS GOING TO BREAK LOOSE’
In its report, the committee argued that Bannon made statements suggesting he knew ahead of time about “extreme events” on Jan. 6, when Congress was scheduled to certify Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election.
Bannon said on a Jan. 5 podcast that “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” The next day, thousands of Trump supporters descended on the Capitol, in an attempt to overturn Trump’s election defeat, which Trump falsely claimed was the result of widespread fraud.
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. The Republican former president also urged Bannon and other aides not to cooperate with the committee, but Thompson said Bannon “stands alone” in his refusal.
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.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Scott Malone, Howard Goller and Peter Cooney)