By Eric Tucker, Marie Claire Jalonick, Jill Colvin and Michelle R. Smith | The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – A congressional committee investigating the January 6 uprising may soon recommend criminal contempt charges against former White House aide Steve Bannon as he talks with President Donald Trump before the violent siege of the Capitol. Disregards a summons for documents and testimony about.
The committee scheduled a statement with Bannon on Thursday, but his lawyer has said he will not appear at Trump’s direction. A second witness called for a statement on Thursday, former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel will also not appear, according to two people familiar with the confidential talks, who were granted anonymity to discuss. But Patel is still engaging with the committee, the people said.
Two other aides working for Trump — former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and longtime Trump social media director Dan Scavino — are scheduled for statements Friday. It is not clear whether they will be visible or not. Like Patel, Meadows is also talking to the committee.
Bannon’s testimony is just one facet of a growing Congressional investigation, which has so far issued 19 subpoenas and sifted through thousands of pages of documents. But his defiance is a pivotal moment for the committee, whose members are vowing to restore the binding power of Congressional summons. After reprimanding him regularly during Trump’s time in office.
Committee members have threatened to pursue criminal contempt charges against witnesses who refuse to comply. A House vote will send those charges to the Justice Department, which will then decide whether to prosecute. But that process could take months, if not years, even if the department decides to pursue charges. And it is extremely difficult to win such contempt cases.
Still, other witnesses are cooperating, including some who organized or staffed a Trump rally on the Ellipse behind the White House before the violent riots. The committee summoned 11 rally organizers and gave them a deadline of Wednesday to hand over the documents and records. He has also been asked to appear on the prescribed statement.
Among those responding was Lyndon Brentnall, whose firm was hired that day to provide Ellipse event security. “All documents and communications requested by the summons were handed over,” he told the Associated Press.
“As far as we’re concerned, we ran security in a legally permitted program in conjunction with the US Secret Service and the Park Police,” Brentnall previously said.
Two longtime Trump campaign and White House staffers, Megan Powers and Hannah Salem, who were listed on January 6, rally as “Operations Manager for Scheduling and Guidance” and “Operations Manager for Operations and Communications”. Permit has also provided documents or is planning to do so.
Powers, who served as the operations director for Trump’s reelection campaign, intends to provide the requested documents and meet with the committee – although it is unclear what form such meetings will take, said a person familiar with his response. According to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
It is not clear whether the others to whom the summons were sent intended to cooperate. A committee spokesperson declined to comment on Wednesday on what responses it received and how many of the 11 were complying.
Two additional rally organizers, Ali Alexander and Nathan Martin, as well as their “Stop the Steel” outfit, were also summoned to the documents, which are due on October 21.
Several rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6 marched on the National Mall after attending at least part of Trump’s rally, where he repeated his baseless claims of election fraud and told the crowd to “fight like hell”. inspired to. Dozens of police officers were injured as Trump supporters smashed windows and doors and obstructed President Joe Biden’s certification of victory.
Rioters repeated Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud as he marched through the Capitol, even as the election results were confirmed by state officials and upheld by courts. Trump’s own Attorney General, William Barr, said the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread fraud that could reverse the results.
Also on Wednesday, the panel issued a subpoena to a former Justice Department attorney who positioned himself as an aide to Trump and supported the Republican president’s efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election.
Jeffrey Clark’s demands for documents and testimony reflect not only the committee’s efforts to investigate the rebellion, but also the uproar that prompted Trump and his allies to lean on public prosecutors to advance their election claims. In the weeks that followed shook the Justice Department.
Assistant Attorney General Clark has emerged as an important character in the Trump administration. A Senate committee report released last week shows he supported Trump’s efforts to undo the election results and clashed with senior Justice Department officials, who resisted the pressure, following a dramatic White House meeting. It culminated in Trump talking about raising Clarke as attorney general.
The committee’s chair, Democratic Representative Benny Thompson of Mississippi, announced in a letter to Clark, “The selection committee investigation has revealed credible evidence that you have attempted to involve the Justice Department in efforts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.” had tried.” summons.
Although Trump ultimately did not appoint Clarke’s acting attorney general, Clark’s “efforts risked engaging the Justice Department in actions that lacked the foundation of evidence and threatened to overthrow the rule of law, Thompson said.
The committee has scheduled a statement for October 29 and has sought documents by the same date. Clark’s attorney declined to comment.
The January 6 panel has so far sought testimony from a broad cast of witnesses, but its demand from Trump’s aides and aides is potentially complicated by Trump’s pledge to fight their cooperation on grounds of executive privilege.
Biden has formally rejected Trump’s claim of executive privilege surrounding a tranche of documents requested from the former president’s time at the White House, and set up a possible release of the documents to Congress in mid-November. Is. White House counsel Dana Remus wrote to the National Archives in a letter released Wednesday that Biden believes “a claim of executive privilege is not in the best interest of the United States.”
Colvin reported from New York and Smith from Providence, Rhode Island. Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.