WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol recommended a vote next week that President Donald J. Stephen Kay Bannon, a former top Trump adviser, faces criminal contempt charges for refusing to comply. a summons.
The move is shaping up to be a major legal battle between the select committee and the former president over access to vital witnesses and documents that could shed light on the start of the riots, when pro-Trump mobs stormed the Capitol and got interrupted. The formal count of the Congressional votes that confirmed the election of President Biden.
It came as Mr Bannon informed the panel that he would defy a subpoena pursuant to a directive from Mr Trump, who has told former aides and advisers not to cooperate with the investigation because he is claiming executive privilege. which may shield White House deliberations or documents that contain the President from disclosure.
“Mr. Bannon has refused to cooperate with the selection committee and is instead hiding behind inadequate, blanket and vague statements from the former president whom he has asked to be invited,” Representative Benny Thompson of Mississippi Democrats and committee chairman said in a statement. “We absolutely reject his position. The selection committee will not tolerate defiance of our summons, so we must proceed with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt.
Under federal law, any person called as a Congressional witness who refuses to comply could face a misdemeanor charge, which could include a fine of $100 to $100,000 and one month to one month. Can be punished with imprisonment of up to one year.
The Democrat-controlled committee is expected to agree on Tuesday to pursue such penalties. That would send the contempt quote to the entire House, where Democrats almost certainly have the votes to approve it. The case will then be referred to the Justice Department with the recommendation that authorities pursue a legal case against Mr. Bannon.
The cumbersome process reflects a challenging reality that Democrats are grappling with as they work to advance the investigation. Congress is a legislative body, not a law enforcement entity, and its ability to force cooperation and punish wrongdoing is inherently limited. Its investigative tools are as powerful as the courts decide, and the process of waging a legal battle to secure vital information and witnesses is likely to be a long one.
Mr Bannon’s lawyer, Robert Jay Costello, said in a letter to the committee on Wednesday that his client would not produce documents or testimony “until you reach an agreement with President Trump” on claims of executive privilege. Get a court decision. “
The Biden administration has refused to grant Mr Trump the privilege, but the question could end up in the courts. And in the case of Mr Bannon, who has not been an executive branch official since leaving the White House in 2017, the claim is particularly vulnerable, as it pertains to conversations or documents related to the January 6 attack.
In its first batch of summons, the select committee ordered four former Trump administration officials — Mr. Bannon; White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; Dan Scavino Jr., Deputy Chief of Staff; And Pentagon chief of staff Kash Patel has been asked to sit for the statement this week and provide documents and other materials related to its investigation.
The committee has said that Mr. Meadows and Mr. Patel were communicating with the panel. A source with knowledge of the committee’s talks said the two men are likely to be allowed a delay before lawmakers testify. Mr Scavino was served with his summons last week.
On Wednesday, the committee issued a subpoena to Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who was involved in Mr Trump’s efforts to reverse the 2020 presidential election. The committee’s action came the same day it called on former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen, who testified publicly and privately about the final days of the Trump administration, when the former president was pressuring top officials. Use the Justice Department to pursue false claims of fraud and invalidate election results.
In personal testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Rosen said that Mr. Clarke had told him that Mr. Trump was getting ready to sack Mr. Rosen and that Mr. Clarke had conspiracy theories about the hacking of voting booths and the election. supported the strategy. Danger.
“Well, I don’t want to be fired by someone who works for me,” Mr. Rosen said as he told Mr. Clark.