by Marie Claire Jalonick, Eric Tucker and Lisa Mascaro
WASHINGTON (AP) – A congressional committee investigating the January 6 Capitol uprising moved aggressively on Thursday against close Trump adviser Steve Bannon, recommending criminal contempt charges against the former White House aide. Fast voting time to be scheduled.
The chairman of the special committee, Rep. Benny Thompson, D-Miss., said the panel will vote on Tuesday to recommend charges against Bannon, an adviser to Donald Trump, who had been in contact with the president before the most serious attack. Congress in two centuries
“The Select Committee will not tolerate disobeying our summons,” Thompson said in a statement. Bannon, he said, “has been hiding behind the former president’s inadequate, blanket and vague statements that he has asked to be implemented. We completely reject his position.”
If approved by a Democratic-majority committee, the recommendation for criminal charges will go to the full House. The approval there would send them to the Justice Department, which makes the final decision on prosecution.
The showdown with Bannon is just one aspect of a wider and growing congressional investigation, which has so far issued 19 subpoenas and thousands of pages of documents flown to the committee and its staff. Challenging Bannon’s defiance is a significant step for the panel, whose members are vowing to reinstate congressional subpoenas after being regularly flaunted during Trump’s time in office.
The committee had scheduled a statement with Bannon on Thursday, but his lawyer said Trump had instructed him not to comply, citing information potentially protected by executive privileges granted to the president. Bannon, who was not a White House employee on January 6, also failed to provide documents to the panel by last week’s deadline.
Still, the committee could be liquidated again after years of Trump administration officials refusing to cooperate with Congress. The longtime Trump adviser similarly defied a subpoena in 2018 during a GOP-led investigation into Trump’s Russia ties, but the House did not move to hold him in contempt.
Even though President Joe Biden has been a supporter of the committee’s work, it is uncertain whether the Justice Department will choose to prosecute Bannon or any other witnesses on criminal contempt charges who may defy the panel. Even if this department prosecutes, the process could take months, if not years. And it is extremely difficult to win such contempt cases.
The members of the committee are pressurizing the department to present their side.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who also sits on the January 6 panel, said he expects the Justice Department to prosecute the cases.
“The last four years have given people like Steve Bannon the impression that they are above the law,” Schiff said during an interview for C-SPAN’s Book TV, which airs next weekend. “But they’re going to find out otherwise.”
Schiff said efforts to hold Bannon and others in contempt during the Russia investigation were blocked by Republicans and the Trump administration’s Justice Department.
“But now we have Merrick Garland, we have an independent Justice Department, we have an attorney general who believes in the rule of law – and so I believe we will get the answer,” Schiff said.
While Bannon has dismissed the January 6 committee outright, other Trump aides who have been summoned are in talks. An aide to the committee said the testimony of a second witness that was scheduled for Thursday, Kashyap Patel, a former Defense Department official, was delayed, but Patel is still attached to the panel. The aide requested anonymity to discuss confidential talks.
Two other people working for Trump – former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and longtime Trump social media director Dan Scavino – were scheduled to submit on Friday, but they were both pushed back. Like Patel, Meadows has been given a “little adjournment” because he is also attached to the panel, the aide said, and Scavino’s statement has been rescheduled because the service of his summons was delayed.
Beyond the efforts of his lawyers to claim executive privilege, it is unclear to what extent Trump has tried to influence his aides. In a statement on Thursday, the former president said committee members “should hold themselves in criminal contempt” and that “the people are not going to stand for it!”
Other witnesses are cooperating, including some who organized or staffed a Trump rally on the Ellipse behind the White House before the 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 who complied were Lyndon Brentnall, whose firm was hired that day to provide Ellipse event security, and two longtime Trump campaign and White House employees, Megan Powers and Hannah Salem. It is uncertain whether any other summons complied.
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 overwhelmed them and smashed windows and doors to obstruct the certification of Biden’s victory.
Rioters repeated Trump’s claims of widespread fraud as he marched through the Capitol, even though the election results were confirmed by state officials and upheld by courts. Trump’s Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread fraud that could reverse the results.
The panel also issued a subpoena to a former Justice Department attorney who positioned himself as an aide to Trump and aided in the Republican president’s efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 election.
The demand for documents and testimony from that attorney, Jeffrey Clark, announced Wednesday, reflects not only the committee’s efforts to investigate the rebellion, but also what is likely to upset the Justice Department in the coming weeks as Trump and his allies lean on the government. It also shows uproar. The lawyers put forward their election claims.
Assistant Attorney General Clark has emerged as an important character in the Trump administration. A Senate committee report released last week showed he supported Trump’s efforts to undo the election results and as a result clashed with senior department officials, who resisted the pressure, in a dramatic White House meeting. Concluding in which Trump set about raising Clarke as attorney general.
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in New York, Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island, and Farnoush Amiri and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.