Editorial: In & out

A House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection voted unanimously Tuesday to hold former White House aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress after the longtime ally of former President Donald Trump defied a subpoena for documents and testimony.

Still defending his supporters who broke into the Capitol that day, Trump has aggressively tried to block the committee’s work by directing Bannon and others not to answer questions in the probe.

Trump has also filed a lawsuit to try to prevent Congress from obtaining former White House documents. But lawmakers have made clear they will not back down as they gather facts and testimony about the attack involving Trump’s supporters that left dozens of police officers injured, sent lawmakers running for their lives and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said Tuesday that Bannon stands alone in his complete defiance of our subpoena and the panel will not take no for an answer.

He said that while Bannon may be willing to be a martyr to the disgraceful cause of whitewashing what happened on January 6th of demonstrating his complete loyalty to the former President, the contempt vote is a warning to other witnesses. We won’t be deterred. We won’t be distracted. And we won’t be delayed, Thompson added.

The Tuesday evening vote sends the contempt resolution to the full House, which is expected to vote on the measure Thursday. House approval would send the matter to the Justice Department, which would then decide whether to pursue criminal charges against Bannon.

The contempt resolution asserts that the former Trump aide and podcast host has no legal standing to rebuff the committee even as Trump’s lawyer has 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, fired from his White House job in 2017, was a private citizen when he spoke to Trump ahead of the attack. And Trump has not asserted any such executive privilege claims to the panel itself, lawmakers said. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, one of just two Republicans on the committee, said: Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s privilege arguments do appear to reveal one thing, however: They suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of 6 January. And we will get to the bottom of that.

The committee says it is pursuing Bannon’s testimony because of his apparent role in the events of 6 January, including his communications with Trump ahead of the siege, his efforts to get the former president to focus on Jan. 6, the day Congress certified the presidential vote, and his comments on Jan. 5 that all hell is going to break loose the next day.

Bannon appears to have had multiple roles relevant to this investigation, including his role in constructing and participating in the stop the steal’ public relations effort that motivated the attack” and “his efforts to plan political and other activity in advance of January 6th, the committee wrote in the resolution recommending contempt.

The Biden White House has rejected Bannon’s claims, with Deputy Counsel Jonathan Su writing Bannon’s lawyer this week to say that at this point we are not aware of any basis for your client’s refusal to appear for a deposition.

 

NT Bureau